HANNAH Hauxwell was, in many respects, a pioneer of reality television. This reluctant celebrity was the iconic Dales farmer whose daily struggles in one of North Yorkshire’s most desolate outposts earned international fame, and respect, following the broadcast of Too Long a Winter, the acclaimed 1973 documentary inspired by an article in this newspaper.
It led to Yorkshire Television’s phone lines being jammed for three days with offers of help, and a campaign set up to supply electricity to the remote Low Birk Hatt Farm where she had lived alone since the age of 35 following the death of her parents and uncle. A rare interview in 2011, on the eve of her 85th birthday provided a fascinating insight into the Dales’ most famous daughter. She’d been repairing her bed mattress for years. Asked if it would be simpler to buy a new one, her reply epitomised her approach to life: “It fits the bed perfectly.”
Yet, while Hannah Hauxwell remained a reclusive figure right up until her death, her spirit had a wider resonance. Small in stature, but big in heart, her toil shone a light on farming families and the neglected role of women in a male-dominated industry. She lived a down-to-earth life like no other and will be remembered as an icon of Yorkshire.