Last Friday, September 28, marked the end of an era in Sunderland as ARC International closed the doors of its Pyrex factory there for the last time.
ARC announced earlier this year that it would be shutting Millfield Works in September, blaming the spiralling cost of power supplies in the UK, the price of raw materials compared with those in the rest of Europe, and lack of orders. The plant had made losses for several years. Manufacture of Pyrex will now move to France.
The closure comes with the loss of 240 jobs. However, ARC has been working with a recruitment firm to find alternative work for the staff and has put up £135,000 for training. ARC hopes to see four-fifths of the employees in new posts by the end of the year. Meanwhile, half of them will remain at the plant throughout the autumn to oversee its closure.
The factory had been in operation for over a century, but its demise brings the final curtain down on a far older tradition of glass making on Wearside. The area has been associated with glass for almost 1,500 years, beginning in the 7th century, when Sunderland’s patron saint Benedict Biscop used French craftsmen to make stained glass windows for his monastery at Monkwearmouth.