Housewife, 49

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Housewife, 49
Genre Drama
Created by Victoria Wood
Written by Victoria Wood
Nella Last
Directed by Gavin Millar
Starring Victoria Wood
David Threlfall
Christopher Harper
Ben Crompton
Lorraine Ashbourne
Sally Bankes
Stephanie Cole
Marcia Warren
Sylvestra Le Touzel
Wendy Nottingham
Jane Lowe
Dorothy Atkinson
Sian Brooke
Laura Power
Jason Watkins
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 1
Location(s) Barrow-in-Furness, England
Original network ITV, STV, UTV
Original release 10 December 2006

Housewife, 49 is a 2006 television film based on the wartime diaries of Nella Last. Written by and starring English actor and comedian Victoria Wood, it follows the experiences of an ordinary housewife and mother in the Northern English town of Barrow-in-Furness, Lancashire during the Second World War. It was first broadcast in the UK by ITV on 10 December 2006.


The Mass-Observation project was set up in 1937 by Charles Madge, a poet and journalist and Tom Harrison, an anthropologist to 'record the voice of ordinary people'. They recruited volunteer 'observers' to report to them and in 1939 invited people to send them an account of their lives. Nella Last was one of 500 people who took up this offer. Nella Last's war page vi. Her diaries sent weekly are headed "Housewife, 49", her age when she first began the correspondence. Nella Last's War page ii. Her diaries to Mass-Observation, often written in pencil, provide the narrative of the play as it unfolds her life. Edited versions of her diary have been published: Nella Last's War edited by Richard Broad and Suzy Fleming appeared first in 1981 and has been more recently re-published by Profile Books in 2007. Housewife, 49 is based on this book which covers the years 1939–45. Nella Last's Peace, which appeared in 2009, includes diary entries from her immediate post-war years. A third volume, Nella Last in the 1950s: Further diaries of Housewife, 49 which includes material not published in Nella Last's War was published in 2010.

In some scenes, the staff of Mass-Observation are seen reacting to, and sometimes visibly moved by, her letters. During the course of the programme, Last moves from being an introverted, isolated, and depressed individual in a difficult marriage, to become an outgoing character who, through her voluntary work during wartime, becomes a backbone of the local community. At the end of the programme it is explained that Nella continued to write to Mass-Observation until her death in 1968. The original diary together with hundreds of other diaries and Mass-Observation's other papers are available to the public at the Mass-Observation Archive at the University of Sussex.

It also documents the lead character's changing relationships with those around her; standing up to her domineering husband (David Threlfall), developing a close but sometimes strained friendship with Mrs Waite (Stephanie Cole) the head of the Local Women's Voluntary Service, and her changing relationships with her eldest son Arthur (Ben Crompton), and her younger son Cliff (Christopher Harper) who is changed by his experiences of combat. Nella Last's War page 276. It is also implied that Cliff, who in real life became a sculptor in Australia Nella last's War page 301, was gay; although Nella either does not realise or refuses to acknowledge it. .

Stage production[edit]

In September 2013, Victoria Wood chose the small Old Laundry theatre in Bowness-on-Windermere as the venue for the premiere of the stage version of Housewife 49.[1]


It won two British Academy Television Awards in 2007: "Best Single Drama", and Victoria Wood won "Best Actress" for her portrayal of Nella Last.

DVD release[edit]

Housewife, 49 was released on DVD in the US on 11 March 2008.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "Victoria Wood's Housewife, 49 gets stage premiere". BBC. 3 September 2013. Retrieved 6 January 2014.