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Coal House diary - Gwen Cartwright

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Coal House diary
Gwen Cartwright
Paperback / softback
Pont Books
UK Publication Date

A personal diary by Gwen Cartwright, one of the children transported back to the south Wales coalfield of the 1920s for the BBC Wales living history series Coal House, on air in October 2007. This diary account shows the highlights (and occasionally the lowlights) of life in a 1920s mining community.

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Gwen from Penarth and her family left all the twenty first century luxuries behind, swapping a modern high-tech life for a miner's cottage in the Welsh hills of Blaenavon where all traces of creature comforts were removed.
Gwen's father faced a long day working at Blaentillery No.2 Mine while her mother's role was to run the home.
School and social life were also very different.

A diary is a great form to give children an insight at life in the past and coupled with photography, this book is sure to bring history alive.

A second Coalhouse series wastelevised in October 2008 and the publication of Coalhouse Diary coincided with this.

Not many
people get the opportunity to travel back in time. Not many people get the opportunity to publish a book at the young age of 13 either. But that's exactly what happened to Gwen Cartwright as she and her family took part in 'Coal House', the BBC's living history TV series. Gwen recorded her daily life in a diary over three weeks as her family left behind all modern-day luxuries for a basic 1920's miner's cottage. Now children (and adults too) can read her personal diary and find out more about live at Stack Square as Coal House Diary is published by Pont Books. As well as Gwen's diary, there are fascinating photographs from the BBC archives and the family's personal album, throughout the book.

Gwen knows what it was like to live without flick-of-the switch technology - something that many a child today cannot fathom.
No mobile phone, e-mail or facebook? No electricity, toilet or even hot water in the house? What was life like then? It must have been so hard! By turning the pages of Coal House Diary, we glimpse at life in a nineteen-twenties mining community through the eyes of a child. With a routine of housework for the women, hardwork down the mine for the men and school for the children, Gwen's diary records many a highlight and lowlight of daily life.
Publisher: Pont Books

Conditions in 1927, soon after the General Strike, were grim in south Wales coal mines, and when the BBC decided to replicate those conditions with three families, thirteen-year-old Gwen Cartwright kept a diary of her three weeks living in the Coal House. The programme proved immensely popular, and Gwen's diary in its published form is a detailed and fascinating account of her feelings and reactions to the conditions around her..

Without twenty-first century distractions, the eleven children involved in the project soon found new games to play, a distinctly different school experience, and just what it was like to have many chores to perform. Cooking was a considerable challenge for the mums, and the dads worked down the mines, which meant walking both ways to the pits. Money (the old kind) was very short, and make-do-and-mend was very much the order of the day.

Accompanied by marvellous photographs (interesting to see the black-and-white photos one usually sees of the 1920s in glowing colour) and occasional bits of social history, the book is a well-written account of Gwen, her family and their neighbours' experiences as they came to terms with uncomfortable clothes, the ty bach, and keeping pigs and chickens. Gwen seems cheerful throughout (she loves exclamation marks), even when faced with porridge each morning, and we are made aware of some of the stresses such families must have faced.

Even if one has not seen the BBC programme, this book will still be
enjoyable ? and not only for children. I certainly found it fascinating and highly evocative of a very different age. It belongs in every school library, and not just in Wales!
Elizabeth Schlenther @

Keyword Index
Coalfields - Wales, South - History - 20th century - Juvenile literature.|Coal miners - Wales, South - Social conditions - 20th century - Juvenile literature.|Nineteen twenties - Juvenile literature.|Wales, South - Social conditions - 20th century - Juvenile literature.
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