THE longest-established solicitors in Brighton and Hove is to close.

Howlett Clarke was founded in 1773 and has offices in Church Street, Brighton, and Southwick Square, Southwick.

The company is part of QualitySolicitors, the largest network of law firms in the company.

Staff contacted The Argus to break the news.

One said: “We went into work as normal in the morning only to be told that we were all going to lose our jobs.

“It was a great shock. We didn’t know it had become that bad.”

Jackie Gillespie, partner at QualitySolicitors Howlett Clarke, confirmed the closure.

She said: “These are extremely challenging times for high street law firms.

“Despite the best efforts of our management team and of our staff, it is with regret that Howlett Clarke will be ceasing to trade in the coming weeks.

“While we are no longer taking on any new cases, we are continuing to operate to ensure there is no disruption to current client work.

“We are working closely with our advisers to explore the potential sale of the business’ assets and live cases.”

The company’s Facebook page is still active.

It says: “We are a local firm with strong community and charity links, offering services in both business and personal areas of the law.

Meanwhile, a well-known building firm has gone into administration.

Ellis Building Contractors Ltd has been operating for more than 25 years and was based at Alder Close, Eastbourne.

It said that it had “unmanageable debts”.

The company’s owner Derek Godfrey sold his house last year in a bid to keep the business afloat.

He said: “I have tried everything to keep the business going.

“I am so sorry.”

Eastbourne Chamber of Commerce said the closure was a great shame.

Ellis Building Contractors Ltd had worked on a number of key projects locally, including renovation to the Royal Hippodrome Theatre.

Theatre staff praised them, posting on Facebook: “Presenting the new look Royal Hippodrome Facade. A huge thank you to Ellis Builders for a lovely job.”

Insolvency practitioners Nicky Fisher and Chris Herron have been appointed administrators.