Last year, I had the joy of hosting the Swanwick Prose Open-Mic Night with Maggie Cobbett, and I’m delighted to welcome her to my blog today! Over to you, Maggie, and see you in a fortnight…
Thank you for inviting me onto your blog, Jen.
Having already written historical fiction (Shadows of the Past) and children’s fiction (Wheels on Fire), I’ve combined the two genres in my new novel.
Workhouse Orphan is the story of a 13-year old boy called David, sent from London in the early 1900s to live and work amongst strangers in a West Riding mining village. The enforced separation from his younger siblings, maybe for ever, preys on his mind as he adjusts to backbreaking work underground and the strange speech of his co-workers. During the hard months that follow, David’s determination to rescue his brothers and sister from their workhouse never flags, but how will he achieve it?
Inspiration for the novel came originally from a couple of sources. One of my great-aunts, widowed during WW1, took as her second husband a former workhouse boy. Just like the David in my story, he had been separated from the rest of his family at a tender age and sent up to Yorkshire to work down the pit. My dad, who was only seven when he lost his own father, had to move from the East End to live with an aunt in Durham. Most of the boys in his new school were the sons of miners, he could hardly understand a word they said for the first few weeks and he had to fight his way to acceptance – mostly with his fists.
With these ideas already bubbling at the back of my mind, I was delighted to take up an invitation from Becci Sharrock, writer in residence at the time, to spend a day at Beamish Museum. Its 1900s pit village and drift mine provided a wealth of information but, still hungry for detail, I also visited the National Coal Mining Museum for England, made use of its study facilities and took the underground tour. Last but certainly not least, I am privileged to live in Ripon, North Yorkshire, which has its very own Workhouse Museum. Opened in 1854, the buildings have been turned to many uses since they last housed ‘paupers’, but an enthusiastic team of volunteers continues to work tirelessly to restore them. You might have seen the television documentary featuring the novelist Barbara Taylor Bradford, whose grandmother and mother were inmates there shortly before WW1.
Although originally aimed at the younger reader, I’m hoping that the theme will appeal to a wider audience.
For more information, please see my website http://www.maggiecobbett.co.uk