Hannah Hauxwell became a true Yorkshire heroine and inspiration to all after we gained an insight into her hard life working on the farm during the harsh climates of the Yorkshire Dales. She was brought to our screens in a series of insightful documentaries which showed us a side to Yorkshire we don’t often see.
Despite her open rejection of a modern lifestyle, in some ways Hannah was a woman very much ahead of her time. In the early 70’s she became one of television’s first, and unlikeliest, reality TV stars long before the word had been invented.
- Growing Up
- Life on the Farm
- A Chance Meeting
- Hannah’s Sudden Fame
- A Winter Too Many
- First Time Travelling Outside the UK
- Hannah’s Meadows
- Hannah Hauxwell’s Later Life
- The Death of Hannah Hauxwell
On the 1st of August in 1926, Hannah Hauxwell was born in Baldersdale, North Riding of Yorkshire which is now part of County Durham due to boundary changes. Her parents originally rented a farmhouse but decided to move to Low Birk Hatt Farm in the middle of Baldersdale when Hannah was three.
Hannah’s father died when she was young which resulted in her uncle taking over and running the farm while trying to make it more profitable. Tragedy struck again when her mother passed away followed by her uncle three years later. Hannah was left unmarried and given the sole responsibility of running the farm aged 35.
Hannah’s house was isolated with no electricity, central heating, or running water. Also, her closest neighbours lived several miles down the valley.
The 80 acres of fields and collection of livestock, mainly cattle, that Hannah owned needed daily attention no matter the time or weather. Her life became a constant battle against poverty and the harsh Yorkshire climate which in winter could be especially cruel.
While the rest of the county were dancing to the Beatles and watching man land on the moon, Hannah Hauxwell was walking through deep snow in order to collect her bread and basic food supplies for the farm.
In an interview with The Daily Mail in 2008, Hannah was asked whether she ever felt like selling up and “throwing in the towel”, she replied:
“Not really. I had an uncle who wanted better for me and there was a factory in Barnard Castle I could have found work at but farming was the only thing I knew.”
Hannah’s stoicism and duty to maintain her family’s farm led to a life of loneliness with only her animals and the off passerby for company. Local attention to her life first appeared in a Yorkshire Post article published in 1970 titled “How to be happy on £170 per year” which profiled her life working the farm making a meagre living.
Hannah’s life changed forever two years later after a chance meeting with a passing rambler who knew a researcher at Yorkshire Television. An idea was passed to producer Barry Cockcroft which resulted in a documentary called “Too Long a Winter” in 1973.
This featured the lives of several farmers in remote parts of the Yorkshire Dales including Hannah Hauxwell. The documentary shows her struggling up a hill with a resistant bullock in the snow as she takes it to market to be sold.
Not only did Hannah struggle against the harsh winter climate, but also against the prejudices of the time. As she is a woman, Hannah was unable to attend the local cattle market and instead a local male farmer took the bullock the rest of the way and sold it on her behalf which made up almost one half of her yearly income.
Despite her constant loneliness, Hannah was a natural in front of the TV cameras and her appearance in this documentary garnered a huge response from all around the world. She even received visitors who came as far away as New Zealand.
People were wanting to help her so much that the Yorkshire Television switchboard was jammed for three days. A local company raised money to supply Low Birk Hatt Farm with electricity.
Hannah’s sudden fame didn’t appear to faze her. She became known and loved for the welcoming warmth and humanity that she gave to all she met.
After the fuss had died down, Hannah continued her work on the farm right up until the late 1980’s when another documentary was made. This was also created by Barry Cockcroft and called “A Winter Too Many”.
The documentary was broadcast in 1989 and solely focused on Hannah’s life on the farm. Evident in the programme was the amount of donations and fan mail she had received from across the world.
Over the intervening years, the extra money she received allowed her to invest in more cattle to sell at market and also increase her income. However, the documentary also showed how extra investment has made more work for a now ageing Hannah.
The time had come for Hannah to make the heart-wrenching decision to leave Low Birk Hatt Farm. She decided to purchase a new home in the nearby village of Cotherstone.
In 1992, a further documentary was made called “Hannah Hauxwell, An Innocent Abroad.” This showed her leaving the UK for the first time and touring Europe visiting countries such as France, Germany, Italy and Austria followed by a similar US version the following year.
After Low Birk Hatt Farm was sold, its surrounding pastures have since been renamed Hannah’s Meadows. The Hauxwell family’s traditional management of the land included rejecting the use of modern pesticides.
As a result, the area was able to successfully grow wildflowers that are rare. When they were discovered Hannah’s Meadows became a place of special scientific interest.
Hannah moved to a cottage in Cotherstone which is less than five miles from Low Birk Hatt Farm and the surrounding Baldersdale. Now free from her labours, she had a comfortable life reading, playing her beloved organ, and becoming an avid radio listener.
When the new owners asked if Hannah would like to visit Low Birk Hatt Farm she refused. Hannah said that the memories and ties were still too strong and wanted to remember it as it was when she left.
In 2016, Hannah moved to a care home in Barnard Castle. The following year she moved to a nursing home in New Auckland.
On the 30th of January 2018, Hannah Hauxwell passed away aged 91.
This inspiring and remarkable Yorkshire lass will forever be remembered for her good nature, warm welcome, and simple life.