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The Reyrolle Story: 55 - A Disappearing Name

After more than a hundred years the once-huge manufacturing concern Reyrolle disappears from the Hebburn scene.

To purchase a copy of Robert Owen's history of the firm please click on http://www.amazon.co.uk/Reyrolle-Story-History-Co-Ltd/dp/1905295073/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1245678876&sr=1-1

In 2001, Reyrolle celebrated its Centenary and, reminded by the local MP, the Prime Minister sent a letter of congratulations. It read:

"Can I take this opportunity to congratulate everyone involved in the Company, past and present on this unique achievement. Surviving the ups and downs for 100 years and still being in good shape is a tremendous tribute to the inventiveness and dedication of the Reyrolle people. Please pass on my appreciation. I wish you every success for the future."

The next significant point in the history of Reyrolle was perhaps the closing of the famous 1954 Research Station. In May 2004, VATECH decided the costs of upkeep could not be justified and closed the remaining laboratories. Many people were amazed they had lasted so long. At the same time, the Clothier laboratory was sold to new owners and became known as NAREC Clothier Laboratory, retaining the name of the metal-clad pioneer.

March 2005 saw the sad passing of Colin Adamson, a well known former Reyrolle employee who went on to be a Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Manchester and then the Rector of the University of Westminster. Possibly unknown to him "his seat of learning" in London was only a few hundred yards away from where Alphonse Reyrolle had his first workshop. Colin Adamson's obituary in The Guardian read "Imaginative academic who made higher education look outwards".

This was also a significant year for VA TECH Reyrolle. Firstly, Managing Director Charles Overstall, announced a 30 million contract to build substations for the National Grid. "This contract will secure the jobs of our 700 workers" he added.

Secondly, in August 2005, another major change took place when the giant, German international organisation Siemens bought out VATECH Reyrolle. Amove which ironically brought together, old sparring partners, Parsons and Reyrolle. Shortly after the change, Siemens announced a planned move out of the old Hebburn Works to a new, green field location at Monkton Business Park about two miles away. After 104 years was this really the end of the Reyrolle name at Hebburn?

For the next twelve months the name of Reyrolle was lost as it became part of Siemen's Protection Devices and the new owners considered a future strategy. In July 2006 Siemens issued a significant statement saying:-
"After careful consideration it has been decided to pursue a dual-
branded portfolio strategy, combining the strengths of the Reyrolle products under the Reyrolle brand and the strengths of the Siemens products under the Siemens brand."

So after six mergers and take-overs during a troubled forty year period, many former employees rejoiced following the decision to retain the Reyrolle brand name. Unfortunately in November 2006, when the remains of the Hebburn Works were finally demolished (apart from the seven storey building and the former Light Engineering Shop), the only sighting of the Reyrolle name was on a Railtrack Tunnel Notice under the Newcastle-South Shields railway. It stated it was a Reyrolle Access Road and spelt Reyrolle as "Rayrolle".

Also, the Hebburn Site did not give up easily and local environmental offices were inundated with complaints arising from noise and dust during demolition.

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