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Feethams, with just the Tinshed roof left as a sight-screen, June 2007.

Feethams, August 2006

Feethams in November 2006 with only the North Stand remaining

The site of the old East Stand now clearEast has gone west at Feethams

As you know, we've been taking an occasional look at what's been happening at our old ground Feethams for the last few years.

Last time Ted Blair paid a visit with his camera, there was the skeleton of the "new" East Stand remaining, along with the Tinshed.

Now the East Stand has completely gone, leaving Feethams as a meadow and only the Tinshed remaining. There was talk of it moving to a speedway track after the cricket club had finished the season with it as a sight-screen, but that idea never got out of a second gear and it remains.

Some photos in August 2006 from Ted of Feethams, as we track what is happening with the old stadium.

The East Stand looks a little like it has been unpacked from boxes from Ikea and is waiting to be reassembled. The skeleton of the "new" stand was all that remained of the structure following demolition of the West Stand and South Terrace.

Meanwhile, the Tinshed stand (pictured below - move your mouse over image for rollover photo) remains in use as the sight-screen for the cricket club, but it is believed to have a new permament home lined up at Redcar speedway.

Photos: Ted Blair

Feethams demolition continues

Above are a couple of latest shots (hold your mouse over the image for an alternative view) of the continuing demolition continues at the old stadium in March and April 2006. At least it looks tidier. All that remains is the shell of the new East Stand and the roof of the Tinshed.

The sorry recent tale of Feethams and its imminent demise is told as the cover story in the latest edition of the football grounds magazine Groundtastic.

The five-page article features colour and black and white photos by Ted Blair, taken in recent weeks, as well as text by DAFTS' Steve Duffy.

The 80-page quarterly publication - shameless plug alert - is usually well worth a read anyway, for those who like to keep an eye on football stadiums big and small around the UK and beyond. But we can heartily recommend giving it a try this month, because it's particularly splendid - although of course not the happiest of subjects.

Since the article was written, the bulldozers have of course arrived ready for the demolition, which is expected very soon.

Copies of GT144 cost £4 and can be ordered via Groundtastic online and you can also subscribe online. Especially since Sportspages closed, this is the best way for getting hold of a copy. Ask Ted and Steve nicely, and they'll sign copies...See also the DAFTS Feethams page for more recent photos and other images.

MARCH 2006: The bulldozers and demolition people moved in and starting clearing the stadium. The first stand to go was the derelict West Stand, followed by the open South Terrace. Fixtures and fittings in the East Stand were removed, while the Tin Shed cover and roof remained intact - hinting that it might find a home somewhere. Photos: Ted Blair.

Closing chapters

Photo December 2005 - Ted Blair

JANUARY 2006: Take a long, last look. Feethams as a football ground - albeit a decaying one - is likely to disappear by April, after the council gave the go-ahead for the stadium to be bulldozed. The ground is officially "unsafe." Not a surprise, given that it has scandalously been left vunerable to vandalism for two and a half years. Scandal is not too strong a word, in that it seems almost deliberate neglect has allowed the future of the ground to move up the agenda to the point it has become a safety and embarrassment issue for the town.

The "cricket club trust" are typically quiet on its future, although you suspect they would be very disappointed if they were not allowed to sell at least part of the ground for residential development. What is indisputable is that the ground was bequeathed for the town, not any individuals to benefit. The loss of an open space or amenity would be tragic, especially if it was to become yet more housing. The Northern Echo have backed calls by the Supporters' Trust for the ground to be kept for community or sporting use.

DECEMBER 2005: As it looks now, the stadium has been badly vandalised and neglected. The Cricket Club have secured the ownership of the assets and land, and this is likely to lead to demolition and the site being sold for housing. This has caused some local opposition, bearing in mind the history of the ground being donated to the town by the Victorian Quaker family, the Peases. Who knows what the next stage will be. The floodlights have been removed already. What's particularly sad is what appears to be almost reckless neglect, with vandals almost encouraged along to hasten a quick decision by the planning people. There is certainly no proper excuse for the ground not to have been properly secured over the last 12 to 18 months. It would be something of a travesty for the town if the ground wasn't turned into a proper amenity or open space that the community could make use of. Click on the photos below for larger versions.


Lights out

One of the pylons - photo: Brendan Boyle

On their way to a new home - photo: Brendan Boyle
One of the pylons is disassembled and then on its way from Feethams to its new home. ©Photos courtesy of Brendan Boyle.

The floodlights at Feethams departed at the end of November 2005, for a new home with the Workington Reds football club. The pylons, first erected 45 years ago and switched on for a night game with Millwall, departed after a deal was struck with the Cricket Club.


Left to rot

FEBRUARY 2005: It appeared there was a possibility the ground could be eventually turned into housing. There was a wrangle between the cricket club, who own the ground, and the football club's administrators, who have a claim to the £3m East Stand, only built in 1998 and seen as an asset.

The ground is operated by a trust, involving the cricket club, which leased Feethams to the football club. Manager David Hodgson is also reported to be intersted in taking out a lease to develop a five-a-side academy.

It looks likely that eventually the old West Stand, built in 1960 and ramshackle, will eventually be demolished and the Tin Shed terrace would need some work doing to it. The toilets and bathroom fittings from the East Stand apparently got a "free transfer" to the new stadium.

Feethams in April 2005

The Polam Lane turnstiles in April 2005

The Northern Echo's Sam Strangeways reported rather grimly in JANUARY 2005: "Mould covers virtually the entire carpet in the grim, dark Ambassador Suite, while the ceiling is full of holes. Several bottles of lager remain untouched on the bar, next to a programme from Darlington's Worthington Cup clash with Sheffield United in August 2001. The executive boxes above are empty, loose wires protrude from every corner, while smashed glasses and dead insects line the corridor outside. In recent years, the adjacent West Stand had not been the prettiest of sights anyway. Now, it looks beyond hope. Gaping holes pepper the steps leading to the seats, the small terraced section below covered in old ticket stubs Darlington v Torquay, December 28, 2002; Darlington v Halifax, April 1, 2002; Darlington v Hartlepool, March 1, 2003....

"The South Terrace is little better. Broken pieces of advertising boards adorn a sodden, dilapidated structure. There will have been many among the 5,750 present at Feethams' last ever league match in May 2003 who hoped the old venue would enjoy a prosperous future following the Quakers' departure "

"Today, such a hope still exists. But whether it eventually becomes a reality remains uncertain."

Feethams in April 2005

 

 

 

ALL CHANGE: Feethams - the sun's gone down on Darlington's 120 years at the old ground, as they prepare for the move to Neasham Road later in the new season. PHOTO: Ted Blair, taken after the Torquay match in December 2002



Sun goes down on old timer
The last league match at Feethams after 120 years was played on May 3 2003, before the move to the new stadium.

LAST LOOK: Some of the "Dream Team" pictured on the pitch before the final Feethams match in May 2003. The Best XI picked in a poll of supporters were: Mark Prudhoe ; Ron Greener, Craig Liddle, Kevan Smith, John Peverell; Andy Toman, Alan Sproates, David McLean; Alan Walsh, Marco Gabbiadini ,Colin Sinclair. Photos: Ted Blair


A parade of 80 former players, stretching from the 1940s to the present day, was held before the match with Leyton Orient and supporters gathered on the pitch at the end of the 2-2 draw to take in the atmosphere for the final time. Click on photos below for larger versions.

"When we dropped our gear off at the ground after getting back from a night match we had to kick the dressing room door half-a-dozen times to scare the rats away. And we knew the rats used our bath when we weren't around...they always left teeth marks in the soap."
Ron Greener, Darlo legend

The South Terrace, pictured from The Quaker Centre before the match

Pitch invasion at the final whistle Feethams legends Ron Greener, Ron Harbetson and John Peverell share memories

Old players before the parade in the tunnel Waving a last goodbye to the old place


A fond farewell


WHITE LINES (above) and THE TICKET HUT (below)
Two of the 1,200 photographs taken during the Farewell to Feethams project. These photos are among the ones which didn't make it to the exhibition.

Darlington Supporters' Trust organised the Farewell to Feethams project to mark the historic move to a new ground.

From January to April 2002, hundreds of black and white photographs of the old ground, supporters and the match day atmosphere were taken by members of Darlington Camera Club. The best work from 15 members was shown at an exhibition at Darlington Arts Centre that Summer, out of 1,200 photos taken.

WATCHING AND WAITING: A sea of faces in the East Stand ©Photographer: Nick Blake.

SOUTH FOR THE WINTER: A classic panoramic view of the ground from the back of the South Terrace - the old "Park End." ©Photographer: Jim Lycett. Sponsored by Colin Fletcher in memory of Lucy Fletcher

The show, which opened on July 12th 2002 and overlapped with the start of the new season in August, also included a photo archive, with other elements including a selection of fans' written and recorded memories, Feethams landmarks and memorabilia.

The new photos were also exhibited at Greenfield Community College and Arts Centre, Newton Aycliffe, the Green Dragon Museum and Gallery in Stockton-upon-Tees and the Discovery Centre, Bishop Auckland (June 2003) before the show is expected to go on permanent display at the new stadium next season.

See also the Trust's Farewell to Feethams web pages for online exhibition.

Cricket being played at Feethams

If you'd still like to take a look at Feethams: For those arriving at Darlington railway station, take the subway (below) out into the street and it's a straight road to the traffic island at the bottom.

6 Guide to the 96.6 TFM Arena

Full details of pubs, food, accommodation and things to do in the town are on our Darlington page.

Feethams, a little overgrown - August 2003

Feethams in April 2005

Feethams in April 2005

So what was so special? Apart from the atmosphere, the quaint setting next to the cricket pitch and Darlo's own "twin towers," the gentle 10 minute stroll down Victoria Road from the station will also be missed...

Main photos by Steve Duffy and Ted Blair (DAFTS)