on January 20, 2009
Hatworks MuseumThe day we visited was an appropriate day seeing as the signs there proclaimed this as National Hat Week! (Easter week, 2002) There is a conducted tour that starts with a film, some of which is rare footage from the 1930's of Battersby's Hat works. We were told how they were made, first by hand and later by machine. Hats made out of felt had shellac added for stiffness and were shaped over wooden forms to give the hat it's shape. There were only the 2 of us plus a woman and her granddaughter on the tour. Also there is a museum with all sorts of exhibits of hats of every kind, ceremonial, sporting, military, religious, dress, etc. There was a big felt tent called a Yurt that is seen around Central Asia. Very colourful too. Felt is believed to be an older craft even than weaving and the craft of hatting has been a British guild since the 16th century. The museum has a working replica of the factory floor with real working machinery. We also discovered the origins of the phrase "Mad as a Hatter" - felt used to be treated with mercury during the processing and the handlers of course absorbed the deadly chemical and it adversely affected their nervous systems! There's a bright sunny cafe in the museum for a light lunch or coffee. Admission to the museum is free though the tours are £2.50, which is a pittance and well worth the price! There's a family area for kids with activities. It's open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends and bank holidays. The museum is next to the bus station and not far from the train station and is on the main route through town. You can't miss the tall smoke stacks. There are ramps on the main street level and lifts for accessibility. Photography is allowed.
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