The obituary for Daniel George Bingham printed in the local paper in 1913 described him as ‘Cirencester’s Munificent Benefactor’. Born in Black Jack Street in 1830 Bingham attended a local school in Castle Street before joining the staff at the Great Western Railway Station in Sheep Street. A move to Paddington Station maintained his working contact with the district manager of the railway, James Staats Forbes.
In 1857 Forbes became head of the Dutch Rhine Railway Company based in Utrecht, Holland. Bingham travelled with him and together they reformed the ailing railway network. Forbes returned to England but Bingham stayed and established a permanent home in Utrecht with his wife Jane. A successful business entrepreneur he amassed a personal fortune which he used to the benefit of his ‘dear old native town’.
Bingham maintained his links with Cirencester throughout his life with annual visits to relatives and friends living in the town and at Box in Wiltshire. In 1905, to designs by V.A. Lawson, he built, equipped and endowed the Bingham Public Library in Dyer Street. The facilities included lending and reference libraries with a reading room on the ground floor and a gymnasium. The lecture room on the first floor could seat 200 people. Lectures and meetings were often over-subscribed which led Bingham to build, equip and endow the Bingham Hall and Rifle Range in King Street which opened in 1908. Visit Bingham Hall.
Successive librarians were encouraged to collect every book, document or map which related to the history of the town. The responsibility for library provision was transferred to Gloucestershire County Council in 1960, with the Bingham Library Trust maintaining close links with Cirencester Bingham Library located in new premises built in 1975. The Bingham Library Trust funds the microfilming of the Wilts & Glos Standard and contributes towards the post of Under 11 librarian.
Bingham’s long-held dream to create ‘a fine art gallery’ to display the many paintings and drawings that had been presented to the library was finally achieved in 2005 with the opening of the Bingham Gallery. See the Bingham Art Collection. Bingham House is now home to a number of organisations and charities.