Hat Making in Stockport

The late 19th century was when hat wearing was most popular in the UK . Men, women and children were not considered properly dressed unless they were wearing a hat of some description and that was when hat manufacture was at its peak.  Stockport’s hatting industry was the biggest in the country at that time and  felt hat-making started to grow  and expand and develop  in the Stockport area  from the 17th century.

Wellington Mill, was built in 1828 by leading Manufacturer Thomas Marsland to mechanise and develop  the growing cotton industry in Stockport and  the Ward Brother and their hat making business occupied part of the same  building from the 1890s to the 1930s.

Wellington Mill was just one of the very first fire-proofed mills, this aspect made it  very expensive to build and it was  only an option for the richest of factory or mill  owners. The risk of fire was very high in those days but fire proofing was prohibitively expensive for most mill owners. Wellington mill was built with cast iron columns and block vaults,  filled with sand. The ceiling tooth cavities were additionally full of sand. This ensured that even if a fire started in the factories it could not spread easily.  2 rows of 14 cast iron columns are  on each floor of the mill as well as cast iron roof covering trusses, which are very rare.  7 stories high, Wellington Mill is just one of the tallest mills in Stockport. The 200 foot chimney , which  is a well-known Stockport landmark, was added in 1860.

The expense of building the Wellington Mill is probably the reason it still stands today.

The hat making business was unfortunately deadly for many of its employees. And the expression ‘Mad Hatter ‘ or mad as a hatter arose because of this. A chemical called mercuric nitrate was  used  to bind the felt fibers to make the fabric suitable for hat making and the workers  as well as many hatters were poisoned by the mercury in this chemical. Hat makers using the fabric which contained mercury traces were gradually poisoned. There was gradual mental deterioration leading in most cases to death .  Because  so many individuals operating in the hatting market were affected it led to the expression mad as a hatter.
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