Andrew Brew was born in Downpatrick, Co.Down, in 1806, one of eight children from a poor Protestant family. The town’s industries, based on the linen trade, were in decline by 1830 and Andrew became a shoemaker. He emigrated to Manchester where he married Ann Turpin, also from Ulster, in 1833. In 1841 they were living close to Angel Meadow, a notorious slum in Manchester that was home to many Irish Catholic families. In 1846 the Brews decided their prospects were better in the specialist shoe town of Stafford than in the squalor of east Manchester and they moved to Stafford.
Andrew continued to work in the shoe trade and was active in workers’ opposition to new machinery. In 1855 he took part in protests against the introduction of sewing machines by Edwin Bostock and in 1859 and 1863 he was one of the leaders of strikes against machines and the factory system. Brew and his colleagues failed to prevent the mechanisation of the industry, however, and Andrew died, probably an angry and disappointed man, in 1866. Ann survived him in Stafford until 1892.
The Brews had at least eight surviving children who mostly worked in the shoe trade. Though some descendants continued the family line in Stafford, most ultimately moved elsewhere and today there are many descendants throughout the country.