TODAY, another Darlington allotments has its open day. The 112 plots in Barmpton Lane are available for inspection from 10am to 3pm, with all sorts of stalls and produce and refreshments to entice you in.

These allotments too are on a field with history. They are in an exposed location, looking east towards Sadberge, on a little hill above the River Skerne. Once, a windmill stood here, pumping river water up to a big house, Whinfield Hall.

A rather ungainly looking thing with a square tower that was so prominent the RAF used it to guide planes back to RAF Middleton St George, it was built in 1872 by John Feetham. He was a director of the North Brancepeth Coal Company and a county councillor, and his wife was a member of the Stow-Stowell family of Faverdale.

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They had six sons and a daughter, but even so they must have rattled round in the 20-bedroomed mansion, assisted by a “small army of servants”.

After Mr Feetham’s death in 1917, Whinfield fell derelict until it was bought in 1928 by Mr and Mrs WB Brownless, who had made lots of money through their plastering business. They did the hall up but, in 1941, with only 17 days notice, it was requisitioned by the Army. Mr and Mrs Brownless moved to another of their properties, Deighton Hall, near Northallerton, and 300 soldiers moved in with their Bren guns and heavy boots.

When the Brownlesses got it back, it had been thoroughly trashed, but they set about restoring it. Mr Brownless used his plastering skills so that every room had a plaster pelmet, frieze or statuette in it.

In the 1960s, Durham County Council bought the hall with a view to turning it into a children’s home. It again fell into disrepair and was finally demolished, with 1970s housing creeping over its estate.

Its lodge house can still be spotted amid the newbuilds on Barmpton Lane and for the last 70 years, its Windmill Field has been the productive home to allotment-holders who would love to show you round today.