History library

New - A Country Fair
Read Charles Meade's tale of Binegar Fair as it was in the late 1800s.   pdf-logo.gif - 1011 Bytes

Our parish has a long and rich history.  This page aims to give you access to all we know.  You can trace family roots, see what the Romans did, find out how our villages worked and lots more.

The Barrington Papers - everything in one place
First off, you need to get to know Delia Barrington.  Mrs Barrington led the research for Binegar Women's Institute's book A short history of Binegar.  She left for us her meticulous research notes.  We have collected these together and transcribed them into a .pdf file.  There is a wealth of information about everything you could possibly want to know about Gurney Slade, Binegar and the parish.  The notes are available FREE for you to download - just click on the icon pdf-logo.gif - 1011 Bytes

What does Binegar mean?
In 2015, we celebrated the 950th birthday of Holy Trinity Church dating it to 1065 when Edward the Confessor gave the benefice to Bishop Giso of Wells. What the Bishop got was Whitchurch and Binegar Manors in Binegar Tithing.

In 1065, Beazenhangra and Begenhangra was how the village name was written down. Over the years, the name was spelt in a number of ways: Benhangra (1176), Behenger (1247), Benhangra (1321), Benacre (1401), Benangra (1429), Benangger (1450), Bynagre (1490), Benanger (1508), Benynger (1514), Benengar (1526), Benagre (1540), Beniger (1620), Benigar (1720).

From Old English the word could mean “Beage’s wooded slope” or perhaps “wooded slope growing with berries”.

Binegar, though, goes back much further. The Romans were here: Bennett’s, Turner’s Court and Portway Lanes are Roman roads and, at Dalleston, Roman relics suggest someone lived there. The name Binegar, therefore, could be much older. It could be from the ancient Celtic Britons. Why not? We have Celtic Cranmore (cran = tree, mor = big)), and Pen Hill (pen = head) nearby, not to mention the River Avon (avon = river).

Binegar, then could have come from Ben na Gra. Which would mean we live on the Hill of Love or Love Hill. I like that! OK, it is unlikely but it’s more romantic than wooded slopes growing with berries!

Ancient times and the Romans
People have lived on these hills for thousands of years. There are finds of Old Stone Age flint tools from 12,000 years ago.

Around 5-6,000 years ago, New Stone Age people arrived from Europe with agriculture and pottery. This revolutionised the lives of hunter-gatherers who preceded them. The Neolithic people occupied higher land where they herded livestock and grew cereals. One such place was what we call Dalleston.  In 1964, in the garden of No 1, Mr Dudden found flint tools.   He also uncovered evidence of a Roman settlement, finding pieces of pottery dated to the 4th century CE (Common Era or AD as we used to know it).

The Mendips were important for the Romans who mined them for metals.  There was a major Roman road from the mines near Charterhouse to Old Sarum (now the B3135).  Off this run Bennett’s Lane, Turner’s Court Lane and Portway Lane all still roughly in a straight line to the northeast.  These lanes started life as a minor Roman road.  Put a ruler on a map and you will see it lines up with the Fosse Way (A367)as it heads to Peasdown St John.

Source documents
Binegar Roman road  pdf-logo.gif - 1011 Bytes   Dalleston stone age and Roman finds  pdf-logo.gif - 1011 Bytes

Britons, Saxons and the Norman invastion - 400-1066AD
When the Romans departed, Somerset was again in the hands of the Britons. However, Saxons invaded around 650AD defeating the Britons at the Battle of Penselwood. In Saxon times, Binegar became part of a royal hunting estate.

Any links were probably with Wells, which became an ecclesiastical centre after a long history of pagan worship at the springs. King Ine of the West Saxons founded the church of St Andrew around 700AD - less than 100 years after the Saxon conversion to Christianity. It was a ‘collegiate church’ where canons (not monks) said the daily office of worship.

Wells might not have become a Cathedral except for the neglect of King Edward the Elder (son of Alfred the Great). For seven years, one story goes, there were no bishops in his West Saxon realm. An angry Pope Formosus threatened excommunication. The startled King called a Council and, in 909AD, created five new bishoprics. Wells was one of these.

An important figure for us is Giso. The Saxon Chronicle says he was a native of St Trudo, in the district of Hasban in Lorraine and chaplain to King Edward the Confessor.

The King elected Giso to become Bishop of Wells sending him to Rome to resolve some religious questions. There, Pope Nicholas II consecrated him a Bishop (Stigand, Archbishop of Canterbury had been excommunicated). William of Malmesbury says Giso was ‘not only learned but of good conversation and not guilty of simoniacal practices” - selling pardons, favours etc. - which distinguished him, apparently, from Ealdred, the Archbishop of York.

Returning, Giso found Wells in a sorry state. Harold, Earl of Wessex had reduced the Cathedral canons to beggary. The King had banished Harold and given his Somerset estates to the Cathedral. Harold, however, in a lightening raid, taxed his former tenants and stole all the Cathedral’s treasures.

Giso complained to the King without success. However, the Queen (Harold’s sister) gave Giso some compensation. Then, in January 1066, the King died. Harold claimed the crown, seized all his former estates and, according to one story, Giso had to flee. Harold was not King for long and an arrow in the eye saw the end of him at Hastings.

The new King, William the Conqueror, restored Giso to his rightful position and gave back to the Cathedral all the lands that Harold had so violently taken away. With the income from the estate, Giso did great things for the Cathedral increasing the number of canons and building a cloister, hall and dormitory.

The Cathedral’s estates now included two manors called Beazenhangra and Hwete Circe – Binegar and Whitchurch. These two were destined to become the Parish of Binegar.

Whitchurch, you ask, Whitchurch? What has Whitchurch to do with Binegar and where is Gurney Slade in all this? Those are stories for another time. Meanwhile, see if you can find Whitchurch. Oh and where can you say hello to Giso personally?

© 2016 Binegar Parish Council