Built from scrap and held up with rivets, the tin can home finds a place in history

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The Independent Online
They were cold in winter and hot in summer, but the people who lived in Britain's "tin can" homes loved them.

Now one of the last of the prefab houses made from scrapped Second World War aircraft is to be taken down and reassembled as a museum exhibit.

Utilitarian and unacknowledged for most of its 45-year lifetime, the B2 prefab bungalow finally gained the attention of English Heritage and the last of the line is to be saved.

Aircraft metal was melted down in 1947-48 to make 70 prefab bungalows at Cam, near Dursley, Gloucestershire. Elsie Fowler, 90, whose home has been chosen to represent the genre, moved in when it was built in 1949 and has lived there ever since.

Her "temporary" home was erected in a few days with rivets to hold together the tin walls and roof. Now all the other houses are to be demolished to make way for new brick bungalows on the same site. But her former home will become a major exhibit at the Avoncroft Museum of Buildings at Bromsgrove in the Midlands.

"I am thrilled to think that it is my house which will be taken to the museum," said Mrs Fowler, who has moved into a residential home, Quedgeley, Gloucester.

"I remember thinking that it was a nice house when we moved in. They were cool in winter and warm in summer but there was a big garden, with a shed."

The original living room coal fire is still intact, as are the cooker, the clothes boiler and the metal kitchen sink. Both bedrooms are just as they were when she moved in with her husband Alfred.

When her prefab was built, it was supposed to be a temporary home lasting a maximum of 15 years. Stroud council, which owns the building, agreed to donate it to the museum after English Heritage decided the houses are a part of British history which should be remembered.

The prefabs at Cam, and another 30 at nearby Cashes Green, which are also being replaced, are thought to be the last authentic wartime bungalows of their kind.

The council chairwoman, Margaret Nolder, once lived in an identical prefab house, across the valley in Dursley. She said: "Everything was made of metal - the walls, the roof, even the bedroom wardrobe. They were blooming cold, I can tell you, but the residents love them."

Many are sorry to see the tin homes go. Mrs Fowler, who used to work in the despatch department of a carpet shop, says she will visit go and see her former home when it is put up in the museum if she is up to the trip.

English Heritage first honoured prefabricated bungalows a year ago when it recommended 17 asbestos-built homes in a Birmingham suburb for architectural listing. Prefabs were a response to a desperate post-war housing shortage and though intended as temporary many were not demolished until the 1970s.