Not your usual run of The Mill TV programme

In this post, our PR Intern Gabby Swaffield gets all in a spin about the exciting filming that went on at one of Britain’s greatest industrial heritage sites. 

If you’ve been watching a lot of TV recently, perhaps trying to catch a glimpse of the newborn royal prince, in between the hype you might have noticed the adverts for the new historical drama on Channel 4; The Mill.

This four part series was recently filmed at The National Trust’s Quarry Bank Mill in Cheshire and tells the story of the workers and unpaid apprentices living and working in the harsh conditions at the cotton mill. Set in 1833, the drama reflects a period of time when the Industrial Revolution was changing Britain beyond recognition and children as young as nine worked 12 hour shifts whilst the mill owners prospered. The hours were long and dangerous and disobedience was ruthlessly punished, however the so-called “white slaves of England” decide to take matters into their own hands and fight for a better future.

The real owners of The Mill, the philanthropic Greg family, were one of the leading industrial families of the period, employing thousands of workers in their five mills throughout the north west of England, as well as slave plantations in the West Indies.

Quarry Bank Mill was founded by Samuel Greg in 1784, which was purpose built to harness the power of the River Bollin. He went on to build cottages for his workers in Styal Village, as well as the Apprentice House which was home to the pauper children of the Mill and can still be visited today. In 1810, Samuel Greg introduced the power of steam to the mill and the fifth water wheel at the property, acquired in 1980, is Europe’s most powerful working water wheel.

Based on the extensive historical archive at Quarry Bank Mill, which comprises over 20,000 letters, wage books, contracts, diaries, rent books and interview transcripts, this is Channel 4’s first factually inspired period drama.

Written by BAFTA award-winning John Fay (Clocking Off, Torchwood, Coronation Street), directed by James Hawes (Enid, The Suspicions of Mr Whitcher, Mad Dogs), and produced by Caroline Levy (George Gently, Excluded, Apparitions, Cape Wrath and Rough Justice), it also features an all star cast including Kevin McNally (Pirates of the Caribbean and Downton Abbey), Donald Sumpter (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and Jamie Draven (Billy Elliott).

Eleanor Underhill, Quarry Bank’s General Manager said: “We’re delighted that Channel 4 chose Quarry Bank for this exciting new series. We have archive records of every apprentice who worked here (800) and these proved invaluable as an inspiration for the storyline. We’ve also recently launched the Quarry Bank Appeal to raise £1.4 million to restore the entire Quarry Bank and Styal Estate. A key part of this will be to digitise the huge Quarry Bank archive and make it more accessible. We hope that The Mill will raise awareness of Quarry Bank and encourage people to visit this fantastic site”.

The Mill is a dramatic blending of fact and fiction, invention and reality, a story of people’s lives. Episode one airs at 8pm on Channel 4 on Sunday 28th July.


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