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Fruitfield factory on the main Portadown-Armagh Road (adjacent to Richhill) goes back well into the last century, when Charles B. Lamb bought the premises to run his jam and foods business.
Charles had come from England to work in Richardson’s Mill in Bessbrook, but fancied the challenge of starting up on his own, he moved to Richhill, and began in a small way in Richhill village.
The business was as immediate success, Charles expanded into the factory in 1886, he and wife were married the following year, and the entire family of eight was involved in the business.
The Richhill factory until 1920’s when Ireland was troubled, business was tough and the business lay dormant for a few years.
Then, the three sons of Charlotte (then Mrs Peile) felt it would be a good idea to start a business of preserving fruit, as they witnessed so many strawberries, apples and other fruits being dumped – thus ‘Fruitfield Preserves’ was born.
They made a full range of jams, including marmalade from oranges imported from Spain, as well as canned fruit and foods, plus jellies, and the business really thrived-they grew much of their own fruit in their own farms dotted around County Armagh and also bought from farmers. But in the mid-1960’s, foreign imports started eating into the market share – mainly from Bulgaria and South Africa where the climate was ideal for growing and labour was cheap.
It’s quite a contrast from the days when Fruitfield was a real centre of activity – not just for workers under that particular roof, but for wide spectrum of farming and fruit growing community.
There was scarcely a home in Portadown, or Northern Ireland for that matter, which didn’t have in its larder jams, tinned fruit or jelly from ‘Fruitfield Preserves.’
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