The way the live: Grade of fame for humble prefabs

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The Independent Online
On Monday morning, after 10 years of mortgage payments, Olive Webb became the owner of her own home. The same afternoon, the Government announced that her property merited grade-two listing as a building of special architectural or historic interest.

The accolade, normally reserved for 17th-century country houses with lottery jackpot price-tags, was all the more notable for being awarded to a post-war, former council prefab house.

"I thought it was marvellous, all that in one day," Mrs Webb said yesterday. "But they are really nice places, nice and warm, though taxi-drivers think they are garages."

Mrs Webb, 69, lives in Wake Green Road, Moseley, Birmingham, where the row of 1945 temporary homes this week became the first prefabs to be given the listed accolade. "I think it's about time," added Mrs Webb, a former bus conductress. "They've weathered the storms. You'd be surprised how many people come and ask if I want to sell."

For homes designed to last 10 years as a temporary solution to a housing shortage at the end of World War Two, the prefabs look solid. Most are well cared for, net curtains washed white, knick-knacks and ornaments bedecking every inch of shelf. Barrie Walker (pictured above), has lived there for 25 years and was delighted the homes were going to be saved. When the house next door but one was left empty after a death, he had feared the worst. "I thought they were going to come down," he said. Tony Banks, the Heritage Minister, decided otherwise. The houses in Wake Green Road are regarded as a particularly well preserved group of the rare Phoenix prefab, of which fewer than 2,500 were built.

Many, like Mrs Webb's, retain original features such as fitted interiors and garden sheds. Pat and Lawrence Attenborrow moved in 30 years ago, expecting to stay a few years. "My wife loves it here," said Mr Attenborrow, 58. "She would go mad if she moved out now."

Maggie Harrison, 78, has no intention of moving either. She has only one gripe about her home: the central heating put in by the council two years ago, which she doesn't like.

But she likes the space - two bedrooms, kitchen, living-room, bathroom and separate lavatory.