Set in the midst of the gritty, miserable Industrial Revolution, The Mill captures the stories of many textile workers who suffered under the patronage of the Greg family at Quarry Bank.
The young apprentices begin their 12 hour working day with a rude awakening from Mrs Timperley, and proceed to wash themselves hastily around a bucket of freezing water. Their pitiful breakfast, fuel for the day, is a harsh slapping of gruel into their bare hands. This is the least of their worries, however, as there are numerous issues affecting the workers: a young apprentice becomes trapped in the unforgiving machinery and may never find work again, overlooker Charlie’s dark side is uncovered, and Esther refuses to accept the poor conditions in which she has to live and is often punished for her rebellious behaviour.
Meanwhile, the superiors of the mill encounter several problems of their own. Robert Greg, formidable owner of Quarry Bank Mill, releases the skilled inventor Daniel from a debtor’s prison to invent new machinery. Kind, caring, observant and intelligent, Daniel often stands up to the Gregs and is involved in a movement which is tirelessly fighting for the rights of the workers and the abolition of slaves who provide cotton for the mills.
Despite characters like Daniel and Esther being a source of strength and hope for the impoverished workers, the series is very depressing. After several tragedies, disagreements, bribes and secrets, the final episode sees the mill staff gain a change in circumstances that may change their lives for the better.
There are some loose ends not tied up and the finale is somewhat rushed, which hopefully means that there is a second series in the pipeline. The drama is touching, insightful and bursting with the talent of young British actors.