Haggs Farm in print

Haggs Farm and the Chambers family appear in many of Lawrence’s early stories, including his first published short story A Prelude, The White Peacock and most famously of course Willey Farm, Miriam’s home in Sons and Lovers.

In the opening to A Prelude we get a vivid picture of Mrs Chambers waiting impatiently for her family to come home from work on Christmas eve with the Haggs clock, which you can see at The Breach House, ticking away the minutes.

A Prelude DH Lawrence

In the kitchen of a small farm a little woman sat cutting bread and butter. The glow of the clear, ruddy fire was on her shining cheek and white apron: but grey hair will not take the warm caress of firelight.She skilfully spread the softened butter, and cut off great slices from the floury loaf in her lap. Already two plates were piled but she continued to cut.

Outside the naked ropes of the creeper tapped and lashed at the window.

The grey haired mother looked up, and setting the butter on the hearth, rose and went to look out. The sky was heavy and grey as she saw it in the narrow band over the near black wood. So she turned and went to look through the tiny window which opened from the deep recess on the opposite side of the room. The northern sky was blacker than ever.

She turned away with a little sigh, and took a duster from the red, shining warming-pan to take the bread from the oven. Afterwards she laid the table for five.

There was a rumbling and a whirring in the corner, and the clock struck five. Like clocks in many farmers’ kitchens, it was more than half an hour fast.

The little woman hurried about, bringing milk and other things from the dairy, lifting the potatoes from the fire, peeping through the window anxiously. Very often, her neck ached with watching the gate for a sign of approach.

There was a click of the yard gate. She ran to the window, but turned away again, and catching up the blue enamelled teapot, dropped into it a handful of tea from the caddy, and poured on the water.

Here are Paul Morel and his mother visiting Willey Farm for the first time in the novel Sons and Lovers.

Sons and Lovers DH Lawrence

In front, along the edge of the wood, was a cluster of low red farm buildings. The two hastened forward. Flush with the wood was the apple orchard, where blossom was falling on the grindstone. The pond was deep under a hedge and overhanging oak trees. Some cows stood in the shade. The farm and buildings, three sides of a quadrangle, embraced the sunshine towards the wood. It was very still.

Mother and son went into the small railed garden, where was a scent of red gillivers. By the open door were some floury loaves, put out to cool. A hen was just coming to peck them.

Then, in the doorway suddenly appeared a girl in a dirty apron. She was about fourteen years old, had a rosy dark face, a bunch of short black curls, very fine and free, and dark eyes; shy, questioning, a little resentful of the strangers, she disappeared. In a minute another figure appeared, a small, frail woman, rosy, with great dark brown eyes.

“Oh!” she exclaimed, smiling with a little glow, “you’ve come, then. I am glad to see you.” Her voice was intimate and rather sad.

The two women shook hands.

“Now are you sure we’re not a bother to you?” said Mrs. Morel. “I know what a farming life is.”

“Oh no! We’re only too thankful to see a new face, it’s so lost up here.”

“I suppose so,” said Mrs. Morel.

And here is how Jessie Chambers recalls her home. How do you think her description compares to Lawrence’s? I certainly find it compelling.

D. H. Lawrence: A Personal Record Jessie Chambers

The farm was about a mile from the nearest village, and even the cart road ended at our yard-gate. The house was long, and the line of the roof was broken by a gable window which matched the porch over the front door.

Alan Gill © Betty Gill 2007

The farm buildings adjoined the house and formed one side of a square. The front garden lay snugly in the angle between the house and our neighbour’s high yard-wall and buildings. From the front door we looked down the length of garden which was fenced off from the crew-yard, over a croft and into a wood that shut us in completely on the west. The big yard-gate and the two small gates into the yard were painted cream, ‘Queen Anne’s White’ the estate painters called it, to match the cream of the window frames. At the back of the house was a big garden divided from the stackyard by railings, containing two fine cherry trees with a low spreading apple tree between them, several plum trees, and currant and gooseberry bushes. Beyond was a rough grass plot with an apple tree in the centre and clumps of daffodils in the hedgebottom.

From the stackyard the land dipped to the valley where we could see in the hollow the red roofs of Felley Mill, and away on the right Moorgreen reservoir gleaming like tarnished silver. In the valley bottom the two brooks that drained the mill-pond into the reservoir ran over the road and were crossed by stepping stones, while the shaggy expanse of the Annesley Hills, dotted with patches of woodland, rose steeply behind. Further to the right, High Park wood covered the hills above the lake, and among the trees we could see the little tower of the shooting lodge which Lawrence was to make the scene of his first novel. Our orchard was an irregular triangle cut out of the wood, and across the width of two fields was a nursery of young firs and spruce trees we called the Warren. We had a right of way through the Warren and across the meadow which brought us to the high road just above the reservoir, and this was the path Lawrence usually took when he came to see us.

Did you know that Haggs Farm is only ever called by its real name on the last page of the second version of Lady Chatterley’s Lover (published after Lawrence’s death as John Thomas and Lady Jane)? Mellors is called Parkin in this version!

Connie and Parkin went slowly down the tussocky hill, above the grey-green country. Across was Haggs Farm, and beyond Underwood, the mining village, and the mines. The old, old countryside where Bryon walked so often, and Mary Chaworth. Now colliers straying with their lasses, from ugly Underwood, from Eastwood, from Hucknell.

And the mill-ponds at Felley lying so still, abandoned, abandoned like everything that is not coal or iron, away below.

And so we come full circle - Haggs Farm there in the first and the last of Lawrence's writing; 'The country of his heart' and why we believe this special place should be preserved and restored not just as part of our literary history but to inspire future generations. 

Haggs Farm

Home of Jessie Chambers 

Where DH Lawrence found his 'first incentive to write.'

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