Channel 4 Commissioning Editor for History Julia Harrington has commissioned Darlow Smithson to make a powerful new drama series 'The Mill' (working title) based on the real life story of Quarry Bank Mill in Cheshire. Finding its main characters amongst the multitude of workers employed at the Mill, the drama will bring to life what it was really like to be at coalface of the industrial revolution.
At a time of immense social and industrial change, Quarry Bank Mill represented the shining light of modern thinking; the brain child of the financially driven but philanthropic Greg family. Set in the heart of the countryside it is very different to the mills of nearby overcrowded Manchester. Employing hundreds of people, Quarry Bank recruited children as young as nine as unpaid apprentices from orphanages and workhouses; migrants from as far afield as London, Ireland, Scotland and Norfolk flocked to Quarry Bank with its purpose-built village, school, church and surgery.
However the real drive for the Gregs was profit. Hours were long and hard in dangerous and unhealthy conditions which would today be likened to a sweatshop, and for many of this emerging working class, this was their first experience of rules, regulation and employers to answer to. Hard work was rewarded, with one young apprentice eventually becoming the manager of the Mill, but dissention was punished ruthlessly: runaway girls would have their heads shaved.
Rooted firmly in the real history of the Mill, the characters and storylines in the drama will be based on the extraordinary Quarry Bank archive which comprises over 20,000 letters, wage books, contracts, diaries, rent books and interview transcripts.
Julia Harrington says: "It's an incredibly exciting project. The Mill is the perfect prism for this moment in British history but we'll access it all through characters who are recognisable today - rebellious teenagers, upwardly mobile working people, management class riven between profit and conscience. It's the story of an emerging community, full of friendship, humour, rivalries and secrets."
Julian Ware, Creative Director of Darlow Smithson added: "DSP has always had a strong track record in history programming and the move into drama is an exciting new outlet for that expertise." The executive producer is Dominic Barlow who produced the award-winning drama Garrow's Law. The series will begin shooting early next year.