Visiting the Hat Works, Great Britain’s only hat-making museum, is like stepping back in time. It’s packed with an abundance of historical hats and equipment.
You can experience the industry’s history through its many stages, from when was a boutique operation up until making hats became a mass-produced endeavor. The museum has recreated a traditional hatting factory, complete with over 20 restored Victorian-era machines that were salvaged from shuttered factories. There’s also a replica of a quaint millinery cottage.
Interactive exhibits and themed displays showcase over 200 hats (with just as many tucked away in storage awaiting their turn in the spotlight). Housed in a 19th-century fireproof former cotton mill that now has the words “Hat Museum” painted in large letters on the chimney, the ground floor of the museum focuses on the felt hat industry, which boomed in the Stockport area during the 17th century. Be sure to also check out the fascinating collection of 20th-century British hats, which includes items like top hats, bowler hats, and homburgs.
Crafty patrons and fashion enthusiasts can even sign up for hatmaking workshops, where they’ll learn millinery techniques that’ll let them create beautiful headgear for even the most festive occasions. Or, if you don’t fancy learning how to make a hat yourself, you can purchase one in the gift shop.
In addition to the galleries, the Hat Works also has a quiet little hat library, complete with books, papers, oral histories, and films. The cafe offers a fabulous view over the viaduct, tasty treats, and even holds the occasional dance.
Know Before You Go
Free to look around by yourself, or there is a paid guided tour. It's close to the train station and main shopping center.