Housing: Inside one of Newport’s last prefab homes

Martin Allen in his prefab

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Martin Allen moved into his house three years ago

Nestled among modern bungalows on the edge of an estate, Martin Allen’s home is from another age.

The 50-year-old lives in one of the few post-war prefab properties still left in Newport.

Most were demolished at the turn of the century – but some residents set up a company to fight against redevelopment.

Prefabricated homes were built in the aftermath of World War Two as temporary homes after air raids Space was saved inside by incorporating furniture into the building so walls did not take up unnecessary space.

Father-of-three Martin loves his “Tardis.” He moved in three years ago to be nearer his daughter.

“When I drove up the road and I saw the little bungalows I thought, ‘they’re all right’,” he said.

“And then I saw this and I thought: ‘OK, well, that will do!’ It looks tiny outside but it is like a Tardis. It’s not small.”

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It is one of the last remaining prefabs in Newport

Enjoying a lager after work, the grandfather-of-three is sitting comfortably on a cream leather armchair in his sitting room.

There are family photos above an electric fire and a 50in TV in the corner.

On the wall is a sign telling visitors: “Bring your own beer.”

“I’ve got two nice big bedrooms, a bathroom and living room and a garden all around, though the gardener has not been yet,” he said.

“The neighbours are the best thing about living here.

“They are all Welsh and I’m English, so we have a bit of banter about the rugby.”

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Prefabs were once common in Newport

More than 156,500 prefabs were erected across the UK and they dominated parts of Newport – it was never expected they would survive as long at they did.

“I don’t think there is anything bad about living here,” Martin said.

“It’s got what I need.”

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Hundreds of them were built in the Ringland area

If he’s away working the neighbours keep an eye on his home.

“My neighbour Sylv has a key and will let herself in and bring in the post,” Martin said.

On construction the prefabs were well-equipped, with the latest mod-cons and they were popular with residents.

It can be a little noisy inside Martin’s though.

“When it rains heavily you can hear it landing on the roof,” the lorry driver said.

“But I’ve been camping and caravanning all my life and it is nice to hear the rain coming off the roof.

“It’s nice and cool in here over the summer. You open this door and the back door and you get a breeze coming through.”

It’s not chilly in the cooler months either: “When you came in the door was wide open,” Martin said.

“It heats up in half-an-hour but I suppose it loses more because it is not insulated.”

His daughter lived in the same property before him.

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Prefabs were only expected to last 10 to 15 years

“Hanna actually lived here 10 years ago with her best mate Cassie,” Martin said.

Cassie is the daughter of Martin’s landlord, Dave Ford.

He never dreamed he would end up in the same place: “You just wouldn’t would you?” Martin, from Middlesex, said.

“She still loves the place too.”

Dave moved into the property himself with his now-wife Hazel and her parents from 1981 to 1989.

Hazel was brought up in the home and when the couple left, they still visited regularly.

Dave, from Newport, plans to return there one day: “It’s a lovely place to retire, especially now the estate has people all the same age.

“We will be moving there when we retire. It’s ideal for elderly people.”

Dave said people were proud to live in the prefabs and “everyone maintained them and had them painted and it was a very nice place to live in”.

He added: “It was a community area. People thought they were like tin shacks, but it was like being in a house.

“It was a cosy warm family home we’ve got loads of memories there. Hazel was born and bred there.”

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Dave Ford said that snow would just “slide off the roof” in winter

Despite the recent terrible weather, the property has not had so much as a leak as a result of storms Ciara, Dennis or Jorge.

“It will probably last longer and have less maintenance problems than the bungalows,” Dave said.

“They have been there so long and we have never had any maintenance problems with the structure.

“There are not many places that have been up for 60 years and had no problems.”

BBC News

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