AN historic East Lancashire firm dating back to 1880 is in danger of closure after going into administration.

Cherry Tree Machines in Gorse Street, Blackburn, manufactures and distributes industrial and commercial laundry equipment.

At its peak in the mid-1960s, the firm employed about 250 staff and exported all over the world.

But after declining sales during the past decade, the company hit difficult times and managing director Paul Carroll yesterday confirmed it had gone into administration.

The company now employs just 17 people, with 10 having been recently made redundant, but if a buyer for the firm is not found soon it will be wound up.

Mr Carroll said the firm’s main customers had been prisons, hospitals and industrial laundry groups.

He said: “Our market place has reduced in size as our customers are looking to preserve cash.

“We sell big chunks of equipment with high values and we are simply not selling enough.

“We have gone into administration and it is a great shame. We have battled hard against it for 18 months.

“We are working through an orderly wind down and unless someone comes in to buy it – and there have been some expressions of interest – we will close.”

Mr Carroll said the firm had declined heavily since its boom period in the 1960s and 1970s.

He said: “The firm was once a major local employer. When I got involved 12 years ago it had already been scaled down a lot. But up until three years ago the company was doing pretty well.”

Mr Carroll also cited competition from Europe as a reason for the decline.

The company was based near Green Lane for many years, but the mill was demolished for housing.

Blackburn MP Jack Straw said: “It is very sad to see such an established old firm go this way.”