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Powerful historical drama series, based on the lives of real people, telling the story of young 19th-century apprentices taking their lives into their own hands for the first time

About the Show

Powerful historical drama series, based on the lives of real people, telling the story of young 19th-century apprentices taking their lives into their own hands for the first time

Series 1 Summary

Based on the extensive historical archive of Quarry Bank Mill in Cheshire and real people's lives, this powerful drama series depicts Britain at a time when the industrial revolution is changing the country beyond recognition.

In the 1830s, children as young as nine work 12-hour shifts in the mills, and the new class of mill-owning families prosper. But the so-called 'white slaves of England' are about to take their lives into their own hands for the first time as outsiders with new ideas enter their world.

The apprentices are led by Esther Price, a feisty Liverpudlian well documented in Quarry Bank's archives, who risks her own position to stand up for justice. The arrival of Daniel Bate - a progressive young engineer with a troubled past - proves a catalyst for change, and the political firebrand John Doherty seems to offer the workers the possibility of a better future.

  • Episode 1

    Just before dawn the bell wakes the young apprentices for another 12-hour shift at Quarry Bank Mill.

    Ruthless overseer Charlie Crout forces apprentice Miriam to leave the factory floor with him against her will. His absence leads to a serious accident, but can the apprentices risk sticking together to reveal Crout's negligence to the patriarchal mill owner, Samuel Greg?

    A few miles away in Manchester - ahead of his appearance before the Parliamentary Commission on factory legislation - Samuel's ambitious son Robert Greg visits a debtors prison, where he recruits young mechanic Daniel Bate, who is talented but has been blacklisted for political activity...

  • Episode 2

    Esther Price arrives at court in Manchester after assaulting her overseer, Charlie Crout. On the assumption that she will be found guilty, Mr Timperley has been sent to the workhouse in Liverpool to collect a replacement apprentice.

    He returns with two sisters, Lucy and Catherine Garner. But it's soon clear that Catherine is too weak to work and the Gregs must decide whether they should split the sisters up and send Catherine back to the workhouse.

    Susannah Catterall begins to work alongside the charismatic young engineer Daniel Bate but they don't get off to a good start.

    Hannah Greg attends an abolitionist meeting where the speaker, freed slave Mary Prince, outlines the shocking reality of slavery first-hand. But political campaigner John Doherty is there, and is determined to paint Hannah as a hypocrite.

  • Episode 3

    Esther and Lucy head for Liverpool, chased by Timperley, but discover that Lucy's sister Catherine never returned to the workhouse.

    Meanwhile, back at Quarry Bank, Daniel and Susannah show political activist John Doherty's pamphlet - which attacks the Gregs - to the apprentices, revealing some of Daniel's more radical beliefs.

    Esther visits churches in Liverpool, hoping to find information that will confirm her age and help her find her family.

    And when Robert finds out who the father of Susannah's child is, he arranges to move her to another mill, separating her from her two siblings, so Daniel makes an impulsive offer so that she can stay at the Mill.

  • Episode 4

    Lucy and Esther are convinced that Mr Timperley is responsible for Catherine's disappearance. They're determined to expose him but are blocked at every turn.

    Meanwhile, in Liverpool, Esther's sister Martha finds one of the notes Esther left there and travels to Quarry Bank Mill in the hope of finding her.

    Robert arrives back at the Mill bearing the news that parliament has not passed the Ten Hour Bill, meaning children will continue to work 12-hour days.

    As political unrest escalates, Robert attempts to keep Daniel onside by offering him a half-share in the patent of their new loom, but Daniel's loyalty is tested when John Doherty digs for more dirt on the Gregs and calls a key union meeting...

The Mill synopsis

Powerful historical drama series, based on the lives of real people, telling the story of young 19th-century apprentices taking their lives into their own hands for the first time

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2 Series, 10 Episodes