I'VE spent the day working on the Deed of Foundation of the Feethams Cricket Field Trust dated July 9, 1903.

Tomorrow Darlington planning committee decides whether 146 homes should be built on the part of the site once occupied by Darlington FC, before it flew off to its unfeasibly large stadium.

From the outset I should say that I don't like the idea of Feethams - or any playing field or any town centre open space - being built upon. I think it is a wonderful dream to create a multi-sports facility at Feethams and I fear for the future of the football club because in the long-run if you attract crowds of 2,400 when you need 6,000 to break even, the maths doesn't add up. Should bust happen, Feethams would have been the ideal fall-back, only the stands no longer exist.

Perhaps I should also say, if only to boost my self-image, that it was at Feethams that I took one of the finest catches of my long and illustrious cricketing career.

But having looked at the document, and having looked at the motivations of the men who drew it up, I reluctantly conclude that if the cricket club believes that raising money by selling part of Feethams for development is in its best interests, then it is entirely in order to do so.

In fact, I reckon those first three trustees - all cricketing men - would today not be asking if the sale was right, only how that money - three years ago it would have been £4m; now it may be as little as £500,000 - was to be spent promoting cricket.

The cricket club were in the ascendancy at Feethams from 1866. Even though other sports held events there, they were often organised by the cricketers to raise money to pay their rent. And when the Peases proposed building on the ground, the cricket club raised £3,700 of the £4,500 the developer originally settled for.

According to the Bank of England inflation calculator, £4,500 in 1902 is £414,000 today - a frightening amount for any amateur sports club to raise. I cannot believe that as the cricket club directly contributed the equivalent of £341,000, any deed of governance would have been written that did not provide it with the whip-hand.

I would also guess that of the remaining £800, much was raised by people with cricketing sympathies.

Then we come to the deed. It seems to me to be specifically written with cricket uppermost in mind. For example, Feethams was known as "the Darlington Cricket and Football Grounds" but the new official name chosen was "The Feethams Cricket Field Trust". Football is nowhere else referred to in the deed. Only athletics is mentioned beside cricket, and that's because the cricket club was known as "the Darlington Cricket & Athletic Club". The deed says that this club's appointees to the management committee "are hereinafter called 'the Cricket Club members'", so it is clear where the sympathies lie.

I can't though explain what the deed means by ordering the Trustees and the committee to "promote the playing of Cricket and athletic exercises on the said premises or any other premises hereafter purchased in the place thereof". What are "athletic exercises" and why don't they justify a capital letter? But if the Trustees had meant athletics as a particular sport that needed to be promoted, I reckon they would have said so (and with a capital letter).

The other little piece of this fascinating jigsaw is the structure of the management committee. It was 4 ex-officio members (the mayor, ex-mayor, MP, and Town Clerk), plus 2 "subscribers' members" and 4 cricket club members. The ex-officios ("by virtue of their office") balance out the cricketers at 4 votes each, so were the 2 subscribers supposed to be independent? Or were they there to ensure that the cricket club always won?

The original subscribers' members were Thomas Metcalfe Barron (1852-1916) - a solicitor, leading freemason, mayor 1890-91, who listed his interests as "travel, photography and angling" - and Sir Arthur Francis Pease (1866-1927). Because I'm now obsessed, I've just dashed up to read his obituary in the Darlington and Stockton Times. It says he was a "keen lover of sport", but that only means he was a Zetland fox-hunter.

Both men, though, were on the cricket club's committee at this time, so therefore it would appear that the deed sets up the Feethams management committee so that cricket club interests would always dominate.

The three trustees - ED Walker, Dr James Lawrence, CH Backhouse - were all cricketing men. In fact, the deed is quite specific about their involvement.

"The pieces of land were generally known as the Darlington Cricket and Football Grounds were purchased by and conveyed unto and to the use of the Present Trustees in fee simple and whereas the said premises were purchased by the Present Trustees by means of loans obtained on the security of the said premises and voluntary subscriptions given for the purpose of securing the said premises as an open space to be used for Cricket and other Athletic exercises in manner and subject as is hereinafter mentioned".

This seems pretty unequivocal to me. It was a cricket club engineered purpose for cricketing reasons. Therefore, the cricket club has every right to sell the portion of the grounds that it can no longer afford to run and plough the proceeds of the sale back into the club.

All of which is very interesting, but even more interesting is that the deed mentions Newton Wallop, the Earl of Portsmouth, as having sold some of the land to the Trustees.

This is brilliant. Not only is Newton Wallop the best name ever, but he is the nasty gold-digger who brought the Peases crashing to the ground. He married Beatrice Mary Pease in 1885. She was the daughter of Edward "Library-Named-After-Him" Pease who had died young in 1880 and she had subsequently been taken under the wing of her uncle, Sir Joseph Whitwell Pease, the family head.

Newton Wallop decided that Sir Joseph, whose businesses were struggling, wasn't coughing up enough of her inheritance so he persuaded Beatrice to sue. She won £500,000 in 1902 - £46 million today. Sir Joseph couldn't pay, sold everything to Barclays bank, who found that he was insolvent, and died of a broken heart. Only Arthur Pease's wing of the family kept its head above water.

Perhaps this lack of money explains why the Peases were so keen to sell Feethams to the cricketers' trustees.