ONE morning just over 100 years ago, Sir John Bingham looked out across the Porter Valley from his home at Ranmoor with his wife, Lady Maria.
The couple were in their seventies, so the story goes, and Sir John was a wealthy and philanthropic man after making his fortune in the local electroplating and silver industries.
“Would you like a very fine set of jewels,” he reportedly asked his wife, “or would you prefer to give that beautiful gem over there to the children of Sheffield?”
He indicated a green and wooded hillside across the valley. Lady Bingham, of course, decided that the children of Sheffield should ‘have that jewel, forever.’
And so after Sir John had bought the land, 100 years ago, on September 19, 1911, Bingham Park was opened to the public, and especially the children, of south-west Sheffield.
Last Sunday, around 200 locals joined Lord Mayor Coun Sylvia Dunkley and the great-great-grandson of Sir John and Lady Bingham to celebrate the park’s centenary.
“We’re so lucky to have so many wonderful parks in Sheffield, and so many are due to generosity of chaps previously living in the city,” said Coun Dunkley.
“I think Bingham Park really is special, it’s great for hide and seek, or tennis, and I’d like to thank Sir John and Lady Bingham for their generous offer to the city, and I’d also like to thank the park keepers who work really hard to make it look at its best for all of you.”
She added that the park is ‘a hidden gem’ and there are still many people from outside the area who may have heard of Bingham Park, but don’t yet know where it actually is.
Over the past few months, a handful of local residents have been collecting information.
“We went to the archives and local studies library to get the story, and we decided to put together a history trail,” said Ros Tratt, who organised the celebration day on Sunday along with a team of local enthusiasts, including actors Roland Miller and Shirley Cameron, who played the parts of Sir John and Lady Bingham for the day.
“We looked at the maps and thought it was nice to tell about how a tiny area like this had such a high amount of history,” said Ros.
She and her colleagues have been collecting stories from local people about the park: the man who remembered the park keeper “blowing his whistle at closing time, then shutting the gates, but me and my friends would wait for a bit and climb back in”.
And 92-year-old Nora Gray who remembered her romantic association with the park in the 1940s: “When Colin and I were courting we used to go to the hut for a snog and to look at the view. The panorama was wonderful and if it was a clear night I enjoyed looking at the stars – once we saw a comet. The hut was only small but we never saw anyone else there so we used to think of it as our little hut.”
Local councillor Diane Stimely praised Sheffield local studies library staff for their help gathering stories and information about the park, not least a link to a descendant of the Binghams, Guy Inchbald, now living in Worcestershire.
Guy and his wife Hazel were at the celebrations. Guy said: “About a mile from here there was a little boy playing in his garden, and near the stream in the garden he found a bent old spoon, and took it back to his dad.
“So his dad took it into work at his company, Walker and Halls, and came back a couple of weeks later with the spoon all replated, and now that little boy uses that spoon every Christmas.”
Guy reached in his bag and pulled out a gleaming silver spoon. “ That little boy was me, and this is the spoon, my souvenir of this area.”
He is now trying to complete the biography of his father, Peter Inchbald.
“The fact that my great-great-grandfather gave the children of Sheffield this park, I think that’s smashing.”
Ros added: “I hope the community may be inspired to keep telling stories and sharing memories. The original area of Bingham Park is just a small chunk of the Porter Valley parks and there must be lots and lots more stories to be told about the whole landscape.
“Celebrating the centenary was a once in a lifetime experience but has given the community a chance to remember how lucky we are to have all that green space on our doorsteps, mainly thanks to the foresight of some of our civic leaders and philanthropic individuals such as Sir John Bingham.”
“I’m still piecing the family story together, “said Guy Inchbald, “and this has opened up a whole new chapter to me.”
lMemories of Bingham Park can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org