Like ‘The Village’ before it, ‘The Mill’ feels like a bracing corrective to the rose-tinted ‘Downton Abbey’ school of Sunday evening period drama. Based on actual, documented events and individuals, this four-part drama explores life at Cheshire’s Quarry Bank Mill in the turbulent year of 1833. Appropriately, we’re thrown straight into a visceral world of early mornings, cold baths, child labour, casual sexual abuse and brutal industrial accidents.
Kicking against the pricks – and there are many – is Kerrie Hayes’s teenage firebrand Esther Price. She’s fighting a lone battle until she’s joined by crack loom designer and malcontent man of the people Daniel Bate (Matthew McNulty). At this early stage, ‘The Mill’ feels like a real people’s history. The issues of the day are remarkably well documented and writer John Fay has also clearly explored and relished the vernacular energy of the era which positively crackles in the air. Lively.