Bingham is a market town in the Rushcliffe borough of Nottinghamshire. Situated nine miles (14.5 km) east of Nottingham and 11.7 miles (18.8 km) south-west of Newark-on-Trent, the town had a population of 9,131 at the 2011 UK census (up from 8,655 in 2001). In November 2013 it was named the best town in England and Wales to raise a family. Bingham lies near the junction of the A46 (the old Fosse Way) and the A52, about nine miles (14 km) east of Nottingham and similar distances south-west of Newark-on-Trent and west of Grantham. Neighbouring communities are Radcliffe-on-Trent, East Bridgford, Car Colston, Scarrington, Aslockton, Whatton in the Vale and Cropwell Butler. There is a market in the central Market Place every Thursday, and a farmers' market there on the third Saturday of the month.
The place-name Bingham seems to contain an Old English personal name, Bynna, + ingahām (Old English), The village of the people of . . . ; the village of the people called after . . .so probably, 'homestead/village of Bynna's people'.
The Romans built a fortress at Margidunum (Bingham) and a settlement at the river crossing at Ad Pontem (East Stoke) on the Fosse Way that joined Isca (Exeter) to Lindum (Lincoln). The south-east of Nottinghamshire later formed the wapentake of Bingham. Bingham acquired a market charter in 1341.
Bingham has expanded vastly since the 1950s, and most of the housing is relatively new. Most of the older buildings (including the Church of St. Mary and All Saints, Bingham, the oldest) are in the centre.
About 500 houses are being built bordering the A52 (Grantham Road) and the existing Mill Hill estate. There have been concerns that the 1000+ people who will move into these new houses will require more and improved services, which the local councils are so far proving reluctant to provide, despite the large sums gained for the Exchequer from the sale of the land in public ownership. Another 1000 houses are planned as part of 'Future Bingham', north of the railway line.
The A46, to the west of the town, was upgraded and completed in 2013 as a grade-separated dual-carriageway. The Widmerpool-Newark Improvement has been diverted to the west of the former Roman town to preserve the archaeology. The A52 bypass to the south of the town opened in December 1986.
My investigation began on a sunny and unseasonably warm Wednesday as I disembarked from the train and made my way down the road to my first destination, which occupies a prominent spot on the historic market place. My first stop, as has been the case on so many trips, was the local Wetherspoons, The Butter Cross.
Built on the site of the former Crown Inn, the pub is named after the monument which stands opposite. Designed by the Nottinghamshire architect TC Hine, the aforesaid monument was erected in 1861 in memory of John Hassall, land agent for the lord of the manor. Hassall died in 1859 at the age of 70 and, for years after his death, on a certain day in spring, the eight pillars of the Butter Cross were decorated with primrose garlands, brought by those who knew him. The pub itself has been tastefully refurbished with seating throughout, local historical photos and a bar to one side of the main entrance. The bar is equipped with 10 handpulls, all of which are in use, offering on this occasion Abbot Ale, Ruddles, Nottingham Butter Cross Brew (x2), Doom Bar, Home Ales Robin Hood, Home Ales Little John, Welbeck Abbey Cavendish and both Black Dragon and Old Rosie ciders. Having recently become acquainted with Home Ales, I opted for the Little John and this was very well kept and refreshing. I took a seat at a high table opposite the bar with my back to the door and absorbed my surroundings. The pub was quiet, although a few small groups and regulars were around. I was impressed with the refurbishment work done and this is a very smart and comfortable place for a pint. I was very much hoping that my day would continue in a similar vein.
Leaving the Butter Cross, I crossed the market place and took a left to where my second pub for the day sprawled on the right hand of the road. Next up, The Chesterfield.
Consisting of a large collection of rooms on split levels around a central bar, this former coaching inn also boasts a large garden and outside seating area with good parking. Now owned by Punch Taverns, The Chesterfield is run by a small consortium of local business owners who are keen to keep this historic pub open. I was forced into a slight change of plan here. Whilst the bar features 6 handpulls, only one of these is in use, offering Rosie's Pig cider. The remaining pumps have clearly featured ale recently as they all have badges on but these are turned away from the customer signifying that they are not available. Not to be deterred, I decided to give the cider a try. It wasn't terrible and I'm not much of a cider drinker in general so the fact that I could finish a whole pint was a plus. The service was also very good here and I was served by a very polite and efficient barman. The presence of badges on the ale pumps suggests that real ale is normally available and I suspect that the sale of this is possibly restricted to evenings, weekends and other busier periods. I see no reason at all why this clearly popular pub would not sell real ale at all so I'm prepared to offer them the benefit of the doubt.
Things were looking up as I retraced my steps across the market place and turned left, following a street which me directly to my next destination across the road. I was about to visit The Wheatsheaf.
Previously known simply as the Bingham, the pub recently reopened and reverted back to an earlier name, now under new ownership. Following a period of uncertainty, the pub is now free of tie, allowing welcome free rein with regards to beer choice. There is a decent sized car park and an attractive outdoor seating area which is particularly popular in fine weather. The interior is divided into a bar area and a separate restaurant beyond with excellent food being served in both areas. The bar offers 10 handpulls, 9 of which are in use during the time of my trip, with a fine choice of both ales and ciders. Ale-wise, the choice is varied between Tollgate Old Rasputin, Wadworth 6X, Milestone Hammerhead, Framework US Pale and Blackjack Duel whilst ciders are represented by Millwhites Rioja Cider, Sheppy's Raspberry, Orchard Pig Chilli and Woodhall's Wizards Sleeve. I was drawn to the Duel from Blackjack brewery, one of a series billed as 'Hop Combat' beers in which 2 differing hops are pitted against each other in the brew to provide different flavour combinations. The version on this occasion set US Vanguard against New Zealand Pacifica in a mix that was incredible to taste. Extremely hop heavy with doses of citrus punch, this is a delicious pale ale that is bolstered by a zesty backbone and fruity top notes. Definitely one I can recommend! The Wheatsheaf is a cosy, comfortable place and it's also dog friendly, meaning that I have no doubt customers find it hard to leave once they have arrived. I was almost tempted to stay for another but the exploration had to continue and so I ventured onwards.
My next stop was just across the road and marked the presence of Castle Rock in this corner of the county as I visited the Horse and Plough.
This one-room pub is a former Methodist chapel with a cottage-style interior and flagstone floor. The Horse and Plough has won numerous awards, having been named CAMRA branch Pub of the Year in 2007, 2010, 2012 and, most recently, 2017. It was also Branch Cider Pub of the Year in 2016. Despite it's small size, the pub holds regular beer festivals, live music and comedy nights and has a high turnover of very interesting beers, with a reputation for being well kept. Speaking of which, the bar boasts 10 handpulls all offering something different, specifically: NZ IPA, Blue Bee Land of the Long White Cloud, Castle Rock Elsie Mo, Thornbridge Black Harry, Vermont Tea Party, Hammerton N7, Lymestone Ein Stein, Shiny 4 Wood, Castle Rock Preservation and Harvest Pale. With such a myriad of interesting beers to choose from, it needed a moment to make my decision. In the end, I was swayed by the NZ IPA (5%). This does exactly what it says on the tin. Lots of citrus hops with a slight piney finish and a crisp, refreshing backbone make this the embodiment of what a New World IPA would be. It goes down almost too quickly, even though I spent a good few minutes here, befriending the dogs that were sat at tables either side of me (with their owners obviously). It is pubs like this that will forever cement my appreciation for the work Castle Rock have done across the region and I'm not afraid to admit that I am a big fan of their pubs in general.
There was one final stop I had to make before this current journey drew to a close. At the end of the road lay my final destination, the White Lion.
Owned by Star pubs, the White Lion is best described as a proper local with a loyal following of regulars who have significant input into which beers are on sale. The pub has its own pool and darts teams and regularly shows live sport on a large TV. There is also a large car park and a good sized outdoor drinking area. The White Lion was named local CAMRA branch Pub of the Year in 2014. The bar sits opposite the main entrance with low tables and chairs nearby and a smaller raised area to one side. There are 2 beers on offer at the time I arrive here, both from Everard's Brewery, namely Tiger and Mad Hatter's Tea Party. I've had Tiger many a time but the Mad Hatter's was new to me so I decided to give it a go. At 4.2%, this is a light amber ale with elegant flavours of rosehip and apple tea, imparting a rounded fruit character with a balanced sweetness. It's an unusual and different beer on which to end the day and it goes down very well indeed.
Bingham had been an eye-opening and interesting place to visit. As well as being a thoroughly pleasant location, the pubs are, by and large, exemplary. Usually pubs are renowned for either quantity of beer or quality, with the latter winning over the former. It's a rare treat to find a place that juggles significant quantities of different beers, all of which are outstanding and looked after incredibly well, especially in a location that is not necessarily that well known. It's perhaps no surprise that pubs in this area have won so many awards in recent years. I can thoroughly suggest Bingham and its pubs as must-visits for anyone looking to enjoy an excellent drinking experience.