AS the closure of one of the region’s leading businesses edges closer, work is underway to preserve historic artefacts tied to the former industry powerhouse Cleveland Bridge.

Last Thursday marked the end of an era after 144 years, when the final load left the factory on Yarm Road, Darlington, just after 5pm.

A global search by administrators to find a buyer willing to take on a £21million mountain of debt proved unsuccessful, despite Cleveland Bridge’s formidable reputation.

The business is renowned over the world for its iconic structures - from the Sydney Harbour Bridge to the Wembley Arch - but is now just days away from closure due to financial difficulties.

Peter Gibson MP for Darlington and Paul Howell MP for Sedgefield, have worked with administrators to ensure that the memorial plaques, which commemorate people who died at war while employed by Cleveland Bridge, are preserved.

Read more: Revealed: What went wrong at Darlington Cleveland Bridge

The Northern Echo: The commemorative plaques at Cleveland BridgeThe commemorative plaques at Cleveland Bridge

Working with administrators, the MPs have ensured that these plaques will be transferred to the care of the council and displayed in an appropriate place within the borough.

Mr Gibson said: “The sad demise of Cleveland Bridge threw up a number of items of historic importance and I’m delighted that the administrators were keen to work with us to ensure they were maintained.

“The archives of this historic business will be preserved and the hugely important memorial plaques to the fallen in the. World wars from Cleveland Bridge will be preserved in perpetuity.

“The plaques will be handed to Darlington Borough Council and I hope that they will be erected in a suitable place in the town.

“Whilst this company may no longer exist the sacrifice of its former employees will never be forgotten in Darlington.”

Read more: When Darlington's Cleveland Bridge contents will be auctioned off

Mr Howell added: “These archives and plaques are poignant to so many people and I am delighted to work with Peter and the administrators in preserving them.

“It is important that as much as possible of the history of this amazing company and its links to our town are not forgotten and my thanks go to the administrators for their consideration and I am sure the council will give them due prominence”

However, Stockton North MP Alex Cunnigham accused the Tory Government and Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen of a lack of action to protect Cleveland Bridge from closure. 

Mr Cunningham said: “We’ve seen the Tories fail our industries and workers in the Tees Valley time and again.  When we needed help to save the Redcar SSI blast furnace, they turned their backs.

“Too many jobs have been lost in the Tees Valley in recent years and we have one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. 

"This time the Government, without the restrictions on aid they could have faced because of the EU, allowed an iconic firm to go to the wall with the loss of hundreds of jobs after claiming a buyer would be found.

"I’m pleased these memorials will be preserved but they don’t replace the jobs and expertise lost by the closure of Cleveland Bridge."

But, Mr Houchen and MPs Peter Gibson and Paul Howell have previously blasted the owner and management at Cleveland Bridge whose failings led to a 'perfect storm' that brought the company to its knees.

In a joint statement moments after The Northern Echo broke the story, they said:

"We are deeply saddened to learn this evening of the plans to make 30 more employees of Cleveland Bridge redundant with the prospect of the business closing completely once the current productions are complete.

"Our respective offices stand ready to assist those employees who are affected.

"Cleveland Bridge, as a great company, was brought to its knees by a disinterested, callous and detached owner and a very poor senior management team incapable of managing such a prestigious company. A perfect storm that has led the company into this irrecoverable position.

"Over recent weeks we have worked day and night to find any solution that could save the business. Unfortunately despite meeting with numerous potential investors and working with various contractors to give the company a chance it looks likely that this work has been in vain.

"Whilst Cleveland Bridge may disappear, the structures it created around the world and the incredible talent and ability of the workforce will stand as testament to what this region, it’s people and our community stand for."

A property and asset sale will take place on November 10 and offers the chance to purchase the contents of the factory.

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