Date: 27/03/2024
Author: MC Construction
Company: MC Construction

Stockport’s famous Hat Works Museum has unveiled its new look following a £300,000 refurbishment scheme.

MC Construction was the principal contractor for the project at the award-winning museum, which is owned and operated by Stockport Council.

The museum is housed in the Grade II listed building Wellington Mill, which was built as a cotton spinning mill in the early 1830s and became a hat works in the 1890s. The chimney is the same height as 14 buses.

The Hat Works is now also home to Arc, an arts and health charity that helps people discover the benefits of doing something creative. It offers classes, family activities, volunteering opportunities and much more. Arc also runs the Hat Works café. 

Over 400 years of hatting production in Stockport came to an end in 1997. The Hat Works Museum opened in 2000.  It is the UK’s only museum dedicated to the industry, with over 1,300 hatting-related objects in its collections, 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.

These include Ankara fabric headgear from Nigeria, sculptural hat artworks such as an ice-cream inspired ‘Sundae Best’ by Felicity Shillingford, and the Duke of Wellington’s bicorn - the oldest hat in the collection, with a detachable plume of dozens of stitched-together swan feathers. 

The refurbishment by Salford-based MC Construction involved a revamp of the exhibition floor and improvements to the entrance, reception and café areas, as well as a new fire detection system throughout the museum.

The exhibition floor, housing the Gallery of Hats, has been given a new layout to improve the flow for visitors by removing stud partition walls. It now features new displays, activity stations and graphic art showcasing hundreds of images of objects in the museum’s collection.

New spaces have been created, including a collections room, activity room, storage and meeting facilities. The scheme also involved new décor and mechanical and electrical works, including new LED lighting which reduces energy consumption and improves brightness without damaging the exhibits.

Working alongside MC Construction on the project were NIFES Consulting Group and ECS Consultants Engineers. Stockport Council was the architect and quantity surveyor for the scheme.

In addition to the exhibition floor, the museum has a display of Victorian hatting machines which were salvaged from Stockport manufacturers when they closed. 

Russ Forshaw, managing director of MC Construction, said: “This prestigious project at a landmark attraction has seen us continue our good working relationship with Stockport Council and further demonstrates our expertise in the heritage sector.

“It involved careful planning to ensure the museum’s displays were taken good care of. We’re thrilled to have been involved with the refurbishment of a highly-regarded and popular venue to enhance the visitor experience.

“A heavy emphasis was being placed on local suppliers throughout the scheme, which is another important feature of our overall company mission statement.”

Councillor Frankie Singleton, Cabinet Member for Communities, Culture & Sport at Stockport Council, said: “The building work has been fantastic in opening up space and improving the layout of the museum, alongside the creation of our new Gallery of Hats to give visitors lots of fresh ways to find inspiration.

“With a host of new items on display, we’re excited to reopen to the public and breathe new life into our wonderful attraction by making more use of the space, making the collection more accessible for visitors, creating new spaces to run millinery courses and school sessions, and provide opportunities for people to get a closer look at the collections.

“Our new Gallery of Hats features big and bold graphic artwork incorporating hundreds of images of museum objects and it’s really exciting to see our collection used in this way.”