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Members of the McCann family and employees of Arthur McCann Ltd. at the celebrations in the Newry Town Hall in 1937 marking the centenary of the foundation of the Victoria Bakery. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
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Newry and Mourne Museum today occupies the site of the former McCann’s Bakery in Castle Street, Newry.  Over the next few months we will be looking at the history of the Bakery in the number of occasional articles.

McCann’s Bakery, also known as the Victoria Bakery, was established in Newry in 1837. The McCann family came from County Louth and had a family background in the milling industry. In the 1830s, Newry was a thriving commercial port town with an extensive hinterland in south Armagh, south Down and north Louth and international trading links with many parts of the world. 

McCann’s Bakery pictured in the 1970s showing the lettering added to the façade of Joseph Doyle’s warehouse after the Bakery moved there in 1894.  Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
McCann’s Bakery pictured in the 1970s showing the lettering added to the façade of Joseph Doyle’s warehouse after the Bakery moved there in 1894. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

The McCann family, therefore, saw the potential for setting up their business in Newry. Thomas McCann developed the Bakery at Nos. 20 and 21 Castle Street up until his death in 1876. Meanwhile his nephews, Arthur and James, established a grocers’ business in the Milestone building in Hill Street in the 1870s. In 1892 their business partnership ended and Arthur took complete control of the Bakery. In 1894, Arthur McCann moved the Bakery to a new site (across the road from the old one) in Castle Street. These premises had been formerly occupied by Joseph Doyle’s seed merchant and flower business. This move was to be an important milestone in the modernisation of the bakery and its continued success. 

Now on display in Newry and Mourne Museum, this 19th-century loaf stamp was used in McCann’s Bakery. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
Now on display in Newry and Mourne Museum, this 19th-century loaf stamp was used in McCann’s Bakery. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

As the population increased, the requirement for fresh bread on a daily basis was becoming more important. The addition of a mechanised dough divider, mixing plant and drawplate ovens together with the improvements in raw materials, especially flour, meant that the Bakery was well equipped to facilitate the demand for bread. With this in mind, McCann’s enjoyed a relatively prosperous period in the early twentieth century. During the 1920s it has been noted that the Bakery gave the unsold bread to impoverished families for ½d per loaf.

Employees of the Victoria Bakery pictured in Castle Street before setting off on a works outing in the 1930s. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
Employees of the Victoria Bakery pictured in Castle Street before setting off on a works outing in the 1930s. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

 

In 1924, following the death of his father, Arthur, Matthew Henry McCann who took responsibility for the business. During this time Newry faced a period of economic decline. Combined with the fact that Newry found itself positioned as a border town due to Partition, this meant that their catchment area had been significantly reduced. The 1930s proved equally difficult as the economic fallout from the Wall Street Crash affected trade and the import of raw materials. Added to this, was new competition emerging from Belfast bakeries. Through staff and customer loyalty, and Matthew McCann looking after the welfare of his staff, as well as the credit facility provided by local flour supplier, McCann’s Bakery survived this decade and was able to celebrate it’s Centenary in Newry Town Hall in 1937. 

The next article in this series will look at McCann’s Bakery in the 1940s and 1950s.

by Noreen Cunningham

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