Former World War II munitions factory transformed into 21st Century activity centre

Thrill-seeking people of all ages can now enjoy a state-of-the-art activity centre which has opened on the site of a former World War II munitions factory in Newton Aycliffe.

ROF 59 is a £1.1m, 70,000 sq ft mixed-leisure complex which opened its doors on Aycliffe Business Park this week, creating 20 new jobs.

Owners Finley Structures have brought the former bullet-making factory back to life with a 10-month overhaul which has transformed the site into a 21st Century entertainment venue.

It now consists of a climbing centre featuring 20 walls – one standing 20 metres tall – and a series of ‘adventure walls’.

And for the adults ROF 59 features a plush new bar/lounge, called The Bunker, as well as a fine-dining restaurant named The Blitz.

Finley Structures joint-managing director John Finley said: “ROF 59 has been designed for kids with adults in mind, although we’re sure parents will get as much enjoyment out of the activity centre as their children will.

“This is an exciting new development for Newton Aycliffe and surrounding areas, and we’d like to think we’re offering something completely different.

“There is literally something for everyone. The climbing area consists of 20 different walls for people of all ages and abilities, including a 20-metre wall – one of the tallest in the country – for the more experienced climbers.”

John says they have taken their time to appoint experienced people to manage the activity centre.

He added: “The climbing walls will be managed by full-time professional people in those specific areas and those taking part have to understand and appreciate them.

“We want to create a safe environment, but we also want to make ROF 59 a comfortable environment for parents as well as an exciting place for youngsters.

“That’s why we included the bar/lounge and restaurant into the complex, so there’s a nice, comfortable place for them to sit and relax.

“We’ve also appointed three full-time chefs who have drawn up two exciting menus – one for the afternoon and one for the evening – as we also want the restaurant to be a place where people want to come for a quality meal, whether their children are in the activity centre or not.”

ROF 59 (standing for Royal Ordnance Factory 59) has been built on the site of the former Presswork Metals factory, which had stood empty for more than six years, after Finley Structures invested more than £1.1m in creating the new facility.

The huge munitions factories in Aycliffe employed some 17,000 workers, mostly women, between 1941 and 1945 and was an extremely important part of the country’s war effort.

As part of the second phase of ROF 59’s development, several items of Aycliffe Angels memorabilia will enable the town’s proud history of the munitions-making factories to live on.

Part of an old railway line, used to transport the munitions to the main railway line which was uncovered during foundation works, will be incorporated into other memorabilia features and archive photographs from back in the day.

• For more details about ROF 59 or to make bookings, call 01325 728222, email hello@rof59.co.uk or go to www.rof59.co.uk