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FIELD WALKING

BRIEF DETAILS ABOUT THE PARISH

The parish of Bingham is situated in south Nottinghamshire. At its closest point it is about one mile from the River Trent. The total area is about 1214 hectares (3000 acres) of which about 870 are under arable cultivation. The amount of pasture in the parish is very small. The Crown Estate owns nearly all the farmland and it is farmed in five major units. Holme Farm and Starnhill Farm are farmed together by a company called Farmeco. Top Brackendale and Lower Brackendale farms are a single unit, as is Spring Farm and Whitefield Farm. Brocker Farm and the land west of Chapel Lane are farmed by tenants from outside the parish.

GEOLOGY AND SOILS

The bedrock in the whole parish is mudstone and sandstone with some gypsum. All the rocks lie within the Mercia Mudstone Group of Triassic age. It is overlain in parts by deposits laid down during and between the Ice Ages of the last 2 million years (Quaternary age). The most important of these from an archaeological viewpoint are the extensive deposit of lake sediment in the north of the parish and the remains of a till deposited 450,000 years ago.

Lake deposit. The lake formed after the climax of the last Ice Age, about 20,000 years ago, and gradually silted up. The area is flat and was prone to flooding until the 1950s when drainage was improved. Dark grey clay up to 4 metres thick underlies much of the area. Thin beds of peat occur at depth and locally at the surface giving a black clay soil. The thickness of the deposit varies greatly. Sections seen in ditches west of Chapel Lane show that it is as little as 50cm thick in places and the topography here suggests that small islands of bedrock protrude through the clay. In the east, where the deposit is thickest, Parson’s Hill probably represented an island near the margin of the lake.

Till. During the Anglian glaciation (about 450,000 years ago) ice covered the whole area and some small patches of deep red clay till or boulder clay remain. This is the material that accumulated within and on top of glaciers during the Ice Age and is left behind when the ice melts. More importantly there is also a spread of remanié deposits derived from Anglian till. These consist mainly of pebbles of various kinds, including flint, which were left behind after the main body of the till has been weathered away. During the Devensian glacial period (120,000 to 10,000 years ago) Bingham was not under ice, but was Arctic-type tundra on the southern perimeter of the ice sheet.

Hollygate Sandstone. This formation of sandstone is shown on the geological map to run east-west across the middle of the parish and underlies both the current centre of Bingham and the site of the deserted medieval village at Crow Close. It consists of a set of thin sandstone beds within the Triassic Edwalton Formation of mudstone. Its importance to the history of settlement of Bingham is that it is a water-bearing formation and provided a source of fresh water for the inhabitants of Bingham until the 20th century.

Soils
The 1:250,000-scale soil map (1983) of the Midlands and Western England shows that there are two main soil types in the parish. South of the A52 the main soil type is a stagnogleyic brown earth. This soil characteristically forms in drift over Permo-Triassic reddish mudstones. It is a red coarse and fine loam over clayey soil with slowly permeable sub-soils and slight seasonal water-logging. Typically this soil is used for growing cereals, sugar beet and potatoes. North of the town, over the lake deposit is a pelo-alluvial gley soil. This is a stoneless, clayey soil, in places calcareous, variably affected by groundwater. It forms on flat land and there is a risk of flooding. Typically this type of soil supports permanent grassland used for raising stock, but cereals are grown on it where the risk of flooding is low.

For full details about the geology go to Parish Geology

TOPOGRAPHY

The progressive change of the lake from a full body of water to marshland to rough grazing took place partly through natural causes and partly because of drainage schemes by man. Little is known about the history of this process of change. The result, however, is an extensive area of flat land in the north of the parish.
The lake margins are clearly defined on the geological map and the marginal areas are low-lying and gently undulating. To the north the most prominent feature is Parson’s Hill, which would have been an island at the edge of the lake. Flat areas to the east of the lake are alluvium that probably represents streams that drained the lake in the post-glacial period.
The hinterland to the south of the lake is dominated by a prominent east-west ridge, which rises to over 40 m OD. It has a steep northern slope, but slopes gently southwards towards the River Smite valley and its tributaries on the south.

ARCHAEOLOGICAL BACKGROUND

Prior to commencement of the History of Settlement project Bingham’s rich archaeological heritage was already well known. Flints collected by field walking in the southern half of the parish in the 1970s (Coleman, 1979) record a human presence in the parish from the Late Upper Palaeolithic through to the Bronze Age. The discovery of a Neolithic stone axe during building work in Bingham supplemented dating information provided by the flint collection. Bronze Age artefacts were uncovered at the Roman settlement of Margidunum (Oswald, 1937, 1948 and Todd, 1969).

There is evidence in the form of crop marks on air photographs of a settlement on Parson’s Hill that Coleman (1979) suggested was probably Iron Age. Sherds of scored ware were found in the western part of the hill and recorded in the EMAB (1977). This is one of several Iron Age sites in the region. Palmer-Brown and Knight (1993) describe an Iron Age settlement in Aslockton about 2km to the east of Parson’s Hill and Platt (2005) excavated an Iron Age farm site at Whatton prison, close to the Bingham parish boundary. Finds of handmade pottery of probable Iron Age date were collected during field walking carried out by Trent & Peak in fields around Margidunum (Appleton et al. 2003 and Kinsley, 2004) while Rayner (2006) recorded sherds of Iron Age pottery in excavations behind the Chesterfield Arms. This is good evidence that Bingham and the area around were well populated during the Iron Age.

According to Todd (1969), the Roman army arrived into this well settled Iron Age community some time around AD50-55 and left in AD73. They built the Fosse Way and established a garrison at Margidunum, which quickly grew into a small town. Stone buildings were built here from the mid-second century to replace earlier wooden structures, while later that century an earth rampart with at least one outer ditch was constructed around the town centre. Todd suggested from field walked evidence that the town extended well beyond the fortified centre, but it was not until Trent & Peak field walked the area in the early 1990s and again in 2003 (Kinsley, 1993, Appleton et al, 2003) that the full extent of the town was mapped and shown to extend at least 800 metres to the north and south of the centre along the Fosse Way and nearly as far along the road to East Bridgford. They also located a villa near Newton. Evidence of a fairly substantial Roman farmstead was found during building work at Carnarvon Primary School in the late 1960s (Gregory, 1969) and more recently a Roman cemetery was discovered in Bingham itself behind the Chesterfield Arms (Rayner, 2006). Casual discoveries, usually during building work, have revealed Roman coins and burials in Bingham itself, all of which are recorded in SMRs. A villa has also been found at Car Colston (Blagg, 1970), just to the north of the parish. The level of activity seems to be showing that this area was well populated and flourished economically during the Roman occupation.

There is evidence of Anglo-Saxon occupation in the parish in the form of an inhumation on Parson’s Hill excavated in 1863 (Meaney 1964) and a cremation cemetery found by metal detecting and field walking in the early 1970s (Alvey, 1980). Finds attributable to the Anglo-Saxons were collected during excavations at Margidunum (Todd, 1969). A tumulus observed by Stukeley (1726) is sited on the Fosse Way apparently in the middle of the road and is thought most likely to have been a high-status Anglo-Saxon burial mound. Indeed, Bishop (1981) believed that the land around Bingham and Orton was part of a large Anglo-Saxon estate. Bingham (Bingameshou) did give its name to the wapentake, possibly in the 9th century, and the meeting place for the wapentake is thought to have been near the Moot House Pit on the Fosse Way.

Remains of what has been regarded as a deserted medieval village since 1907 (Allcroft, 1907) can be seen at Crow Close within the boundary of the current town. This is a scheduled monument and has not been excavated.

Documentary evidence for Bingham’s history begins with an entry in the Domesday Book. Information about Bingham exists in archive papers, but much of it has not been searched. An attempt to bring some of it together in a history of Bingham was made by Adelaide Wortley (1954). This is at times a rather fanciful account not free from errors. Other written histories, include Bingham in the Past compiled by E. Foster (1982), Victorian Bingham edited by V. Henstock (1986) and Bingham’s Children of the Twentieth Century by Haynes and Smith (2001) and the leaflet series and web site produced by BHTA. A summary is presented by Stroud (2002).

For the references mentioned here go to References.


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