Albion in Flames
Albion in Flames is a specially commissioned play from Curious Curators, supported by Southwark Council’s Blackfriars Stories initiative. Written by Linda Wilkinson and based on a true story set in London’s Bankside, it was performed at the Union Theatre in September 2019 as part of the Totally Thames Festival.
Albion in Flames weaves the story of the world’s first steam-powered flour mill with the lives of contemporary commentators poet William Blake, writer Samuel Johnson and brewery owner Mrs Hester Thrale.
The Albion Mill opened in 1785 to great acclaim and quickly became the talk of London and beyond. However, many traditional millers were soon forced out of business by this leviathan symbol of the industrial revolution in London. But just five years later the mill caught fire and burnt down in mysterious circumstances, prompting critic William Blake to opine ‘that dark satanic mill’.
The play’s central character is Mrs Hester Thrale, one of London’s leading socialites in the late 18th century. She bore first-hand witness to this turmoil. Seen through her eyes, the play explores the tensions between technological progress epitomised by the rise and demise of the Albion Mill and the challenges imposed on the independently-minded Mrs Thrale by London society.