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Last Updated: Friday, 9 November 2007, 15:59 GMT
Coal House families back to 2007
The families outside the miners' cottages in Blaenavon
The families turned their backs on modern living for four weeks
Three Welsh families have rejoined 2007 after swapping modern life for one mirroring life 80 years ago in the Coal House TV programme.

The BBC Wales reality series followed the six adults and 11 children for a month to see how they coped without the modern day luxuries.

The families expressed mixed emotions after leaving the 1927 mining cottages.

Cerdin Griffiths from Cardigan said he would have been happy to stay "but only if we had running water and a sink".

The three families were faced with the same financial hardship that thousands of families in 1927 had to cope with.

During the month, the men and boys over 14 were sent to work at the Blaentillery Drift Mine.

They faced long walks to work over mountainous terrain in all weather, before discovering if there was any work at the pit.

Some days they returned home penniless when the mine closed due to lack of work while on others they faced 12-hours of hard labour to meet tough orders.

The women remained in tiny miners' cottages in Blaenavon during the day looking after the children.

The Phillips family from Cowbridge
One of the things I've noticed with the children is that in all the time here I haven't heard them say they are bored.
Stephanie Phillips

They faced feeding the family with little food or money and an old fashioned stove which needed constant stoking to keep alight.

There was no running water, no electricity and no indoor toilets.

The children were taught at a 1927-style school and the families followed the lifestyle of the time with trips to chapel on Sunday's and the men would go to choir.

Joe and Annabel Cartwright, from Penarth in the Vale of Glamorgan, a professor and astrophysicist, and their two daughters Gwen and Kitty, who are 12 and 11, were one of the families involved.

They had to cope with severe financial hardship after Mr Cartwright injured his hand early on in the series preventing him from working down the pit.

During the series, Mr Cartwright revealed how concerned he had been about the family's money situation saying he felt under constant pressure.

Debra Griffiths meets family members
The Griffiths used humour to cope with the challenges they faced

But reflecting on their time there, they say the experience was a positive one.

"It was interesting how my life became one of serving Joe and keeping him tip-top," said Mrs Cartwright.

Her husband added: "Nothing prepares you for the work which was physically probably the hardest you can have to do.

"And in really difficult conditions with the ever present threat that generation faced."

Stephanie and Richie Phillips from Cowbridge, along with their six children were also chosen for the series. Two of their children are still in nappies, including two-year-old Rhodri whose antics amused viewers.

But Mrs Phillips said she was unsure she wanted to return to modern life.

"It's been really strange and it hasn't been anywhere near as bad as I thought it would be," she said.

"I've really enjoyed it and one of the things I've noticed with the children is that in all the time here I haven't heard them say they are bored.

"I really liked it here now I've got used to it."

But she admitted the lack of hot water and a sink had frustrated her.

The third family taking part were made up of Debra and Cerdin Griffiths from Cardigan and their three children.

Two of their children contracted chicken pox during the series and Mrs Griffiths was faced with the challenges of nursing them with the basic facilities on offer.

The Cartwright family
The Cartwright family struggled financially during their stay

"Life moves so fast these days," explained Mr Griffiths.

"Here you walk to work and you see the birds in the sky, you don't have that in a car."

Mrs Griffiths agreed adding: "People don't seem to stop and talk and listen anymore.

"And life is too short.

"I'm quite happy to be here," she said.

"But only if we had running water and a sink," replied Mr Griffiths.

All three families said they wanted to take part because they did not communicate with one another as much as they would like, and they want to use this opportunity to spend quality time together as a family.

The success of the series has meant Stack Square, where the families lived, is to be turned into a tourist attraction.

The series was set in the year after the General Strike

Coal House families back to 1927
15 Oct 07 |  South East Wales
Families vie for miners' TV show
01 Jul 07 |  South East Wales


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