Whinfield Residents Association

(Incorporating the Friends of Beech Wood)

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History of the Area

The ward of Whinfield was created in 1932 and is situated to the north of the centre of Darlington. Whinfield has a population of over 3000 and the ward consists of both new & old residential properties. Facilities within the community include Whinfield Primary School, a doctor’s surgery (Whinfield Medical Practice), Rowlands Pharmacy, Asda Supermarket/petrol station and a public house (The Shuttle & Loom). It also has a private residential care home, ‘The Grange’ which as well as providing residential and dementia care also provides day care, respite and long term care.

Oban Court

Oban Court is a council run supported housing facility which consists of 32 one-bedroom flats and 1 two-bedroom flat. Other facilities in the ward also include Barmpton Lane Allotments Association which is situated off Barmpton Lane.

The ward consists of 2 parks, Springfield Park which is located on Green Lane and has a play area and 2 football fields and Beech Wood, a small wood and green space situated off Barmpton Lane. The wood is home to numerous flora & forna and includes a very prominent mature Beech Tree.

There is some history to Beech Wood as this area was home to Whinfield Hall, a large Victorian mansion. The house had an extrusive tower incorporated into the structure and was so prominent (so the story goes) that the RAF used it to guide planes back to RAF Middleton St George. The hall was originally built by John Feetham (1833-1917) in 1872 who was the director of the North Brancepeth Coal Company and a county Councillor. His wife was a member of the Stow-Stowell family of Faverdale in Darlington. Although they had a large family the hall had 20 bedrooms which easily accommodated their 6 sons and a small army of servants. Mr Feetham died in 1917 aged 84 and is buried in St. Andrews Churchyard at Haughton Le Skerne.

A painting and photograph of John Feetham

Following his passing Whinfield Hall fell derelict and was eventually bought in 1928 by Mr & Mrs WB Brownless whom had made their fortune through their plastering business. They restored the hall to its former glory but in 1941 with only 17 days’ notice it was requisitioned by the army. Mr & Mrs Brownless moved out to one of their other properties, Deighton Hall, which was situated in Northallerton whilst Whinfield Hall became home to over 300 soldiers.

When the Hall was returned to the Bownlesses it was in a poor state of repair but with Mr Brownless’ plastering skills the hall was restored once again. By the 1960’s the hall was purchased by Durham County Council with a view to turning it into a children’s home. However the hall was slowly being vandalised and a massive leak from the mansion’s water tanks flooded and caused a significant amount of damage to the main structure (of the building). A decision was made by the council to have the hall demolished and in the 70’s a more modern children’s home was built on the site called ‘Beech Wood Children’s Home. By now many new homes had been built in and around the grounds of the former mansion. The children’s home closed in the early 2000’s and the land sold to a developer for housing. The council had a home built for Mrs Brownless in Beech Road when she left the hall alas however she passed away before moving into it.

A photograph of Whinfield Hall circa 1930s

The large massive ornate iron gates which stood near the lodge house was the main entrance to the hall and have long since gone All that is left now which can be seen is the lodge house situated on the entrance to Beech Road and the small wood which makes up part of Beech Wood.

John Feetham's gravestone where he was laid to rest at St. Andrews Church Yard, Haughton Le Skerne, Darlington
The Lodge house today situated on the corner of Beech Road

Whinbush Farm & Whinfield Hall circa 1960 – courtesy of Mike Haw

Barmpton Lane Allotment Association which is situated across from the lodge house is on land which once accommodated a windmill and pumped up large volumes of water to Whinfield Hall. The site now accommodates 112 allotments and the Association opens its doors every year to sell produce, refreshments and bric-a-brac to the general public with all monies raised going to local charities and have raised around £13,000 to date for St Teresa's Hospice. The Association was formed by the council over 70 years ago but since 2004 the allotment-holders have taken over the running of it.

Entrance to Barmpton Lane Allotments

Whinfield ward is represented by 2 councillors and is presently held by the Conservative party.