HUNDREDS of former workers from a once bustling wool factory have revisited the site as part of an exhibition marking more than 60 years since it first opened its doors.

When Patons and Baldwins wool factory opened at Lingfield Point, in Darlington, in 1951, it was one of the most advanced facilities in the world and a major employer for the town for the next two decades.

An exhibition charting its history has welcomed more than 500 former staff, who were encouraged to bring along their own memorabilia and photographs to add to a growing archive.

Former workers were also filmed talking about their time at Patons and Baldwins as part of the exhibition curated by Andrea Freeman, director of heritage knitwear company The Beehive Brand, with help from Darlington’s Centre for Local Studies.

The exhibition is open until Friday (August 8) with anyone with memories of the factory encouraged to attend and tell their story.

Among those who have taken part is Kathleen Thompson, 71, who brought her great-grandson, Henry, aged three, to see where it all began.

She said: “I worked at Patons from 1958, starting when I was 15 until I had my second child at 21. I made ‘tops’ which was part of the process – it was a sort of cotton wool that the yarn was made from.

“I earned two pounds ten shillings a week and used to travel on the bus every day.”

A number of the people who have visited the exhibition have spoken of their astonishment at the transformation of the Beehive building, which once housed looms and machinery, as well as the company’s own theatre and ballroom, but is now modern offices.

The exhibition has led to tears and laughter as people bumped into former work colleagues they had not seen for 50 years and swapped tales of the good old days.

Lingfield Point estate manager Eddie Humphries said: “Lingfield Point has been rejuvenated in sympathy with the heritage of the site and we felt it was important to capture first hand memories from former workers before they were lost forever.”

The 60 exhibition runs until Friday and is open to the public from 11am to 2pm.