Hannah Hauxwell’s cottage in Cotherstone is for up for sale. Perhaps a blue plaque is now in order. Sharon Dale reports
Hannah Hauxwell’s emotional farewell to her remote Dales farm was captured in YTV’s documentary film “A Winter Too Many”.
Viewers were in tears at what was a heartbreaking moment for Hannah, then 62. Low Birk Hatt had been in her family for generations, though she had lived there on her own since the age of 34.
Her father died when she was 10 and when her mother and uncle passed away, she continued caring for her cattle in the harshest of weathers, living and sleeping in one room of her cottage, which had no electricity or running water.
Softly spoken and ever cheerful, she collected drinking water from a stream. Her only source of heat was an old stove and she lived on £240 a year until the first in a series of documentaries about her life, “Too Long a Winter” was aired in 1973. Workers in a local factory fundraised to connect her to the grid and, later, royalties from the books about her life helped boost her income.
Moving from the Baldersdale farm, hidden away in Yorkshire’s old North Riding, now part of County Durham, was traumatic but she was pleased with her new home, a cottage in the nearby village of Cotherstone.
The two-bedroom property, which she bought in 1988, is now for sale with Savills for £160,000. Its sale has been prompted by Hannah’s death, aged 91, in January last year.
Although she moved to a care home in 2016, she kept the cottage, which is now in need of renovation.
As far as Hannah was concerned it had all mod cons compared with Low Birk Hatt, which was cold and damp. The farmhouse was renovated by subsequent owners.
The centrally-heated cottage was certainly warmer and had a bathroom with hot and cold water though when she got her first washing machine she said: “I don’t know if it works because I’ve never tried it. I do it by hand. It’s not one of my favourite jobs, but that’s how I’ve always done it.”
Melissa Lines, head of residential sales at Savills Darlington, says of Bellview Cottage
“It has all the potential to make a lovely family home for someone looking to live in the popular village of Cotherstone, which benefits from an excellent primary school, which was recently rated outstanding.”
The property is now empty after being cleared of Hannah’s belongings - she never threw anything anyway in case it came in handy.
Her hoarding has been a blessing as it has helped preserve the heritage she was so proud of.
She kept a collection of quilts made by members of her family and they were auctioned at Tennants in Leyburn last weekend.
Bidding from collectors was keen and a quilt made by Hannah’s grandmother, Elizabeth Bayles, was bought by the Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle. It will become part of the museum’s internationally recognised North Country quilt collection and will go on display later this year.
“I am delighted that private donations have meant that we can keep one of these quilts, which belonged to Hannah Hauxwell, in Teesdale,” says Joanna Hashagen, the museum’s curator of fashion and textiles.
Hannah’s executors also donated a large, framed photograph of Hannah standing in front of High Force waterfall to the museum. It is signed and dated by the cameraman who filmed her for Yorkshire TV.
Meanwhile, some members of the Hannah Hauxwell Appreciation Group on Facebook have suggested a blue plaque - perhaps on both Low Birk Hatt and on Cotherstone cottage.
It would be a fitting tribute to someone who reminded us of a fundamental truth - you don’t need wealth or possessions to be happy. You just have to make the most of what you’ve got.
*Bellview Cottage, Cotherstone, is £160,000 and for sale with Savills, Darlington, www.savills.co.uk. The Bowes Museum, www.thebowesmuseum.org