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300 years of Andrews Flour

This year marks the 300th anniversary of one of Northern Ireland’s best-known flour millers. And from its ambitious launch in 1722, Andrews Flour continues to go from strength to strength.

In England, George I was on the throne and Robert Walpole was Prime Minister.

And across the Irish Sea, in the town of Comber in County Down, work was commencing on a building which would become the focal point of a flour-producing dynasty that is still going strong 300 years later.

By all accounts the mill that was built by the Andrews family in 1722 was something to behold. Five storeys high, it cost the-then astronomical sum of £1,400 – the equivalent of £230,000 today. Raising the capital was an achievement in itself, as in those days there were no banks to lend money.

But the ambition would pay off: Andrews flour would soon become a staple throughout Ireland, while the family name would become indelibly linked with the country’s history (in 1940, John Andrews became Northern Ireland’s second Prime Minister, while his brother Thomas was chief designer on the Titanic and went down with the doomed liner).

Milling continued at Comber for over 160 years, by which time the family business had expanded. Two more Andrews mills were opened in Belfast, and by 1895 production had moved solely to a complex on Percy Street, where it remains to this day.

Known as the Belfast Mills, the Andrews mill would become a landmark in the city, employing thousands of local people. And, thanks to some far-sighted innovation in production methods, the business would continue to thrive despite the privations of two World Wars.

But Andrews were not the only independent flour producers in Ireland. In 1835, a Ballymena farmer called Robert Morton had opened a mill in an old distillery on the Galgorm Road, initially to mix and bag animal feed.

The mill was soon producing flour, however, and by the early 20th century their Early Riser flour was a household name – as were the 50lb sacks it was packed in. People would wash the sacks and reuse them as tablecloths, bed sheets or dresses.

In1989 , the Ballymena mill was closed down and Mortons acquired by Andrews. The name did not die, however – the Mortons brand is still used to this day, a key ingredient in an ongoing success story that has lasted three centuries.

The Andrews Flour range is sold to a number of bakeries and wholesalers throughout the island of Ireland in bulk and in 25kg bags. Their household brand ‘Mortons Flour’ is sold into all major retail stores and many of the convenience and independent stores within Northern Ireland in 1.5kg and 3kg packs.


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