The McDougall flour business was started in Manchester in 1864 by five brothers: Alexander, Arthur. Isaac, James Thomas and John. They revolutionised baking by creating self-raising flour by patenting a yeast substitute. About 1887 Wheatsheaf Mills was developed as their flour mills on the Isle of Dogs. Now demolished, the Sir John McDougall Gardens retains its memory.
John McDougall (1844-1917), a Wesleyan, was a director of the family business and chairman of the publishers of the Contemporary Review. His second wife, whom he married in 1883, was Ellen Scott Lidgett (1858-1952), a cousin of J.S. Lidgett, his successor as chairman of the publishers of the Review. Knighted in 1902, he was chairman of the London County Council 1903-4. His son Frank Lidgett McDougall (1884-1958) born at Greenwich on 16 April 1884, was an Anglican and economist who settled in South Australia in 1909, developing dried fruit. He died in Rome on 15 February 1958.
Arthur McDougall, seems to have taken over running the business from his brother John in the1880s to enable him to devote more time to public work. In July 1895 he purchased an estate on the south side of the Mawddach estuary in central Wales, with the intention of creating a seaside resort for people from the Midlands. Fairbourne, originally intended to be called South Barmouth, for a number of years had a Wesley Guild hostel, now owned by the RAF.
In 1933 the family business became a public company which in 1957 merged with Hovis to form Hovis-McDougall, a further merger in 1962 forming Rank, Hovis, McDougall. Since 2007 it has been part of Premier Foods.