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28 October 2014
Legacies - Coventry and Warwickshire

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Hatters at Hatton's hat factory
Finishing department

© Sidney Barnes - Warwickshire libraries
Mad as a hatter?

The production of hats, at least in the 19th Century, involved as many chemicals as cloth. One of those chemicals was mercury, a substance so dangerous that it was best kept in a thermometer. Breathing in its fumes was certainly not to be recommended, but for the hatter it was one of the hazards of the trade. The brain damage caused by inhalation drove a good number of them out of their wits.

That being the case, the population of Atherstone in Warwickshire, should have cause for concern. Their town had the undisputed title of hat capital of the Midlands. As late as the 1960s, there were still seven firms producing headware in the town, last of a long line that stretches back over 300 years. More...

Words: Chris Upton

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