Wool factory workers return to their roots for exhibition 60 years on

LOOKING BACK: Kathleen Thompson with her great-grandson Henry Thompson, three Picture: Michelle Maddison Photography

AT WORK: Kathleen Thompson pictured right, at work at Patons and Baldwins

First published in News Darlington and Stockton Times: Photograph of the Author by , Darlington reporter

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.

Comments (1)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

3:25pm Mon 4 Aug 14

grandmab says...

My mam worked there but I am not sure of the dates. When we emigrated to Canada in 1952 she got a job at the Patons and Baldwin factory in Toronto Ontario on the strength of her work in Darlington. She worked there for 15 more years before taking a job in the catering trade when that factory moved to another town.
My mam worked there but I am not sure of the dates. When we emigrated to Canada in 1952 she got a job at the Patons and Baldwin factory in Toronto Ontario on the strength of her work in Darlington. She worked there for 15 more years before taking a job in the catering trade when that factory moved to another town. grandmab
  • Score: 0

Comments are closed on this article.

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree