The Abercrombie Plan
Following the widespread destruction in Hull during the Second World War, the services of two town planners, Sir Edwin Lutyens and Sir Patrick Abercrombie, were secured to draw up a reconstruction plan for the city. A plan for the City and County of Kingston upon Hull, better known as the Abercrombie plan, held community planning at the heart of its proposals, putting forward the concept of creating subdivided communities with the intention to reduce the population in the city’s centre by moving 54,000 from inner-city slums to modern estates, complete with local amenities’ and schools.
Bird's eye view of the proposed New Osbourne Street Shopping Centre (1945) by AbercrombieHull History Centre
Hull's central area development, 1945 showing the then present-day road system with proposed system superimposed
Central Area Development Map (1945) by AbercrombieHull History Centre
Proposed changes to Hull's Old Town: Note Hull's Holy Trinity Church (centre), the inner-ring road following the line of the River Hull and Hull's medieval High Street and the Guild Hall (top right)
Drawing of proposed City Centre (1945) by AbercrombieHull History Centre
Drawing of inner-ring road and Wilberforce House, 1945
Drawing of inner-ring road and Wilberforce House (1945) by AbercrombieHull History Centre
The plan also proposed to build new industrial and green belts, a new railway station in Wright Street [check street in plan], specialised pedestrian only shopping ‘precincts’, and among the more radical ideas suggested in the plan proposed the building of a satellite town for 60,000 people at Burton Constable as well as the flattening of large parts of the city centre and the Old Town.
Area showing the proposed satellite town of Burton Constable. This was eventually abandoned in favour of Bransholme, Longhill and Bilton Grange estates
Proposed Regrouping Population Map (1945) by AbercrombieHull History Centre
Opposed by politicians and local business figures and with contributing factors including a lack of funding and a shortage of building materials after the war, the majority of the Abercrombie plan was not implemented. If the Abercrombie plan had gone ahead the City would look very different today.
Drawing of Proposed Road Bridge (1945) by AbercrombieHull History Centre
After the Second World War, Hull, like other heavily bombed cities, was desperately short of housing and the labour to build permanent homes. Before the end of the war the Government realised that an urgent solution had to be found. Envisaged by war-time Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the Housing (Temporary Accommodation) Act 1944 aimed to provide large numbers of houses quickly and economically. The Ministry of Works designed a prototype which was not developed but invited competitive designs based upon it and eleven manufacturers received official approval.
Arcon & Tarran, White City , Anlaby Road, Hull (circa. 1960) by Hull Corporation, Town Architects DepartmentHull History Centre
The Tarran (Marks 3 & 4)
The most prevalent design in the City totaling 1314 examples, Robert G Tarran’s patented design was manufactured in Hull by Tarran Industries Ltd. The first 1015 were of a timber frame design with a cast concrete exterior of narrow wall panels faced with an exposed gravel aggregate surface giving the well known “pebble-dash” finish. The remaining 299 examples were of a simplified design dispensing with the timber framing, the units being of reinforced concrete only but with the same exterior finish and could not be distinguished externally from the earlier design. A further distinguishing feature was the living room corner window.
Tarran Industries Prefab (1946-05) by Tarran IndustriesHull History Centre
The Arcon (Mark V)
Made of a double skin of ribbed asbestos cement sheeting on a light steel frame, the Arcon had a distinctive roll-topped ridge to its roof and also stood apart from its peers due to its distinct layout. It was the only prefab to have the living room at the rear of the property with a picture window and a French door to the back garden. 418 Arcon prefabs were erected in the City.
Arcon Prefab (1946-09-30) by Hull Corporation, City Engineers DepartmentHull History Centre
The prefab design was a triumph of space planning and for most would have seemed like a luxury compared with the poor housing conditions still in existence at that time. Each bungalow had two bedrooms; a living room; hallway; fitted kitchen, with hot and cold running water, cooker (gas or electric) and built-in refrigerator; a fitted bathroom, including an indoor lavatory; and had a generous private garden.
Tarran Industries prefab (1946-06-08) by Hull Corporation, City Engineers DepartmentHull History Centre
Did You Know?
The average cost of building a prefab was £1100, which was more than the cost of a permanent brick built house at the time.
Mason Street Pefabs (1947-10-08) by Hull Corporation, City Engineers DepartmentHull History Centre
Opening in 2010 the Hull History Centre now occupies the site of the former Mason Street prefabs.
Prefabricated ‘permanent’ houses, like the bungalow prefabs, were built by non-traditional methods but unlike the bungalow prefabs they were expected to last for at least 60 years. Designs varied and in Hull three main manufacturers erected non-traditional permanent houses in the City during the immediate post-war period
Newland House (1946-05) by Tarran IndustriesHull History Centre
Tarran Industries, even prior to designing prefabricated temporary housing, had designed a prototype two-storey semi-detached house. On 28th May 1946 Tarran Industries constructed an example Newland-Tarran house on site at the corner of Prospect Street and Spencer Street to demonstrate the speed and ease with which the prefabricated permanent house could be erected. Building commenced at 8am and was completed within the day, with testing taking place on the following two days. Generally, however, construction took two days and all internal work carried out within five days, making a total of 1 week for the completion of the house.
Newland House under construction (1946-05-28) by Tarran IndustriesHull History Centre
Interior of Newland House
Interior of Newland House (1946-05) by Tarran IndustriesHull History Centre
The Spooner ‘Dri-Built’ system was designed to follow traditional lines and was advertised as having a “traditional exterior … factory built interior”. Although the company was based in Hull relatively few Spooner houses were built within the City boundaries. Early builds included fifty houses on East Mount Avenue, which from the outside looked very similar to British Iron and Steel Federation houses, due to sheet steel cladding to the upper storey; later builds did not include steel cladding.
Variations of the Spooner house design (circa. 1946) by Hull Corporation, Town Architects DepartmentHull History Centre
At the close of hostilities Hull City Council formulated two major points of policy:
1) to provide homes for the people
2) to assist in every way the rehabilitation of industry to provide work for its citizens.
In the early stages of post-war planning the new industrial zones for the city were identified so that industrial rehabilitation, reconstruction and new development could proceed as rapidly as possible.
Bladon's temporary shop (1948-05-24) by Hull Corporation, City Engineers DepartmentHull History Centre
After the War, many businesses had to wait a number of years before new permanent premises were built and ready to move into. It took five years of negotiations before the way was cleared for Hammonds Ltd. to rebuild their city centre store, which before the war employed nearly 800 staff and had a rateable value of £5,000. Operating from temporary premises the store provided 47 of their departments but with only 20% of the former floor space. A £400,000 development saw Hammonds’ move back to the old premises on Paragon Square
Hammonds temporary shop, Jameson Street, Hull (1948-05-24) by Hull Corporation, City Engineers DepartmentHull History Centre
Did You Know?
The last of Hull's temporary shops on Ferensway remained occupied into the 21st century before finally demolished in 2013
Cooperative temporary shop (1948-05-24) by Hull Corporation, City Engineers DepartmentHull History Centre
We would like to extend our thanks to the James Reckitt Library Trust whose grant has enabled the Hull History Centre to catalogue the Local Studies books and archive collections, some of which can be viewed in this story.