AFTER more than a century in the heart of Darlington, a family-run jewellers is preparing to close its doors for the last time.

In 1867, Bill Bramwell’s great-grandfather Eliot went into business with his brother-in-law Charlie Harbron, opening Bramwell and Harbron, a watchmaker’s and jeweller’s shop on Russell Street in Darlington.

Bramwells Jewellers has maintained a strong presence in the region ever since, welcoming countless customers to its shops in Darlington and Durham, where a second branch was established in 1912.

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The thriving family firm received Royal approval in 1953 when the Queen visited Durham and was presented with a handmade replica of Saint Cuthbert’s pectoral cross, crafted by Eliot Bramwell’s eldest son Arthur.

Run by husband and wife Bill and Jill Bramwell, the company’s Darlington shop now occupies a prime position on the characterful Post House Wynd.

By the end of March, the elegant store will close its doors for good – a decision not taken lightly by the couple.

Mr Bramwell, 59, has worked in the family business as a jeweller since he was a teenager, with his wife joining him not long afterwards.

The couple now plan to step back from the day-to-day running of the business and - with their children not interested in taking over the reins and the lease on the shop ending shortly - they have taken the decision to close.

Mr Bramwell said: “With family businesses, what often happens is that you run out of family – it only needs a generation gap for a family business to go.

“I’ve got mixed feelings and am sad to be closing. The shop has played an important part in the life of Darlington as one of few family owned businesses in the town.

“Many town centre shops are now chain stores and as time goes by, there are fewer and fewer family operated businesses – our closure could be quite a loss to the town.”

He added: “It’s been more difficult in the past few years, no doubt about it. Money has become tight and people have to think more carefully about how they spend their cash.

“There will be four jobs lost and that has been the most difficult thing, we have very loyal staff, many of whom have been with us for a long time.”

A branch of Bramwells will remain in Durham while the neighbouring Silver Shop, also operated by the family, will remain open and will offer jewellery repair services.