17 August 2008

Hannah Hauxwell

Hannah Hauxwell (born 1 August 1926) was living alone at Low Birk Hatt Farm in an isolated area of North Yorkshire when she came to the attention of the world, first in a Yorkshire Post article published on April 6, 1970 entitled 'How to be happy on £170 a year' and then, in 1973, in an ITV documentary, Too Long a Winter, made by Yorkshire Television and produced by Barry Cockcroft, which chronicled the almost unendurable conditions of farmers in the High Pennines in winter.
Then a 46-year-old spinster she toiled alone in her family home, Low Birk Hatt Farm, a dilapidated 80-acre farm which she had run by herself since the age of 35 following the deaths of her parents and uncle. With no electricity or running water and struggling to survive on £280 a year, life was a constant battle against poverty and hardship, especially in the harsh Pennine winters where she had to work outside tending her few cattle in ragged clothes in temperatures well below freezing. It was Hannah’s spirit, her gentleness and humility, that gripped not only a nation but, as the documentary was syndicated, parts of Europe too. So much so that after the documentary was first screened Yorkshire TV's phone line was jammed for three days with viewers wanting to find out more and help her. Over the next twenty years her life was transformed. A local factory raised money to fund getting electricity to Low Birk Hatt Farm and she continued to receive thousands of letters and generous donations from well-wishers around the world.
Almost two decades after Too Long a Winter, the same TV crew returned to her farm to catch up with Hannah. The second documentary, A Winter Too Many, saw that Hannah had a little more money, which she had invested in a few more cows. The crew followed her to London where she was guest of honour at the 'Women of the Year' Gala. But out of the spotlight her back-breaking work on the farm continued and each winter became harder for her to endure. With her health and strength slowly failing she had to make a heart-rending decision: to sell her family farm and the animals she adored and move into a warm cottage in a nearby village. Both programmes about this extraordinary Daleswoman have been put on a single DVD, Hannah Hauxwell's Winter Tales. Barry Cockcroft also took her around Europe and to New York for further documentaries.
In January 2008 she was still living in the village of Cotherstone, less than five miles (8 km) from Low Birk Hatt Farm.

The images were taken down by Hannahs old house, Low Birk Hatt Farm, where it has been renovated and is owned by a wealthy business man whom I dare not mention for legal reasons. It shows the views of the reservoir and beautiful surrounding countryside. Her house and house name can be seen in the first & second image and image 3 is a picture of the barn door.


Susanne49 said...

I love your landscape photos, Carol! The clouds are so beautiful and so is your country!

André Lemay said...

What a facinating story. Thank you for sharing a piece of history of your country I really enjoyed it. Great pictures also; the tree seems to had a hard life.

Carole said...

Thankyou Sue and Andre for your comment.s

Andre the tree has had a hard life as did poor Hannah. If you had seen the documentary then you would know how hard her life was.

Carol said...

that was very interesting, that poor woman, what she had to go through in her life.... Hannah was a survivor, for sure!

i keep looking at the photos and thinking, omg... there was no one else around, how did she do it.. it's amazing what people can do when they have to tho, isn't it? she certainly lived in a beautiful spot, the scenery is breathtaking and right by the water too.

Carole, your photos are lovely, as usual.... i enjoyed.