Lingfield Point

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Lingfield House as it now stands   Fine art deco staircase in Lingfield House  
P&B Knitting pattern   P&B Knitting pattern  
The P&B Turbine Hall   The factory clock once portioned out the workers day  

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Lingfield Point



Do You Remember Beehive Yarns?

Patons and Baldwins Worsted Spinning Mill factory was opened in 1947, following the expansion of the industry at the end of the Second World War. The company originally had seven factories based throughout the UK but none of these could satisfactorily be adapted to accommodate the new equipment necessary to keep up with advances in post-war technologies. In order to increase efficiency and production, the company therefore decided to relocate its manufacturing facilities to purpose-built premises. The 140 acre site at McMullen Road, Darlington, was found suitable; the land was flat with good rail connections and was purchased with the aid of a post-war Government grant.

The new factory was built by John Laing and Sons of Carlisle and comprised 40 acres of buildings and 50 acres of sports fields for the use of the workers. The construction cost a total of �5 million and at the time, the factory was hailed as the largest and most modern single-storey plant of its kind in the world. Production operated on flow-line principles with each machine being individually powered by electricity, provided by the factory's own power station. The various processes included washing and carding; backwashing and preparing; combing; slubbing and dyeing; drawing; spinning; assembling and twisting; reeling; yarn scouring; yarn drying, yarn dyeing and finishing. Yarns for hand knitting, weaving and industrial use, were produced in a wide variety of synthetic and natural fibres.

Staff welfare and social care was a high priority for the company who provided the Beehive Ballroom, Beehive Theatre and several recreation and leisure areas for their staff. However, by the end of the 1960s, production had been significantly reduced and by the 1970s the company was in decline. The factory eventually closed in 1999 with the loss of hundreds of jobs. Subsequently much of the plant and machinery were removed.

In 2008 NAA were commissioned by PlanArch Design, on behalf of the Marchday Group, to undertake a programme of assessment and building recording in advance of the redevelopment of the complex. Historically, the site was considered to be an exemplar of its period and type and, therefore, of regional and local industrial and historical interest. The Marchday Group were keen to keep the redevelopment proposals as sympathetic to the original building as possible, retaining and refurbishing many of the key buildings and structures within the complex. However, some structures were scheduled to be demolished; the majority of these being large open industrial sheds which were of little architectural merit and contained little surviving evidence of the production process.

In contrast, other buildings across the site were of architectural interest, especially those original buildings which exhibited the clean lines, simple form and restrained design style of the early Modernist Movement. These structures were retained as focal points within the new development, and refurbished appropriate to their change of use. A number of the buildings contained original machinery, fittings or plant, including the pumping station; the boiler house and turbine hall; the plant rooms, and a number of electricity switch rooms and sub-stations. Whilst many of these buildings were retained, the refurbishment plans involved the removal of the majority of the interior fittings. Although the machinery was fairly modern and of post-war origin, it was, nevertheless, of some historic interest, forming part of an ever-dwindling resource of this type. Of particular interest were the electrical components manufactured by the English Electric Company (no longer in existence) and the boilers and associated plant made by Yarrow of Glasgow.

Did you work at Patons and Baldwins? If you did then we would love to hear your stories and memories. Depending on the response we might feature a further article on the site on our website in the coming months. If you would like to get in touch then please contact Paul Johnson on 01833 690800l .

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