Hannah Hauxwell

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Hannah Hauxwell
Born (1926-08-01) 1 August 1926 (age 89)
Baldersdale, North Riding of Yorkshire, United Kingdom [1]
Nationality English
Known for Documentary subject

Hannah Hauxwell (born 1 August 1926) is a retired English farmer who has been the subject of several television documentaries on Yorkshire Television.

Hauxwell was living alone at Low Birk Hatt Farm in an isolated area of the North Riding of Yorkshire (now County Durham) when she came to public attention, first in a Yorkshire Post article published on 6 April 1970 entitled "How to be happy on £170 a year"[2] 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.

Yorkshire Post article[edit]

Then a 46-year-old spinster, she toiled alone in her family home, Low Birk Hatt Farm 54°33′40″N 2°06′00″W / 54.561°N 2.1°W / 54.561; -2.1 a dilapidated 80-acre (32 ha) farm west of Cotherstone, that she had run by herself since the age of 35 following the deaths of her parents and uncle.[2] With no electricity or running water and struggling to survive on £240-280 a year (at a time when the average annual salary in the UK was £2,000[3]), life was a constant battle against poverty and hardship, especially in the harsh Pennine winters, when she had to work outside tending her few cattle in ragged clothes in temperatures well below freezing.

Documentary appearances[edit]

Too Long a Winter[edit]

In the summer of 1972, Hannah was discovered by a friend of a researcher at Yorkshire Television while out walking in the Yorkshire Dales. The researcher contacted Barry Cockcroft, a producer at the company, who proposed to make a TV documentary tentatively entitled The Hard Life.

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 shown in 1972, 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.

A Winter Too Many[edit]

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.

Hannah Goes To Town[edit]

The footage of Hannah's journey to the Women of the Year gala, briefly touched upon in A Winter Too Many, was used alongside additional footage (collected at the time) to document Hannah's entire trip.

Hannah Hauxwell: Innocent Abroad[edit]

In 1992 director Barry Cockcroft once again ventured into Hannah's life making a documentary series (also called An Innocent Abroad) which followed Hannah on her first trips outside of the UK. On a grand tour of Europe, reminiscent of Victorian ladies, Hannah visited France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy in her naive but captivating style. The series was released as a set of DVDs. The series proved so popular it was followed by another trip, this time to the USA in 1993.


In January 2008, she was still living in her retirement home in the village of Cotherstone, less than five miles (8 km) from Low Birk Hatt Farm, where the meadows have been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, Hannah's Meadows. A new book, Hannah Hauxwell—80 Years in the Dales (W. R. Mitchell) was published in 2008. A new DVD, Hannah Hauxwell—An Extraordinary Life, featuring Too Long A Winter, A Winter Too Many, and Innocent Abroad, has been published. Hauxwell was interviewed on Woman's Hour in March 2008.[4]

board describing aspects of Hannah Hauxwell's old farm

To mark her 85th year, she was interviewed by the Yorkshire Post and revealed that she is still living a frugal life and remains an avid radio listener.[2]


  1. ^ Hauxwell, Hannah; Cockcroft, Barry (1989). Seasons of my life. Century Hutchinson. ISBN 0-7126-2480-5. 
  2. ^ a b c Hannah Hauxwell at 85 Yorkshire Post, 6 March 2011
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ Daleswoman Hannah Hauxwell BBC Radio 4