Moat Lane Yardley, Birmingham

  • 85 Moat Lane, Yardley, Birmingham, B26 1TJ
  • Designed by: Edric Neel
  • Built: 1946
  • Tags: Housing, Post-war, Prefab

During the Second World War many British towns and cities suffered extensive damage from aerial bombing by the German Luftwaffe. Industrial assets - including factories, railway stations and ports - were targeted by German forces in an attempt to disrupt Britain's production of armaments, munitions, aircraft, vehicles and ships, along with the movement of troops.

Aerial warfare was indiscriminate, if bombs were aimed at a particular industrial complex they could fall miles off target, through poor navigation and bomb-aiming or weather conditions. Area bombing saw significant numbers of aircraft formed overhead to saturate air defences and areas 'blitzed', damaging and destroying large urban areas.

Residential areas close to industrial facilities were hit particularly hardly. Many homes suffered direct hits from bombs and incendiaries, which set fire to the house. Others, survived a direct hit but suffered blast damage from high explosives.

With the end of the Second World War there was a shortage of available housing for displaced residents in many British towns and cities. Raw materials were in short supply and rebuilding would take time.

A short-term solution was sought by the Government, which invited designs for prefabricated homes that could be manufactured quickly and at a relatively low cost, and could be easily and swiftly installed. Some 150,000 prefabricated homes were built in Britain after the Second World War.

Although intended for temporary use only, many remained in use for decades. Today only a handful remain in Britain in anything close to the original construction and appearance. English Heritage has listed: sixteen houses, 397 - 427 (all odd numbers) on Wake Green Road, Birmingham; six houses, 1 - 7 (all odd numbers), 25 and 39 Persant Road in Lewisham, London; and two houses, 9 - 11 (all odd numbers) Ellers Lane in Auckley, Doncaster.

The Arcon Group, formed in 1943 and led by English architect Edric Neel (1914-1952), developed the Arcon Mk V, of which some 40,000 examples were produced. Each Arcon Mk V was built on a concrete base. The structure itself comprised a steel frame, clad in a double layer of asbestos cement sheets. The interior was insulated with fibre glass and lined with plasterboard, which was painted.

For many residents of these new prefabricated homes they offered substantial improvements over their previous homes - an interior space measuring 635 square ft, two bedrooms, a living room, fitted kitchen with modern appliances, bathroom and inside toilet. Each Arcon Mk V had a basic central heating system, electric lighting and running water.

The example illustrated, 85 Moat Lane in Yardley, Birmingham, remained in-situ until 1981 whereupon it was dismantled and relocated to the Avoncroft Museum of Historic Buildings in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire. It represents a rare, surviving example of an architecturally and socially significant example of domestic housing in Britain.

Posted on Saturday, March 1, 2014

A celebration of Modernist architecture in Britain