THE region's oldest family-owned construction and joinery firm has started work on £1.5m residential accommodation.

T Manners and Sons, in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, is building an extension at Larchfield Community, in Hemlington, near Middlesbrough.

The project will create new apartments for nine people, with bosses officially cutting the turf on the development today (Wednesday, January 29).

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Founded in 1986, Larchfield offers residential and day facilities for more than 50 adults, providing placements for people with learning disabilities to work in gardens, a farm, craft workshops and a cafe.

The contract is another boost for the firm, which employs more than 60 workers, and once made wings for Sopwith Camel and SE5 fighter aircraft.

Last year, 154-year-old Manners, which is now a fifth-generation company, revealed contracts across the region, including a deal to improve energy efficiency and carry out repairs to more than 50 homes in Spennymoor, County Durham.

It has also worked on a number of North-East schools and carried out an extension on a community building for The Salvation Army, in Gateshead.

Manners was set up in 1860 by Thomas Manners, in Peel Street, Bishop Auckland, and was first handed down to Thomas' son, Robert, who was gassed in the First World War trenches.

He eventually brought in his son, Brian, who had spent much of the Second World War training fighter pilots.

Brian's son, Robert, the great-grandson of founder Thomas, is now company's managing director, with his son, Simon, a company director.