Set in England, in 1833, gritty Channel 4 drama The Mill recounts the struggle workers faced during the Industrial Revolution. At Quarry Bank Mill in Cheshire, real events from the story took place almost 200 years ago. Here working conditions were harsh and unpaid slave children were forced to do daily 12-hour shifts.
“They had no social security, no backup,” explains The Mill’s producer Caroline Levy, who believes these workers became heroes through their plight. “I think The Mill is an inspiring piece about what people who seem to have no power can actually achieve and change,” she says.
In the first series workers rebelled against the abusive infrastructure – and the real characters in the story shaped the employment laws we take for granted today.
“[In the first series] we show how tough it was physically, but also the bond these people had, particularly the apprentices, and how they get through each day,” continues Levy, “and the fact that a lot of these scenes were shot in locations where these real events took place, is quite extraordinary.”
For a unique insight into the struggle the characters in this real-life tale experienced, Levy guides us through the filming locations of the series, all of which you can visit…
Quarry Bank Mill, Wilmslow
“It’s a fantastic site,” explains Levy, “The Mill is not really just a location; it’s the inspiration for the entire set. The whole story is based on the people who lived and worked there. The buildings we used were the buildings that were lived in and owned by the Greg family, some of the apprentices and workers also lived in.” Quarry Bank Mill is now protected by the National Trust and fully open to the public. Visitors can take a closer look at the impressive building, roam around the stunning garden and see where thousands of workers once made cotton. The grounds are also home to Europe’s most powerful working waterwheel, and tours offer the chance to see the Apprentice House – where children worked in the 1800s.
Tudor Old Hall, Tatton Park
This neo-Classical Mansion has an impressive 50 acres of landscaped gardens, plus 1,000 acres of deer park. It was used as the Inn in the first series of The Mill, where Daniel and Doherty meet in episode four. In episode two of the first series it’s also used as a Magistrate Court room. “Based on pictures discovered by Pat Campbell, our production designer, it was a perfect fit for the magistrate courtrooms of the day in 1830s England,” explains Levy. Meanwhile, the beautiful grounds outside were used in episode one of the first series, during Daniel’s walk from Manchester to Quarry Bank Mill. “And in episode three, we recreated the gathering of Wibsey Low Moor,” says Levy, “where thousands of workers met and John Doherty spoke.”
Maccesfield Unitarian Chapel, Macclesfield
Originally built in 1689, this incredible grade II listed English Heritage site was used to film the Women’s Anti Slavery movement gathering in episode two, series one, of The Mill. “Mary Prince, a former slave, speaks at the event,” explains Levy, “and Hannah Greg, Tommy, William Greg and John Doherty attend.” Back to the present day, and the church is open for visitors. Inside, guests can see an ornately carved chair by William Leicester, made in 1688, and oil paintings of minister Thomas Culcheth and his wife, who live here from 1717 to 1751.
Chester Crown Courts, Cheshire
The strong stoned exterior of Chester Crown Courts doubles as the background of the Royal Commission in the first episode of The Mill. This setting is also used for other scenes in the first series, including episode three. “Lucy and Esther go to try and find Catherine,” explains Levy, “it’s here that Timperley catches Lucy.” Meanwhile, in episode three of the first series, when Esther is in Liverpool, we seen her walking through the docks – “this scene was also filmed at this location,” reveals Levy.
Salford Magistrates Court, Manchester
Although it’s no longer a working court, this grade-II listed building was used in a number of set ups in The Mill, including the interior of the workhouse in episodes two and three of series one. “This was also the jail where Robert Greg first meets Daniel,” Levy tells us. Visitors may find it hard to sneak a peek of the interiors, but they are welcome to snap a picture outside any day of the week.
Murrays’ Mills, Ancoats, Manchester
Many of the dormitory scenes from the first series were filmed in this striking 200-year-old building on the Rochdale Canal. The first mill was operational here in 1797, and by 1806 this was the largest mill in the world. At its peak, it employed around 1,000 people a week. You’ll find it just outside of Manchester City Centre and luckily it hasn’t yet been converted into apartments or offices, like many of the other historical buildings in the area. It can be explored via a private booking.
Watch The Mill series two at 8pm every Sunday on Channel 4.