The Girl on the Wall is a unique, beguiling and very personal social history of one British life over the past 70 years, told through a hand-sewn tapestry.
As the clock struck midnight on 31 December 1999, Jean Baggott vowed that from that point on her life would be devoted to the happiness of ‘the girl on the wall’ – a 1948 photograph taken of Jean when she was eleven.
Reflecting on her hopes and dreams 60 years on from that photo, Jean – a talented needlewoman – has stitched a remarkable tapestry looking back on her life and the changing world around her.
Inspired by a ceiling in Lincolnshire’s Burghley House and by the history degree on which she embarked in her late sixties, the tapestry tells the moving story of an ordinary young girl from the Black Country, growing up in extraordinary times.
The tapestry, which took sixteen months to complete, consists of 73 interlocking circles, giving a unique portrait of everyday life for the working people of the industrialised West Midlands. Each chapter of her book relates to one circle in the tapestry as Jean explores the memories the circle evokes. Jean’s vivid recollections of growing up in a house where the bath hung on a nail in the yard, and children listened to Dick Barton on the radio while their mothers made rag rugs, conjure up a fascinating world now all but forgotten. Some circles explore world events such as the first moon landings and the Cuban missile crisis; others are filled with memories of washdays, childhood illnesses, wartime rationing and games played in the fields and streets beyond Jean’s two-up, two-down terraced home.
Jean Baggott’s entertaining, conversational style and the exquisitely appealing beauty of her tapestry, here recreated in full colour, are underpinned by a breadth of knowledge that brings the events of the past seven decades richly to life in a unique and unforgettable way.
Read an extract of the book below. Click on any page to make it larger and move on pages using the arrows on the right-hand side: