20th Century Architecture: Scunthorpe Pre-fabs

Posted: 17th June 2020

Humber Museums Partnership - 20th Century Architecture: Scunthorpe Pre-fabs

Rebecca Lucas, Collections Officer has been researching the 20th Century architecture of North Lincolnshire. She’s been using the museum’s resources to research this topic, in particular the North Lincolnshire Museum Service Image Archive. Within the archive the museum holds a number of images of pre-fab housing in Scunthorpe.

Pre-fabricated buildings were built across Britain to help tackle the post-WW2 housing shortage. Scunthorpe was fortunate not to experience significant war time bombing and therefore the shortage of housing in the town was primarily caused by population increase. Ex-servicemen were returning to civilian life, people moved to the town to work at the steelworks and there was a national post-war baby boom. There was also a shortage of building materials and construction workers. Pre-fabs were made to a standard design with parts manufactured offsite before being quickly put together in-situ. They were designed to be a temporary solution but many were inhabited long after their original expiry date.

In order to tackle the national housing shortage the Ministry of Works opened a design competition and around 1400 designs were submitted. After testing, a small proportion were approved for construction. There were a number of different pre-fabricated designs used across the country with varying specifications and standards. The temporary bungalows built directly after the Second World War were designed to last only 10 years and despite many being inhabited long after this very few remain today. In Scunthorpe more long term solutions were enacted meaning many of these houses are still homes.

Between 1947 and 1948 350 BISF or ‘Steelhouses’ were constructed in Scunthorpe. In 1944 The British Iron and Steel Federation commissioned Sir Francis Gibberd to design a steel framed house. The resulting design was a more traditional house than other pre-fabs with a relatively long 60 year predicted lifespan. 36,000 of these houses were built nationally with the 350 built in Scunthorpe concentrated in Foxhills Road, Newland Avenue, Hampton Road, Fardell Road, St Anne’s Crescent and Angerstien Road. They were also used to infill spaces in exiting estates: for example, a group of three on Newland Drive and two on Burringham Road. These three-bedroom houses included central heating, upstairs and downstairs toilets and a fitted kitchen.

BISF ‘Steelhouses’ on Foxhills Road in 2009

Between May and July in 1948 150 two-bedroom aluminium bungalows were built in Kenilworth Gardens, Malvern Road, Warwick Road and West Common Gardens. This type of pre-fab was manufactured by A.W. Hawksley Ltd, part of the Hawker Siddley aircraft manufacturing company, and erected up and down the country. They were delivered to the building site in four parts, complete with all wiring, plumbing and gas fittings to be simply fitted together. All of these bungalows built in Scunthorpe were demolished in 1967.

200 three-bedroom Hawksley aluminium bungalows were built in Scunthorpe between 1950 and 1951. They were built in an estate between Derwent Road and Manifold Road. Despite being designed to last 60 years, all of these semi-detached bungalows are still standing.

Aluminium bungalow on the Manifold Road estate in 1987

For many people pre-fabs they were a vast improvement in their living conditions. They had more amenities such as central heating and fitted kitchens that many older properties didn’t. The estates also fostered close communities with lots of young families and children. All of the ‘Steelhouses’ and the 1950s aluminium bungalows built in Scunthorpe are still standing and continue to provide homes for Scunthorpe residents.

Children playing outside BISF houses on Foxhills Road in 1957