AN ICONIC South Lakeland business has celebrated its landmark 170th anniversary while looking to the future with the opening of a new production line.

Master paper-maker James Cropper Plc has been based on the banks of the River Kent in Burneside, near Kendal, since it was established in 1845 - when the first sheet of paper emerged from the mill.

Six generations of the Cropper family have been at the helm during its near two centuries in operation and the company is continuing to take the principles of paper-making in new directions.

Chairman Mark Cropper, whose great, great, great grandfather founded the business, said it had weathered a number of changes over the years from wars and savage competition to major fires, but still 'felt young'.

"Six generations worth of high standards and values are one of the reasons why we are where we are today, so the past plays a significant part of what we are, what we have become and what we want to be," he added. "As a global trading company, with manufacturing operations both in the UK and US, the company leads in technological advancements in the materials industry."

Famous for producing the 250 kilometres of red paper for millions of Remembrance poppies each year, the business marked its 170th birthday last week with an event for more than 800 invited guests.

The day also saw honorary president Sir James Cropper officially open the third production line for the advanced non-woven Technical Fibre Products (TFP).

The state-of-the-art line doubles TFP’s production capacity and is the latest in a string of improvements for the business, including the world’s first commercial nano coating facility in the US.

TFP’s advanced non-wovens are exported worldwide, providing 'innovative solutions' across a number of industries.

Applications range from enabling the thermal management of the ESA satellite GAIA to playing a crucial role in facilitating the light weighting of the latest generation of commercial and defence aircraft including the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A380.

Martin Thompson, TFP managing director, said: "The installation of a third production line at TFP is an exciting and necessary step to meet rapidly increasing demand and facilitate delivery of the company’s successful growth strategy."

As one of South Lakeland's largest employers, company chief executive Phil Wild attributed its longevity to employees who had 'demonstrated commitment'.