The collapse will send shock waves through the contracting sector as Colston is working on jobs across the country.
More than 420 directly employed staff now fear for their jobs as the administrators try to sell the £100m turnover firm as a going concern.
A source said: “We all got told yesterday and are in a total state of shock. We have been told to wait for an announcement from the administrators and don’t know much more than that.”
One recruitment consultant told the Enquirer: “The first we heard of it was when a commercial manager posted his CV on a job board last night.
“We had been working with Colston, so I called the commercial manager and he told me about the situation.”
Dan Butters and Matt Cowlishaw of Deloitte are the administrators and are looking at whether the firm can be sold as a going concern or its contracts will need to be novated.
Butters said: “Our appointment follows a strategic review of MJN Colston Limited’s financial position.
“We intend to trade the business in the short-term with a view to selling and novating the contracts to other providers.
“We will continue to work with the company’s suppliers and customers and will seek to find a buyer for the business and assets to minimise disruption.”
The firm traces its history back to 1890, and operates from offices in Gateshead, Blackburn, Coventry, Bury St Edmunds, Croydon, Bristol, Bridgend and Exeter.
News of the contractor’s collapse has sent a buzz around the building services recruitment sector as qualified staff seek to put themselves onto the jobs market.
The contractor, which was involved in Arsenal’s Emirate Stadium project, is presently working on Carillion’s £430m hospital project in Bristol.
MJN Colston was also one of the original eight major M&E contractors to push for new BESNA contracts for the industry’s workforce, claiming new employment agreements were needed to modernise working practices if firms were to avoid going under.
But the firm became the first to pull out of the plan following pressure from the unions last September.