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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 2 Summary

The second series focusses on the lives of the Quarry Bank mill workers between 1838 and 1842, a period of turbulent social, political and industrial change.

It's the time of the great Chartist rallies and the birth of modern democracy, with the movement for the right for working-class men to vote sweeping the country.

But, four years after the end of the first series, the effects of the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, which made a distinction between 'deserving' and 'undeserving' poor, are starting to take hold and desperate economic migrants from the south of England are beginning to arrive at the mill in search of work.

  • The Mill

    Episode 1

    Four years on from the Poor Law Amendment Act, impoverished economic migrants from the south of England start to arrive at Quarry Bank Mill.

    The appearance of John and Rebecca Howlett with their children Jack and Timothy, and Will Whittaker and his grandfather Abe, causes unease in Styal village as the mill workers worry that these desperately poor families will drive down everyone's wages.

    The impact of the new law hits home for feisty apprentice Esther Price when she discovers that the beggar in the mill yard is, in fact, her sister Martha.

  • The Mill

    Episode 2

    Esther comes of age and leaves the apprentice house, but not before signing her contract of employment. Esther's new home is a small, dirty cellar in Styal village, but it gives her new freedom.

    She will be missed at the apprentice house, especially by Lucy, where bully Patience is making the younger girls' lives a misery. But Esther's head is still spinning from her initial encounter with handsome apprentice shoemaker Will.

    On the factory floor, John approaches Daniel for the first time since their fight to request that the machines run faster so that the workers will have to work harder. But Daniel refuses.

    Daniel also continues the fight for male suffrage, spending more time away from home at political meetings, while his wife Susannah struggles to adjust to life away from her friends.

    Meanwhile, Peter goes on a speaking tour with Hannah Greg to highlight the horrors of the apprentice system in the colonies. When he returns to Quarry Bank, Peter gets to know Miriam better, and she's horrified by the rumours that start circulating the next day.

  • The Mill

    Episode 3

    The Chartist rally at Kersal Moor is approaching and Daniel does his best to rally the workers despite a lacklustre response.

    Spurred to action by the injustices facing working people, Esther stage-manages a secret ballot in an attempt to convince William Greg to close the factory so that the workers can go to the rally.

    John Howlett isn't happy when Esther's romance with Will Whittaker intensifies. And Esther retaliates to Patience's escalating abuse of young girls in the apprentice house.

    Meanwhile, when Miriam offers to teach Peter to read, they grow closer, causing a stir in the pub. And Peter receives some good news from Hannah Greg.

    Susannah is becoming increasingly bored and frustrated with domestic life. She chats to John Howlett's wife Rebecca, who believes a woman's duty is at home, but Susannah's not so sure.

  • The Mill

    Episode 4

    After a difficult labour, Esther finally gives birth to a healthy baby boy. She returns to work the next day but struggles to keep up with her work.

    Despite the overwhelming success of the Kersal Moor rally, the Chartist Petition, containing over one million signatures, is rejected by Parliament. Although he's bitterly disappointed, Daniel urges his angry, disillusioned comrades not to resort to physical force.

    Unfortunately, he doesn't show similar restraint towards his wife Susannah when she tells him she wants to return to work.

    Meanwhile, John Howlett and his wife Rebecca receive tragic news.

  • The Mill

    Episode 5

    The recession is having a devastating impact on the cotton industry across the UK and Quarry Bank Mill is no exception.

    Many mill owners are cutting wages by as much as 25% and William Greg is forced to do the same but there's disquiet and resistance among the workers.

    Daniel argues that the only option is to withdraw their labour but most workers, including Esther, believe a three-quarter wage is better than nothing.

    Preparing for the worst, William appoints John Howlett to lead a new band of special constables.

    Esther's views on strike action change when the consequences of the wage cuts put her son Billy's life in danger and she joins Daniel at the forefront of the protest.

    Daniel is determined to bring Quarry Bank Mill to a standstill and, when tensions escalate, William arms his special constables with clubs and sticks.

    Meanwhile, as Hannah Greg's health declines, she receives a parcel from the Gregs' plantation in Dominica and is horrified by its contents.

    And Lucy flirts with James Windell and asks him for maths lessons.

  • Episode 6

    The second series reaches its climax. The striking workers form a line outside the mill gates. William Greg enlists a band of men to break the stand-off, who are joined by John Howlett's special constables. There's a violent confrontation.

    Daniel is arrested but calls for the workers to keep fighting. They elect Esther to attend the union meeting in Manchester in Daniel's place.

    While Esther is at the meeting, Susannah nurses her hungry baby Billy, who has become critically ill. Susannah visits Daniel in prison, where they say an emotional goodbye.

    Meanwhile, more information comes to light about Peter's background and the story of the slave rebellion on the Greg plantation in Dominica. But before Peter can learn the truth, Hannah Greg's illness takes a turn for the worse.

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, 5 Episodes