UK's only Hat Works Museum relaunches with a Vision: Stockport's Aspirations for the Next 15 Years Unveiled

Stockport has tipped its hat to its rich industrial history, while embracing its ambitions for the future, with the reopening of the Hat Works Museum.

UK's only Hat Works Museum relaunches with a Vision: Stockport's Aspirations for the Next 15 Years Unveiled

The Hat Works Museum, the UK's only museum dedicated to the hatting industry, hats, and headwear, relaunched today (21 March) after an extensive refurbishment and reinterpretations of its collection.

It follows the opening of Stockport Interchange and Viaduct Park, launch of our fantastic new Youth Alliance and the borough celebrating the culmination of its year as Greater Manchester Town of Culture with the Stockport Town of Culture Weekender this weekend (23 and 24 March),

The regeneration work shows the big ambitions Stockport Council has for the borough, with the museum reopening followed by the launch of One Stockport: One Future which sets out the ‘5 Big Things’ that together with partners we will deliver to transform our borough over the next 15 years.

Councillor Mark Hunter, Leader of Stockport Town Centre, said: “This is a big year for Stockport. We have just recently been recognised by the Sunday Times as being the best place to live in the northwest and our £1bn town centre regeneration programme – one of the largest nationally - is reinventing and transforming the heart of our borough now and for the future. The reopening of the Hat Works Museum, which traces how important hatting was to the town’s initial rise in the industrial revolution, is now part of the town’s ‘mighty metamorphosis’, which made it a fitting place for the launch of the borough ambitions for the next 15 years.”

Councillor Frankie Singleton, Cabinet Member for Communities, Culture & Sport at Stockport Council, said: "The re-opening of the Hat Works is perfectly timed just before Stockport's Town of Culture Weekender. The Hat Works is steeped in history and will be open over the town of culture weekender with free entry for everyone as we celebrate a weekend of music, movement, heritage and the arts. Following the extensive refurbishment, it is first time in four years that the whole of museum has been open. It has been completely transformed and is now bursting with colour, textures, stories and engaging displays with many items displayed for the first time. It is the perfect place for people of all ages to see Stockport's hatting heritage."

The Hat Works is also home to arts and mental health charity Arc who offer classes, arts events and other creative opportunities.

Jacqui Wood said: “We work across Greater Manchester to provide arts programmes and services to improve people’s mental wellbeing and public programmes. One of the things we do is run the café at the Hat Works Museum, supported by our wonderful volunteers who learn hospitality, barista and catering skills with us. We’ve big ambitions for this place and it will be amazing to see the museum open and buzzing with people again.”

At the reopening, guests listened to speeches from Jacqui Wood, the Chief Executive of Arc - one of the UK’s leading arts and mental health charities based at Hat Works ,Councillor Hunter, who talked about the big ambitions for Stockport and how proud we are of what has been achieved whilst introducing vox pops from the community, business and public sector leaders - and Caroline Simpson, Chief Executive of Stockport Council.

Stockport has been a centre for the hatting industry since the 17th Century and was famous for its high-class fur felt hats. Stockport developed a reputation for quality in the early 19th Century and hatting grew into one of the town’s main employers, as it mechanised. Rabbit was the preferred fur and a large factory could produce around 5000 felt hats a week, with pelts imported from around the world as local suppliers could no longer meet demand. In fact, the mercuric nitrate the furriers applied to the pelts was highly toxic, commonly causing confusion, mental distress and even death, which led to the common phrase we all now use - ‘Mad as a Hatter’. And, of course, Stockport County owes its nickname of The Hatters to the hatting industry.

During a 60-year hatting boom (1875 to 1935), Stockport was home to around 30 major hat factories. However, since World War and the Great Depression, the industry declined as cheaper alternatives and new fashions drastically altered hat demand. The final hatting factory closed in 1997, marking the end of over four centuries of local production.

Stockport's Hat Works first took up residence Wellington Mill in 2000 with previously a small collection of hats were on display at Stockport Museum and the Battersby Hat Factory. The Grade-II listed Wellington Mill was built as a fireproof cotton spinning mill in the 1830s but switched to hats during Stockport's hatting heyday in the 1890s.

Visitors can now discover more than 1300 hats and related objects, with an array of hat types from military and practical to high-end and artistic. While many were manufactured in Stockport, the collection includes hats from around the world.

And thanks to a grant from the Association for Industrial Archaeology, which promotes the study, preservation and presentation of Britain's industrial heritage, visitors can enjoy seeing the Victorian hat making machines in motion for the first time since 2016.

The factory floor tour is most suited to adults and young people but also welcomes children aged eight and above. You can book a tour on selected dates and it will soon be introducing a family friendly tour.

With all this going on, why not visit the Hat Works this weekend? You can keep up to date on everything happening at all of Stockport’s museums on Facebook and Twitter.