“Thirty-seven  years ago, I took one of our children swimming at the Baths Hall in Darlington,” said Suzanne McBain. Suzanne was standing before us in a beautiful turquoise knitted jumper which had blue and red knitted details down the flanks and sleeves.

“At the Baths Hall, Patons & Baldwins were having a sale, and they had tons and tons of knitting pattern samples, so I got six, one for each member of the family. This one,” she said, giving us a twirl, “is the only one that’s left.

“It’s lovely and warm, and I’ve worn it every winter for 37 years.”

“She does take it off to go to bed,” said her husband, Norman, just in case we got the wrong impression.

Patons & Baldwins, the subject of a talk by Looking Back, was the largest wool factory in the world when it opened at Lingfield Point, off McMullen Road, on the eastern edge of Darlington. There was quite a local industry of knitters who followed the instructions in P&B’s new pattern books to see if they worked before the patterns were released for the rest of the world to knit, and Suzanne’s family were lucky enough to wear some of those samples.

P&B was built as a model factory in the years after the Second World War, with sports pitches and gardens for its workers to enjoy, as well as the 1,400-seater canteen that by night became the Beehive Ballroom, the hottest nightspot for miles around where the jive was first jived.

In the 1950s, P&B employed more than 3,500 women, with a fleet of 50 buses bringing in employees from across south Durham every morning.

Darlington and Stockton Times: The women workers at P&B enjoying the Italianate gardens. Margaret Brown is third from the left and her sister, Marion, is fourthThe women workers at P&B enjoying the Italianate gardens. Margaret Brown is third from the left and her sister, Marion, is fourth

One of the pictures in the talk shows six young ladies walking by the fishpond in P&B’s Italianate garden in the mid-1960s and, amazingly, one of the ladies was in the audience.

“I lived at Butterknowle and there weren’t many job opportunities in 1956 when I was 15, and there was a bus service – probably Geordie Maude’s bus from Barnard Castle – which collected us and took us round Woodland and Toft Hill to P&B,” said Margaret Brown.

She is next to her younger sister, Marion Thomas, who joined P&B a year later when she turned 15.

The bus left Butterknowle at 6.20am and the girls didn’t get home until a good 12 hours later.

“It was a great place to work,” said Margaret. “I was highly paid as I was doing piecework in the winding department – how much you got paid depended on how many hanks you got through. I often earned £15-a-week, which was a lot of money then.”

Margaret and Marion (who were Woodwards in those days) both left P&B after 10 years when they’d got married and started their families.

The picture was taken after lunch in the canteen, and it features two other pairs of sisters who were probably bussed in from the Fishburn area – will we ever learn their names?