VOLUNTEERS blinked back tears when a charity shop closed its doors after 23 years of trading.

Oxfam in St Mary Street, Weymouth, was forced to shut after landlords demanded a rent increase and charity bosses feared it was not making enough profit.

The 17 people who man the shop in their spare time campaigned in vain to keep it open.

Julia Heath made a cake iced with the Oxfam logo for the last day of trading and volunteers enjoyed a meal and drinks.

Cathie Trapnell has worked in Oxfam since the store opened 23 years ago.

Mrs Trapnell, from Preston, Weymouth, said: "I saw a lot of changes over the years.

"When we started, there was no till, so we used three little pots.

"When we finished, there was a state-of-the-art computerised system.

"I am very sad it's closed and consider myself retired now.

"I will miss meeting different people and making new friends."

Joan Still, 83, of Weymouth, added: "I worked in Oxfam for seven years and three months, I had a lovely time but now I have decided not to do any more charity work."

Volunteer cleaner Ron Young, who is transferring to the town's Oxfam branch in Abbotsbury Road, said: "The atmosphere of teamwork and working together made me feel at home.

"Everybody was so kind."

Jill O'Brien said: "I have been here seven years and I'm going to miss it terribly.

"We were a happy team and want to stay that way so we're going to meet up once a month just to keep in touch."

The shop sold goods to raise money to help people in the Third World.

Manager Stuart Heath said: "It was depressing - now we have to clear all the shelves and redistribute all the other bits and pieces to other branches."

Area manager Penny Evans added: "It's the end of an era.

"The volunteers were always smiling.

"We do hope to set up another shop in Weymouth in time and have them back with us.

"On behalf of Oxfam I want to say a big thank-you to them all."

Julia Moore, 52, a family mediator from Buxton Road, had volunteered for five years.

She said: "It was a nice place to be involved in, I had a really good time.

"It's very sad - not just for us but the customers, too. We will miss them."

Fair Trade goods will now be sold in Oxfam on Abbotsbury Road and volunteers also hope to man a weekly stall at the borough council offices.