Stockport's Hat Works reimagined – What you can discover at our newly reopened museum this half term

Newly reopened and reimagined after four years away, Stockport's Hat Works is a colourful treat for the senses this May half term.

Stockport's Hat Works reimagined – What you can discover at our newly reopened museum this half term

The UK's only hatting and headwear museum combines the town's proud hat-making heritage with a fresh, vibrant, globally-inspired collection.

Its free-to-view 'Gallery of Hats' – an array of colours, shapes, patterns and textures – now includes 1,300 hats and related objects, more than four times the previous number.

And there's plenty for little hat enthusiasts to do with new Montessori-style play equipment, challenges, try-on areas and pretend play milliners.

Bookable guided tours of the factory floor take visitors back to Stockport's fur-felt hatting heyday, from the 1870s to the 1930s, with the opportunity to see newly renovated Victorian hatting machines in action.

The machine floor also showcases the hidden heroes of Stockport's hatting industry, including Elsie Plant, a socialist and successful birth control activist who also helped drive her husband's family hat-blocking business forward.

Painstakingly catalogued, much through lockdown, the Hat Works collections have been carefully curated to tell stories and spark conversations through engaging themes. These include the impact of colonialism and the social vilification of fur, as well as hats and clothing as a means of expression in the LGBTQ+ community.

Cllr Frankie Singleton, Cabinet Member for Communities, Culture and Sport, said: "Stockport's high-class fur felt hats were exported around the world and the Hat Works brings this industry, which was unique to Stockport, to life."

"Our museum also celebrates hat-making and wearing globally. Visitors can make connections between different parts of the world, as well as the past and present. We also explore how hats can be inspired by nature, architecture, social issues and more"

"Many of our collections are collaborations and collaboration has been at the heart of creating lots of our new displays. Working with colleagues from the Ibadandun Cultural Heritage Living History Museum and local African textile historian and artist, MamaToro, has helped us understand the power hats and headwear have to connect people from all over the world."

Cllr Singleton added: "We wanted to create a space where everyone feels welcome. The over-riding vibe is that anything goes! If you can put it on your head, it's a hat!"

Some of Hat Works' star h-attractions:

  • The Duke of Wellington's bicorne is the oldest hat in the collection. It has a detachable plume of dozens of stitched-together swan feathers to make them extra long.
  • A fez made in Stockport, exported to Durban, purchased by someone on holiday and brought back to England – a well-travelled hat!
  • Statement hats from Manchester drag artists Cheddar Gorgeous, Laurie Williams and Stockport's own Liquorice Black.
  • Celebrity must-haves' Bluestone Sunshields.' Much of the product photography features Stockport people and places.
  • Sculptural hat artworks such as 'Sundae Best' by Felicity Shillingford – a giant ice cream!

Nestled in the heart of Stockport town centre, the reinvented Hat Works is part of a changing landscape. A £1bn regeneration programme – one of the largest nationally – is transforming the heart of the borough. It includes the new Stockport Interchange and rooftop Viaduct Park, the ongoing development of the town's new business hub, Stockport Exchange, and the transformation of Weir Mill into a 'standout' leisure destination.

Hat Works is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 10-4pm

General Admission is free.

Guided tours are available on selected days. You can book these in advance via Art Tickets. Adults £7.50, Concessions £6.00, Under 16s Free when accompanied by an adult.