Monday, 15 February 2021

The Broad Close prefabs, Wells

 I spent the first 15 months of my life in a post-war prefab in Wells. My parents seem to have moved in as soon as they became available and stayed until early 1958 when they bought a house nearby on Bath Road.

Twenty five prefabs were constructed and the council received 180 applications for tenancy. The rent was proposed to be 11s per week, plus 3s 10d rates. (WJ, 05 July 1946, p5)

The bungalows, erected by Messrs. Melhuish and Saunders, were the Arcon, Mark V. type, with two bedrooms. The first five tenants moved in on 4 September 1946. (WJ, 06 September 1946, p1).

The tenants selected comprised 21 ex-servicemen, 2 war workers and 1 member of the N.F.S. and one on-service man. Of the 25 tenants selected, 22 were at present occupying rooms, 8 of them had 2 children, 14 had one child and 2 were without children. The site was known as Broad Close [the name of a field], and in order to perpetuate the name of the field it was recommended that the bungalows be known as Nos. 1—25 Broad Close, Bath-road. (WJ, 06 September 1946, p1)

There must have been an adjoining children's playing field as it wasn't long before one irate person wrote to the Journal complaining about the long grass. (WJ, 02 July 1948, p5)

By the 1960's the prefabs were coming to the end of their useful life. One letter to the Journal talks about "not to be able to open or close windows, for carpets to get wet every time it rains, fireplaces to be cracked, sides of houses to sway in the wind, lights to stop on when switched off." (WJ, 23 April 1965, p13). The next month a councilor says that the bungalows are like corroded sieves and they are considerably below standard and are virtually slums. (WJ, 21 May 1965)

Aerial view of the Broad Close prefabs

The prefabs were designed by a small group of architects and industrial designers who formed the Arcon company. The bungalows were manufactured by Taylor Woodrow from 2,500 components delivered by 145 suppliers. They were constructed with corrugated asbestos cement walls and roofs on a steel frame. You read more and see better pictures here. (pdf)

The interior was of pre-fabricated timber-framed panels faced with plaster or building board and insulated. (Northampton Mercury, 30 November 1945, p1). 

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