THE company started life in the 1800s as Bellhouse Higson, a bleaching and dye works. In the early 1900s it began building coaches.

During the Second World War it changed its name to Bellhouse Hartwell and started making planes and their components.

It became a dye works again when the war ended -- and started making pots and pans. In the 1950s it made fire engines and then started making planes again.

During the Korean War the Government ordered 1,000 Canberra reconnaissance planes. Bellhouse secured a lucrative contract for the fuel tanks.

The 1960s brought the firm's "golden age". More staff were employed and Bellhouse began making parts for the Lightning fighter and the Avro 748.

work began to dry up in the early 1970s and the workforce was reduced to 36. The company was sold to Hampson Industries.

Production improved in the 1980s, when the firm won contracts from British Aerospace. It made dummy bombs and parts for Nimrod, Jaguar and VC10 planes.

The workforce increased to 290 during the Gulf War but there were redundancies in the 1990s, even though the firm won a number of excellence awards.

A directors' report in June 2001 said the firm was "ready to face the challenges of the coming year". However, directors said business had gone into freefall since the September 11 terrorist attacks and they announced in February that the factory would be forced to shut.

Workers offered to buy the site for £4.5 million to save their jobs but Hampson Industries rejected their offer. The factory closed yesterday.