An era ended at the weekend when one of the area's oldest and best-loved family businesses closed its doors for the last time.

Dressers (Stationers) Ltd announced in January that it was to shut its stores in Darlington and Northallerton.

It was the final day of trading on Saturday, after more than 150 years on the high street.

Shoppers turmed up to witness the last rites of a once-proud Darlington institution, and to pick up a bargain or two.

Outside on High Row the Saturday crowds rushed passed the empty windows, cluttered with rather lonely for sale signs.

Inside those in the know were busy grabbing the last items from the shelves, picking over any remnants left.

Staff, hands clasped together, looked on, willing to help with directions or advice if needed.

General manager Elspeth Robinson, who joined the company as a shorthand typist 46 years ago, admitted a few tears had been shed.

She said: "The name of Dressers has been in Darlington for 155 years and we are, of course, extremely sad that it is going to go.

"We have always had a different style of retailing, very traditional, but in the current age it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain that.

"However, in the Dressers way, we have had a very dignified closure programme and tried not to let standards drop."

Meanwhile, a steady stream of customers continued their quest for the best buys, sweeping past the stripped bare walls.

Shopper Kath Briggs, of Coniscliffe Road, said: "I have shopped here for years and know a lot of the staff. I also remember bringing my children here to see Santa Claus.

"It is all very sad."

As the store has prepared to close some items have sold in ever increasing amounts.

Since January suitcases and luggage - traditionally big sellers during the summer holiday months - have been snapped up and china goods have also been popular.

Anything left will be sold on to fellow traders. Only the fixtures and fittings remain.

They, too, will be sold this week, finally closing the chapter on a famous old retailer.

lBoth Darlington and Northallerton stores have been sold to the developer Terrace Hill with interest in the properties thought to have been shown from a number of national chains.

Sixty six staff are losing their jobs, although many have taken early retirement and a number have already found work.