Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Historic Site to Enter a New Era of Engineering; ENGINEERING

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Historic Site to Enter a New Era of Engineering; ENGINEERING

Article excerpt

Byline: COREENA FORD coreena.ford@ncjmedia.co.uk

FINAL preparations are being made to reopen the historic Armstrong Works, once dubbed the world's first defence factory, following a PS20m transformation creating 100 jobs.

Directors said the redevelopment, turning the vast structure along Newcastle's Scotswood Road into the home of North East family business The Reece Group, bolsters Tyneside's legacy as a world leader in innovative engineering.

The group's 500 employees have steadily been moving into the 350,000sq ft facility on the banks of the Tyne ahead of the opening celebrations on September 3. Known to many as the Vickers tank factory, the Armstrong Works has been a centre of British engineering for more than 160 years, after it was founded by one of the country's greatest industrialists and philanthropists, Lord Armstrong.

Employing 25,000 people at its peak, over the years it has produced cars, locomotives and aircraft, and made the first breechloading gun for the war in Crimea as well as Chieftain tanks in the Second World War.

Both the hydraulics for Newcastle's Swing Bridge and London's Tower Bridge came from the factory, which also produced parts for the Spitfire and the 'bouncing bombs' used by the Dambusters.

But a hammer blow was dealt when former owners of the site BAE Systems announced in 2012 they were closing it with the loss of 330 jobs, triggering fears it would be the end to heavy engineering on the Tyne - and the factory, which had employed generations of families.

With major investment from The Reece Group, however, the legacy of Lord Armstrong continues into a new era as the landmark site becomes home to the group's world-class engineering companies and Innovation Centre.

In the period 2008 to 2012, Pearson Engineering went on to win orders worth more than PS400m for its SPARK mine roller, which protected troops from mines and explosive devices, and was responsible for saving the lives of many allied soldiers in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.

On the back of the move into the factory, Pearson Engineering is now able to provide an armoured vehicle refurbishment and upgrade service, leading to a contract to undertake a structural assessment of the British Army's Challenger 2 tank fleet. …

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