The proud history of the Ryton factory dates back to 1940 when it was built to support the war effort.

It was the Rootes Group, founded by William Rootes in 1919, that built the plant, initially producing aircraft engines.

However, the site was converted to a car factory in 1946 when the business, comprising Hillman, Humber, Sunbeam and Talbot, started producing the Sunbeam-Talbot.

In 1948 the Humber Pullman, Humber Snipe and Humber Super Snipe were transferred from Stoke to Ryton, while in the same year Hillman and Sunbeam-Talbot models were all launched.

Between 1952 and 1962 production at Ryton was dominated by the Hillman Pullman, Hawk, Husky and Super series, along with the Hillman Minx.

By 1961 Rootes was in financial trouble, with losses of £2 million and in 1964 it was acquired by US giant Chrysler, effectively becoming the embryonic Chrysler Europe.

Over the next five years Ryton lost the Hillman Super Minx for the new-generation Hillman Hunter, while the last

incarnations of the Humber Hawk and Super Snipe Series came and went, as did the Sunbeam Alpine V. The Hillman Minx and Humber Sceptre were both replaced by new Arrow versions.

In 1967, Ryton became part of the Chrysler Europe operation and Chrysler took full financial control.

The last Singers, the Vogue and Gazelle, lasted until 1970 when they were replaced by the Sunbeam Rapier and Vogue.

1969 saw the launch of the Avenger, the first car to be built in the body in white at Ryton.

The same year saw the 150,000th Hunter family car built at Ryton but almost immediately afterwards, Hunter production moved to Linwood in Scotland, along with the Humber Sceptre and Hillman Minx.

In 1970, having posted a loss of some £10 million, Rootes Motors ceased to exist, becoming Chrysler UK. Ryton got a new body-shop and paintshop.

The 100,000th Hillman Avenger was built in 1971, but production of the Avenger was switched to Scotland in 1977 and the Hillman name was killed off.

Chrysler eventually struggled at Ryton, with Chrysler Europe collapsing in 1977. The company was taken over by Peugeot for a nominal one dollar in 1978. In 1980 the first Talbot Horizons were built in the UK, while five years later the first British-built Peugeot was produced at Ryton.

For the rest of the 1980s, Ryton built the 309 and 405 models, with the plant enjoying a golden period.

The success lead to the introduction of a second shift in 1988 and the workforce almost doubled to 5,000.

Peugeot Talbot in 1989 revealed it had increased profits in the previous year eightfold, to £106.7 million on the back of a 25 per cent increase in sales. However, production of the 309 and 405 ceased in favour of the 306 in 1993 and production of the 306 ended at Ryton in 1999.

The plant's future then rested with the 206, being produced up to the closure announcement.

In September 2001, Ryton workers celebrated building their half-millionth 206, reaching the milestone in less than three years. By the end of last year, Peugeot had produced more than 4.5 million 206s worldwide, with 518,868 made in 2005.