There is more to The Mill than dirt and desperation

It might be miserable, but there's a sense of hope in series two of the Channel 4 drama, says Ellie Walker-Arnott

Compared to the upper class melodramas of Downton Abbey, the glimmering shop fronts of Mr Selfridge and the vintage charm of Call the Midwife, The Mill doesn’t fare very well.


Rather than pristine china tea cups, old-fashioned etiquette and pretty floral prints, you get the grubby-faced, rag-clad workers of Quarry Bank Mill and their grey, dismal and dreary existence.

It might air in its typical slot, but it doesn’t quite fit the period drama mold.

Why watch drama that is in no way uplifting? Who wants to snuggle down on a Sunday evening and escape to a damp mill in the north where everyone is miserable and there’s no way out?

Yeah. No one.

But, it appears, there’s more to The Mill than that.

Yes, it’s miserable. Yes, there are grim themes and gritty storylines – child labour, poverty, discrimination, injustice – but series two is lighter than the run that went before it.

Last night’s episode was a confident and assured start to a more engaging series. It might not transport you to a world where the Dowager Countess’s witty words of wisdom rule, but The Mill is not just a tale of desperation and dirty fingernails.

It is difficult and bleak social history – based on the mill’s real records – but with a second series comes a chink of hope. A hint that the misery might not be forever unrelenting. That there might be a better world. 

And if anyone can grab it by the horns it’ll be noble Daniel Bate and forthright Esther Price. 


The Mill continues on Sunday at 8:00pm on Channel 4.