FORMER staff at one of Blackburn's oldest industrial firms were owed nearly £220,000 when it went under, according to administrators.

Bosses called time at steel stockholders and fastenings firm Mercer and Sons, in Pump Street, last month, bringing an end to 179 years of tradition.

An ironmongery first established in Northgate, the industrial arm outlasted the well-known toy and hardware store, of the same name, by a decade.

Administrators Dow Schofield Watts have now outlined how the company, which became part of the Salford-based Mr Fixings group last year, owed more than £1million to trade creditors.

Thirty-two employees of Mercer and Sons are owed £219,957 and may have to pursue claims through the Redundancy Payments Service.

Some of the staff at the firm are believed to have worked there for more than 30 years.

Their claims for back pay and holiday entitlements, totalling £33,526, were due to be met.

Cllr Phil Riley, the borough council’s executive member for regeneration, said at the time: "It is always sad when a company calls in administrators, especially if they have got such a long and distinguished history in the town."

Administrator John Carpenter has placed the firm into liquidation and it has now officially been wound up.

The company also owed £140,000 to HM Revenue and Customs, their final accounts have revealed.

One of the directors, Richard Coffey, brought in last year, is said to be owed £130,000.

And £440,375 was secured on the business by Fixings and Tools Ltd, the holding firm for Mr Fixings.

Another £117,725 loss was recorded for Walkerbridge, in Accrington.

Walkerbridge had stepped in back in 2016, when then-managing director Bill Haggas sold Mercer and Sons to the firm, part of the Walker Steel Group established by Blackburn Rovers benefactor Jack Walker.

But their rescue plan was short-lived, as Mr Fixings acquired the company last summer, and it became part of their Salford-managed empire.

No accounts were filed by Mercer and Sons for this year. But for their last full trading 12 months, it showed there was total equity of around £354,000, which was down from £585,000 the previous year. Fixings and Tools declined to comment on the liquidation.

The demise of Walker and Sons came around the same time as another well-known Blackburn name Ryley and Hampson, also collapsed.