THE oldest family owned construction company in the North-East has celebrated 160 years in business – albeit a few months later than planned.

T Manners & Sons, in Bishop Auckland, was founded by Tom Manners in 1860 and has grown into a company with 80 employees and an expected turnover of more than £10million this year.

Restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic meant the firm was unable to celebrate the anniversary as planned last year.

Instead, it held a series of virtual staff and community events including school competitions, baking for care home residents and cancer and mental health charity events.

Last week, Bishop Auckland MP Dehenna Davison toured the company’s base on South Church Enterprise Park, which includes one of the region’s biggest joiner’s shops, and unveiled a plaque with MD Simon Manners.

Ms Davison said: “It is brilliant to see and hear from a company that has a long and positive history and has done some incredible work locally, regionally and further afield.”

Simon Manners is the fifth generation from his family to head the company and succeeded his father Robert, who remains financial director.

His solicitor brother Ian is a non-executive director, with special responsibilities to advise on health and safety and legal matters.

The company moved to its current site in 2005 from Peet Street, where its early premises had been rebuilt following a fire in the 1880s.

The company, whose construction projects have included work on school and hospital extensions, nursing homes and social housing, said it has faced a number of challenges in recent years from the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit, to changes in how businesses tender for public sector contracts.

Bosses say they remain committed to T Manners & Sons’ family values, continuing to create apprentices and roles in the area and are proud of all employees.

They look forward to the future of all its operations which include building projects, specialist joinery, small works, mechanical and fire doors services.

Simon said: “It has been an extraordinary year and we should be extremely proud of what we have been able to achieve despite these difficulties. I want to thank all of our staff for this.”

He said succession is important and the company is keen to keep creating apprenticeships, as it has for a century, and opportunities for staff to get promoted into senior positions.

Long-serving directors Alan Crawford and Martin Wheelhouse recently decided to retire and another bout of reorganisation is underway.

Robert said: “As a company of largely long-serving employees, including our senior management team, we see two of our directors retire this year.

“We are an SME and managing these significant changes needs the support not just of the senior management but of everyone in the company.

“We all need to view these challenges as the opportunity to develop the company for the next 20 years.

“None of us are underestimating the challenges associated with these changes to our senior management team, as it has been in place for some 20 years.”

Simon added: “We have had a really long-standing, steady team and I’m very proud of our history and looking forward to the future.”

David Dunbar, long-serving employee and current site manager, said: "If you work hard and have the right attitude you will do well.

"Manners has felt like a family, because a lot of the workforce started in apprenticeships like me and have been there for years you have the knowledge and stability to feel supported whatever your role.

"Working for other companies you realise the close knit culture we have it is important and works well which is why I came back.

"I enjoyed working for them when I first started in 1984 and I enjoy it now."

Apprentice come joiner Bradley Gill said: "I always knew I wanted to be a joiner as my dad is one, I was so happy to be given the opportunity with the apprenticeship at T. Manners as it not only helped me learn my trade and get good experience but it has also led to a permanent role which I am enjoying."