Aluminium Palaces - life in a prefab
A prefab was acquired to display at St Fagans: National History Museum in 2000. The Museum then appealed to the public for information about living in a prefab. We received over 40 letters containing priceless first-hand information. One of the best recorded Mrs Ann Owens' reaction when she first moved into her prefab in Cefn-Coed-y-Cymmer, near Merthyr Tydfil, in April 1947:
"The prefabs looked strange to us, they were grey in colour and neat and fresh, if unusual ... We entered the front door that was painted green, as also were the windows and back door, we found the interior was cream and green right through, very much to our taste.
We were in a narrow hall with a cupboard for coats etc. on the right. On the left a toilet, an indoor toilet. What luxury! Then a bathroom with a hand basin and airing cupboard. We were delighted, this was much more than we had expected. To our right were the two bedrooms, with wall wardrobes and cupboards, splendid! The living room was next, a large room with more cupboards and drawers. The fireplace was to our left... This heated the water, we were going to have hot water on tap. It was incredible and with two small children, it was almost too good to be true.
The kitchen was still to come, it had everything, my husband by this time was speechless with happiness. I went along the green units opening cupboards and drawers, a boiler for washing clothes, an electric cooker and most remarkable of all a fridge. We couldn't believe our good fortune... All I had to get was a table under the window, net curtains and floor covering... We had taken a tape measure with us so that we could measure the windows for curtains and the floors for coverings, then we had to decide how to spend our coupons.
We had to cover the floorboards and bought linoleum for each room. The curtains I was able to make. My mother had given me her Singer treadle sewing machine. We had also made a woollen hearth rug during the previous winter. When the floors were covered and the curtains up we felt we had a home, we bought what we had coupons for in the way of furniture and moved in. We were thrilled and exited at having our first home, with what we thought every modern convenience.
We had bought a Rexene three piece suite, it was brown and I was able to put material, orange, green and beige ... striped to cover the cushions and make curtains to match.
We were fortunate in having a complete bedroom suite and I was able to buy a wicker chair and a carpet mat. I had to buy a bed for my son and as our coupons were exhausted, the manager of the shop where we had bought our furniture had one made for us out of an old mahogany table, it was splendid.
My daughter's cot, made by my husband, had sides we could remove and she had a little bed. There was a small coffer, I had when I was 21, between the beds and a carpet mat.
We had linoleum in each room. Rust and cream in the kitchen, autumn leaves in the living room, green and cream in the large bedroom and blue in the children's bedroom."
Using the information from this letter and many others, we were able to furnish the prefab at St Fagans as it would have been in 1950.
Article Date: 19 February 2007