THIS month marks the centenary of Cirencester's Bingham Hall. Charlotte Shepherd looks at the man who made it all possible – benefactor Daniel Bingham.

THE name Bingham has been intertwined with Cirencester for more than 100 years.

The Bingham Library and Bingham Hall are prominent locations but few people today know much about the man behind the landmarks.

Daniel George Bingham was born in 1830 in Black Jack Street, the third son of a trunk maker, Daniel Bingham.

He was educated at the town’s grammar school, in Park Lane, before taking a job as a clerk at Cirencester’s Great Western Railway.

This was the start of a life-long love affair with the railways - a passion that would ultimately bring Mr Bingham his great wealth.

While at the Great Western Railway he met James Staats Forbes who became his district manager, moving with him first to London Paddington and then to Holland when Mr Forbes became general manager of the Dutch Rhenish Railway.

Together they set about the complete re-organisation of the railway, which had been allowed to deteriorate, and Daniel Bingham set up home in Utrecht with his wife and cousin, Jane Brain from Kelmscott.

He succeeded as general manager of the DRR when Mr Forbes retired and continued the job of rejuvenating the railway, turning it into a going concern.

Through his own business acumen and wise investments he retired a very wealthy man in 1890, aged 60.

Mr Bingham was fond of shooting and billiards but also loved the theatre and books and it was these passions that would be reflected in his later legacies to Cirencester.

The Binghams had no children and it is possible had that been different much of his wealth would have been used to secure their future.

Luckily for Cirencester, Mr Bingham never forgot his birthplace and he returned regularly to visit friends and relatives.

With his wealth, he realised that he could make a make a very real difference. One of his first acts when he was well into his 70s was to buy up a warehouse in Dyer Street and an adjoining house. This became the site for Bingham Library, replacing an earlier library at the Corn Hall.

The library was opened in front of large crowds by the then Earl Bathurst on September 21, 1905.

It cost £50,000, of which half was invested to provide for a professional librarian, staff, stock and running expenses.

Mr Bingham also enhanced facilities at the Memorial Hospital in Sheep Street, paying for remodelling and a further seven beds.

But Mr Bingham was not about to stop there. In 1905 he also purchased 5,500 square yards of land from Watermoor House Estates at King Street, that would become the site of Bingham Hall.

When the foundation stone was laid for the Hall on March 7, 1908, Earl Bathurst took the opportunity to praise Cirencester’s benefactor: "Mr Bingham is a man of whom the whole of Ciceter is proud. He certainly commands my greatest admiration. Mr Bingham is one of those Englishmen who help to do good to their fellow creatures."

The Hall opened with great fanfare on October 14 1908 and next month celebrates its centenary.

The gifts made by Mr Bingham to Cirencester have been well looked after by Trustees in the intervening years, ensuring that they have fulfilled their maximum potential.

One Trustee, Cirencester Mayor Shirley Alexander, said: "Daniel Bingham’s legacy lives on and is still remembered and celebrated in Cirencester because he had such foresight and made provision for the future in his original plans".

Mr Bingham died on March 1 1913 and is buried in Utrecht, but he was not forgotten in his birthplace.

Flags flew at halfmast, businesses closed out of respect while blinds on private houses were half drawn and a muffled peal of the bells at Cirencester Parish Church was rung.

The Wilts and Glos Standard obituary a few days later noted: "The community itself will be all the poorer for lack of his close personal interest in the place and its people, practical proof of which was forthcoming almost month by month."