Haggaback Farm

This must be one of the highest farms on the moors. Haggaback Farm stands almost 800 feet above sea level on Commondale Moor. A bleak and exposed spot. Most farms are usually sited in the middle of their network of fields, to minimise distances travelled. Haggaback is strangely at the edge of the high moorland, looking down on its fields. A clue for this might lie in the history of the moorland behind the farm, Kempswithen Heights. In 1773 the landowner Sir Charles Turner went to a lot of effort to “improve” the land. Drainage ditches were dug, lime applied, the moorland vegetation burnt and the ashes ploughed back in. Crops of corn, wheat and barley were successfully grown but soon after Turner’s death in 1783 there was a slump in the cereal markets, and the land was abandoned. By the middle of the 19th-century, the Victorian fashion for grouse shooting had encouraged the growth of heather. Haggaback Farm or Huckaback as it was known is probably contemporary with Turner’s experiments so could quite well have been built to service the land.

When Lizzie Watson was born in Huckaback then in 1850 it was an isolated farm at the edge of moorland. There was no running water and a peat fire burnt throughout the year. Lizzie lived there all her life, managing the farm on her own after her parents died. She reared sheep and made butter which she would sell in the old market in South Street, Middlesbrough, an epic journey. On Sundays, Lizzie would be found at Kildale church reading lessons. She died in 1933 and is buried in Kildale churchyard.
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