Feethams: The Abandoned Football Stadium of Darlington FC

abandoned-feethams-darlington-fc (Image: Steve Woffenden; Feethams: Darlington FC’s abandoned football stadium)

Navigate to Polam Lane, Darlington, on Google Earth and you’ll see a rough area of grassland immediately south of the town’s cricket ground. Separating the two fields is a long, low, grey structure that once offered spectators at the Feethams complex some rudimentary shelter from the elements. The neglected scene you’re looking down on was the abandoned stadium of Darlington Football Club. The low rise structure? It’s last surviving stand.

Feethams has been – and remains – home to Darlington Cricket Club since the 1860s. Amateur football was also played at the site, but it wasn’t until 1883 that Darlington FC, a professional team, moved in. The club would continue to play at Feethams for the next 120 years.

abandoned-feethams-darlington-fc-2 (Image: Bing Maps; abandoned football stadium at Feethams, from the air)

Throughout the course of its history the now-abandoned football stadium hosted one international game – a match  between England Amateurs and the Netherlands, which the home team won with a crushing 12-2 victory. By the turn of the 21st century, however, the limitations of the ageing stadium were clear. As a result, the club decided to build a new one, and the far more grand Darlington Arena opened in 2003.

Unfortunately, this exciting new era for Darlington FC didn’t end well. The construction of a modern East Stand at Feethams in 1997 had put the club under severe financial strain. To add to its woes, poor road access at the Darlington Arena saw council planners restrict the capacity of the brand new 25,000 seat stadium to just 10,000 on match days. By 2012, Darlington had left the Arena and moved to nearby Bishop Auckland instead.

abandoned-feethams-darlington-fc-3 (Image: Steve Woffenden; overgrown: the abandoned football pitch)

Meanwhile, back at Feethams, the abandoned football stadium soon assumed a state of dereliction after Darlington FC moved out in 2003. The small ground had become increasingly neglected after hosting its final game – a 2-2 draw against Leyton Orient. By February 2006, Feethams was demolished following an arson attack.

Plans to build new houses on the site of the derelict football pitch were initially stymied by a 1903 deed stating that the land could only be used for cricket and other athletic pursuits. As of today, however, those conditions appear to have been bypassed. The site is slated for 82 new houses and, as Google Street View reveals, Polam Lane is a hive of activity.

abandoned-feethams-darlington-fc-4 (Image: Mark Harrington; abandoned Feethams in 2005, a year before demolition)

It appears that the lone stand – the former home terrace known as the Tin Shed – separating the abandoned football stadium from the cricket ground (the latter still very much in use) has finally been bulldozed. Feethams football presence is now remembered only in photographs, as well as the entrance to the cricket field, around which ‘Quakers’ fans once trekked to reach their tiny lower league stadium.

Related – Silent Terraces: The Abandoned Football Stadium of Scarborough FC

 

About the author: Alex Williams

 

 

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