A FAMILY-RUN firm is bringing glass-making back to its famous North-East roots.
Dunelm Scientific is returning industrial glass manufacturing to Sunderland, making specialist products for space exploration equipment, torches, medical devices and laboratory equipment.
Bosses say the company, in Houghton-le-Spring, will be the only one of its kind in the UK and has created new jobs to boost its presence in the sector.
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The firm has taken on former apprentice Neil Davison, who previously worked in Canada, as technical director, with three further workers, including a glassblower, joining its ranks.
It also plans to recruit an apprentice glassblower.
Sunderland is known internationally as a glassware maker after patron saint Benedict Biscop commissioned French glaziers to make the UK's first stained glass in Monkwearmouth monastery windows in AD624.
The Dunelm group was founded in 1980 as a glass equipment maker.
However, as manufacturing costs increased against Indian and Chinese rivals, its Dunelm Glass division started to focus on supplying awards for companies such as fast-food chain McDonalds and Barclays bank.
But with the economy improving, managing director Ritchie Wilson said it was the right time to move back to its manufacturing past.
Ritchie Wilson, managing director, said: “We’re delighted to be stepping up our manufacturing through the new venture.
"We believe there is a real opportunity to grow the business on the back of our very specialist skills and world-leading expertise.
“We do particularly niche work and have an extremely experienced team of technical glassblowers.
“Glassblowing is a skill in short supply and we are looking to help bridge the skills gap through an apprenticeship and help put Sunderland back on the map in the glass-making sector.”
Mr Wilson, whose father founded Dunelm before standing down due to ill health, said it had already added a number of new customers to its order book, including Northumbrian Water and Derwentside Environmental Testing Services.