When North Down Museum re-opens why not visit the display area beside the café?

It has a fascinating exhibition of panels and a film illustrating some of the rich commercial and industrial heritage of the North Down and Ards Council area.

One panel about four Bangor enterprises and an input to the film was prepared by the Bangor Heritage Group led by Adrianne Brown (Secretary, Francesca Wallace) - a group of eleven members drawn from the History Group of North Down & Ards University of the Third Age and Bangor Historical Society.

The Heritage Lottery Fund financed this major heritage project, led by Moira O'Rourke, the Museum's Heritage Development Officer. Bangor Heritage Group is one of eight local groups in the Council's area aiming to bring the Borough's important industrial and commercial past to life for posterity by archiving their research online to the websites of the North Down Museum and other groups in the Borough like Bangor Historical Society and North Down & Ards University of the Third Age.

The project's aims, which appeared quite daunting to everyone at first, were to produce -

  • Eight display panels for a travelling exhibition with images of each subject researched and a short text.
  • Ten minutes of video interviews from each Group of people with special knowledge about the enterprises researched.
  • Eight booklets (about each Group's research) of around 28 pages and up to 2500 words with a maximum of 60 images.
  • Full text/images/films of all research to be archived to North Down Museum's website and other relevant Group websites.

The work got underway towards mid-2018 and continues – the booklet production and final archiving work are still outstanding - delayed of course by the lockdown. The project's public launch on 5 March 2020 was reported in the County Down Spectator which also publicised the work of the Bangor Heritage Group on 13 February 2020.

From Cotton Mills to Cafes!

The Bangor Heritage Group selected the cotton spinning mills which made Bangor an industrial centre in the 18th and early 19th centuries and then McKeown's the independent High Street Fishmonger and Poulterer (opened in 1890). Neill's of Bangor, coal merchants and shipowners were an obvious choice as from 1832 to 2000 their ships, carts, lorries and offices were prominent in the town. The vital contribution of Bangor Italians to Bangor's catering and tourist trades, from the early to mid–20th century, was explored.

We are indebted to the following consultants: Dr Sandra Millsopp of Bangor Historical Society for the cotton mills research and Mr Ian Wilson, the Chairman of that Society for allowing the Group to utilise his 1982 booklet, Neills of Bangor. Irene Cherry, the last Manager of Robert Neill's Bangor office also gave us an insight into the final days of this old firm. Sean McKeown provided photos of his shop from its earliest days along with an account of the development of his trade over the years, while Peter Vannucci supplied expert information and photos on Bangor Italians. These consultants were video interviewed and appear in the film loop at the Museum's exhibition.

Special thanks are due to Frank Murphy (ex-BBC) who set up the Group's video equipment for interviews and to former BBC Editor, Peter Croft for his indispensable help in editing our video material – no easy task!

All participating groups received training from the Nerve Centre, Belfast and North Down Museum's Heritage Development Officer, Moira O'Rourke. This included oral history recording; audio and video recording; also filming and editing. Future training will cover digital scanning and archiving of images and text.

Finally, some valuable recording and digital storage equipment was given to each Group for its future research in this field. There are many more enterprises to be recorded as part of the industrial and commercial history of Ards and North Down Borough Council area.

The members of Bangor Heritage Group worked extremely hard to produce material which will be of considerable interest to researchers today and in the future.