I grew up living in a detached house, an old Station Masters house for the Train Station that used to service the village we lived in, a product of the old days of Industrialisation, the village bearing witness to the growth of the coal mining and steel production centres of South Wales, leading to more and better ways of transportation to take these goods down the valley and eventually to port. The village my parents moved to and where I spent my childhood was a junction between the end of two valleys, where two rivers fed into each other; one route came from the north and another west, both leading from the Industrial heartlands of the Ebbw and Sirhowy valleys, places where coal was mined and steel furnaced. The relics of Industrialisation littered this small village and its surrounds, in terms of both remains from old mines and also chronicling the rapid growth of industry and better and more advanced transportation techniques; we had a canal, railways and later on they built a bypass though the village as all the old train stations had long since fallen into disrepair and ruin, the canal overgrown and neglected. In many ways the whole area was like a living history book; you did not have to walk far to witness the relics of Industrialisation where I lived, from cordoned off old air shafts servicing the old, long gone coal pits, to a communal grave in a field recording a coal mine disaster of the 1860’s – the area contained such a rich source of the past.
Nothing really showed the evolution of our society more so than the place I grew up. The remains of two-hundred and forty or so years, from the early beginnings of Industrialisation to our modern society is recorded in the hills of my childhood; from slag heaps now landscaped and covered with foliage, with really nothing to remind you that these irregular humps once came from the bowels of the earth, to mobile phone masts allowing wireless communication looking like something from a science fiction film of the 1960’s – two-hundred years of history, from an industrial past into a technological future grace the landscape, and all this change stemming really from the past twenty or so years, and especially the last decade. How fast have we progressed compared to the relative slow period of change experienced since the beginnings of Industrialisation from the late eighteenth century onwards? In the space of ten years, roughly, most households are now connected to high speed internet and use mobile devices – a true communications revolution in no uncertain terms along with the free availability of knowledge and a wide variety of different news sources from the internet have never ever been easier to access. Two-hundred years ago, or not even one-hundred years ago, this was the realm of fiction; probably inconceivable even for those times. One-hundred years ago HG Wells wrote The Time Machine, but would he have predicted today?
I noticed that two years ago on this blog I made my first post, a work that I created for a Creative Writing course I was studying, writing about what I remembered from my childhood, or at least the most prominent memories of growing up. Its strange when you think about your childhood that you usually remember sunny days, no? I do, but I also remember the rain on school days, or more specifically, the days I didn’t like going. My memories of growing up were happy ones and the area we lived in was quiet and pleasant, full of wildlife and animals, freight trains on a regular basis, etc.
It maybe also why I have such a love for history, as it was all around me, from finding the old green bottles with the glass ball in the neck in our back garden, to seeing the remains of old railway tracks that used to belong to the old pit, the whole area was an industrial-archaeologists paradise, but today most of this has been cleared away to make room for ‘the new’, or at least that’s how it was several years ago when I last visited. I think it is important to remember our past and preserve as much as we are feasibly able to, so future generations can look back and see how we lived all those years ago.