Exploring the museum
3. Hat block making
One of the most atmospheric parts of the museum is the recreation of a hat block maker’s workshop and office. Wooden hat blocks to mould hats around were essential to the hat maker.
William Plant and Co. of Great Ancoats Street in Manchester were the last hat block makers in the Northern England. When they shut down in 1976, the contents of their workshop and office were painstakingly removed. They are now on display at Hat Works in an accurate recreation.
A labyrinth of lathes with a web of leather driving belts still function. The old-fashioned office, complete with desk diary and cigarette packet, is still in orderly chaos like it used to be.
In the 19th century, when Plant’s business began, it used steam power to drive the lathes and block-copying machines.
Visitors can see the kind of engine that was used: a magnificent Tangye steam engine. It is kept in good order, and is working under electric power.