It’s 1838. Just four years have passed since the end of the first series of the Channel Four series The Mill, but now the effects of the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 are beginning to take effect.
The first of the 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 the Whittakers, Will with his grandfather Abe, causes unease in Styal village as the mill workers fear the arrival of 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 the filthy beggar in the mill yard is, in fact, her own sister, Martha .
Esther vows to help a desperate Martha, but her pleas fall on deaf ears. Not only that, but with principled Robert Greg an MP at Westminster and younger brother William Greg now running the mill in his place, Esther discovers she is not guaranteed a position at Quarry Bank when her apprenticeship ends.
According to writer John Kay, this second series will be much lighter than the first, quite literally as it was filmed, he tells us in much brighter conditions.The conditions at the time were uncannily similar to today, a recession caused by an American banking collapse forcing down wages and producing a cost of living crisis.
This was the year, says John, that EP Thompson marked as the beginnings of the English Working Class and John would love to trace the working class history of the mill right through to the present day if Channel Four allow him.
It is not all class struggle though. A few miles away in Manchester, progressive engineer Daniel Bate attends a political meeting led by activist and trade unionist John Doherty and rails against the Poor Law Amendment Act and fights to secure working men a vote in parliament.
Meanwhile the girls of the first series have grown into women and it’s not long before Esther sets her sights on another new boy, handsome apprentice shoemaker Will Whittaker , much to the disapproval of his family.
The series also introduces Peter Gardener, a black apprentice, whom Hannah Greg has brought back from the Greg Plantation in Dominica. He is quite the curiosity around Styal village.
Its six episodes in all starting this Sunday evening .In future episodes Esther becomes an independent women, Daniel helps to organise the Chartist rally on Kersal Moor and with the economic recession continuing to bite, the full force of the 1842 Plug riots and strikes have their effect on Styal village.