Historic Building Recording
Lingfield Point is a business park near Darlington on the site of the former Patons and Baldwins Worsted Spinning Mill. When the factory was built in 1947, it was the largest single-storey plant of its kind in the world and was hailed as innovative in the wool industry.
Immediately after the post-war period, Patons and Baldwins had seven factories throughout the UK but none were suitable for adaptation to accommodate advances in wool-production technologies. Therefore, the company decided to relocate its manufacturing facilities to purpose-built premises. The 57ha site at McMullen Road, Darlington, was selected because it was flat with good rail connections and it was purchased with the aid of a post-war Government grant.
The factory was built by John Laing and Sons of Carlisle and comprised about 16 ha of buildings. Its new production facility operated on flow-line principles with each machine being individually powered by electricity, provided by the factory’s own power station. The construction cost £5million and its facilities demonstrated that staff welfare was a high priority for the company, with the Beehive Ballroom, Beehive Theatre and other recreation and leisure areas for their staff including 20ha of sports fields.
Patons and Baldwins thrived until the end of the 1960s, when production reduced significantly and then declined further during the 1970s. The factory eventually closed in 1999 with the loss of hundreds of jobs.
In the late 1990s, The Marchday Group bought the site and aimed to keep redevelopment as sympathetic to the original buildings as possible, retaining and refurbishing many of the key structures within the complex. Buildings that were deemed to be of architectural interest were those with the simple functional form of the Modernist Movement. These structures were retained within the new development as focal points with their attractive exteriors. 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. Although the machinery was fairly modern and of post-war origin, it was of historic interest as it represented 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.
The site is now considered an exemplar of its period and type and is of regional and local industrial, historical and architectural interest. Many of the remaining structures exhibit design elements of the early Modernist style.
In 2008, NAA was commissioned by PlanArch Design, on behalf of the Marchday Group, to undertake a programme of desk-based assessment. This helped secure planning permission for the redevelopment of the site subject to a programme of historic building recording, which NAA completed in 2016.
Despite much of the factory being redundant with potential tenants requiring different facilities, NAA acted quickly to create a detailed record of the buildings and machinery. NAA’s expertise enabled the project to fulfil archaeological planning obligations, while highlighting and respecting the importance of the factory with the shift from heavy to light industry in the town, which lifted Darlington out of its immediate post-war industrial depression. The evidence collected by NAA presents a permanent and valuable record that will help explain the Patons and Baldwins site’s history as a model factory that was carefully designed both for process efficiency and with the health and happiness of the workforce in mind.