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The 1950s saw new types of packaging being introduced including waxed paper wrappers on loaves.  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.  Newry and Mourne Museum continue their series of occasional articles on the history of the Bakery by briefly looking at the business in the 1940s and 1950s. 

Handwritten list of names found in a bottle during the restoration of Bagenal’s Castle in 2005. Dated 12/11/1949, the names have been identified as the nightshift workers at the Bakery. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
Handwritten list of names found in a bottle during the restoration of Bagenal’s Castle in 2005. Dated 12/11/1949, the names have been identified as the nightshift workers at the Bakery. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

At the end of the 1930s much of the production practices at McCann’s Bakery had changed little since the 1890s: the ovens were on the ground floor with confectionary and dough mixing located on the first floor. However, changes were made, and these included a new central stores area and the purchase of new machinery in 1938 – 1941. Furthermore, the 1930s had witnessed a gradual decline in the use of horse-drawn transport by the Bakery for deliveries and, by 1939, ten electric bread vans were in use. 

With the outbreak of World War II in 1939 and the introduction of rationing, production of at the Bakery was affected by shortages and rising prices. Sugar was in short supply and the main source of sugar for baking was Dutch fondant. Sugar was also extracted from dried fruit. Dried eggs came from America and potatoes were also used in the baking of various products. 

Wooden box dating from the 1950s which was used by the Victoria (McCann’s) Bakery to deliver wedding cakes. Now on display at Newry and Mourne Museum. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
Wooden box dating from the 1950s which was used by the Victoria (McCann’s) Bakery to deliver wedding cakes. Now on display at Newry and Mourne Museum. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

Miles, the second son of Matthew McCann, had joined the Bakery in 1940 but joined the Royal Air Force shortly afterwards. Whilst serving in the Far East, he was captured in 1942 and held in a Prisoner of War Camp in Sumatra until 1946. He returned to the family business in 1948 when he succeeded his father as Managing Director.

Miles McCann who succeeded his father in as Managing Director in 1948 and steered the Victoria Bakery through the challenges of the post-war years.  Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
Miles McCann who succeeded his father in as Managing Director in 1948 and steered the Victoria Bakery through the challenges of the post-war years. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

The late 1940s and early 1950s were still times of shortages and rationing. National Flour was used (grey in colour) and restrictions on the use of white flour were not lifted until the mid-1950s.  Business for the baking trade, however, was good. McCann’s invested in new machinery at a cost of £6,207 which included new ovens, dough mixing units and slicing and wrapping machinery for loaves. 

This investment increased production capacity; batch bread and pan loaves were now produced at a rate of around 1,000 per hour. Door-to-door deliveries still predominated in the Bakery’s outlet. About sixty per cent of production was sold to individual households, especially in the rural areas of south Down and south Armagh, and forty per cent was sold wholesale. By 1948 fourteen delivery vans were in operation.

The 1950s saw increasing competition between large flour millers and many smaller bakeries either closed or were taken over by larger companies. In Newry T.P. Willis was bought by Inglis & Co in Belfast. McCann’s Bakery survived this trend and continued as a family-owned business. 

The next article will trace further expansion of McCann’s Bakery in the 1960s and its history up until its closure in the mid-1990s.

The Museum is currently offering free tours of the exhibition galleries on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 11.00 am. These must be booked in advance by calling our Education Officer at 0330 137 4422. 

Newry and Mourne Museum is open Tuesday – Saturday 10.00 am – 4.30 pm. Please call 0330 137 4422 or email museum@nmandd.org for further information.

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