A former World War II munitions factory us to become a permanent memorial to the Aycliffe Angels as part of an exciting development which will create up to 20 new jobs.
Newton Aycliffe construction firm Finley Structures acquired the old Presswork Metals factory on Aycliffe Business Park more than two years ago and have invested almost £600,000 on building a new 70,000sqft facility on the site.
A further £300,000 is to be spent on the fit-out of the facility, which had lain empty for more than six years, including a trampoline park, cafe, restaurant and bar.
One of the biggest climbing walls in the country, standing at 20 metres tall, will also form part of the project when Rockantics moving in from the town centre.
Finley Structures has now revealed exciting plans which will help to preserve the building’s war-time history, which will see the complex named ROF 59, which stands for Royal Ordnance Factory 59, the original name of the group of Aycliffe munitions factories built in the 1940s.
Between 1941 and 1945 the factory was a vital part of the country’s war effort, employing around 17,000 workers, mostly women, who became known as the Aycliffe Angels.
The work was highly dangerous as the women filled bullets and bombs for the boys in the battlefield.
There were a number of serious and fatal explosions, with eight women being killed in one blast.
Staff working at ROF 59 will wear overalls, like the Aycliffe Angels did when they risked their lives working there 70 years ago, while several other features will enable Aycliffe’s proud history of the munitions-making factories to live on.
Part of an old railway line which was used to transport the munitions to the main railway line was uncovered during foundation works, and this will now be incorporated into other memorabilia features, including a model spitfire and archive photographs from back in the day.
Managing director Julie Finley said: “We recognise the important historical significance of the factory and the Aycliffe Angels who used to work there, so we have deliberately retained much of the original brickwork and signage within the building.
“The plan is to create a permanent memorial, and help us to keep educating young people about this important piece of British history.
“Aycliffe Business Park probably wouldn’t exist today without the Royal Ordnance Factories, and we feel it’s important to preserve that heritage for many years to come.”
Consultant Kim Fryer, of Newton Aycliffe-based KF Restaurant and Hospitality, has been appointed by Finley Structures to manage the restaurant development, and the company is looking to recruit a bar manager, bar assistants, chefs, receptionists, cleaners and other members of staff in the coming weeks.
Ms Fryer said: “This is a fantastic project to work on and I’m delighted to be involved.
“It’s important that we keep our heritage alive and educate our young people to appreciate and understand what the previous generation did for this country.
“But it will also be an attraction to both families from all over the region looking for a good day out as well as local businesspeople looking to entertain guests.”