An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 3, North East. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1922.
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31. GREAT BENTLEY. (E.d.)
(O.S. 6 in. (a)xxix. S.W. (b)xxxviii. N.W.)
Great Bentley is a parish and village 3½ m. N.N.E. of Brightlingsea. The church is interesting.
b(1). Parish Church of St. Mary (Plate, p. 108) stands in the village. The walls are of very regularly coursed iron pudding-stone, largely laid herring-bone-wise and of small stones; there are some courses of septaria; the quoins and dressings of the doorways are of Barnack stone but the original windows have pudding-stone jambs and heads. The extension of the chancel contains a larger proportion of septaria. The tower is of the same materials with much brick and a certain amount of water-worn granite, trap and other igneous stones. The roofs are tiled. The Chancel and Nave are of c. 1130–40. The chancel was extended towards the E. probably in the 14th century. Late in the same century the West Tower was added. The North Porch was built in the 14th or 15th century. The church was restored in the 19th and 20th centuries; the chancel-arch is modern and the N. porch mostly rebuilt.
The church is a very complete example of careful 12th-century building.
Architectural Description—The Chancel (36 ft. by 20¾ ft.) has an E. window, modern except the splays which are possibly of the 14th century. The quoins of the E. angles are reused 12th-century material. In the N. wall are two windows, the eastern is a mid 13th-century lancet with wide splays; the western is an early 12th-century window of pudding-stone, but with ashlar splays and rear-arch. In the S. wall are three windows, the easternmost is a very small 15th-century cinquefoiled light, above the piscina; the two western windows are 13th-century single lights, with modern trefoiled heads and all modern externally; above the westernmost window are traces of the head of a former 12th-century window; between the two western windows is a doorway, all modern except one stone of the label. The chancel-arch is modern.
The Nave (54 ft. by 24½ ft.) has in the N. wall three windows, the eastern is of the 15th century and of three cinquefoiled lights with vertical tracery in a two-centred head, with a moulded label and head-stops; in the E. splay is a doorway with a four-centred head, to the rood-loft staircase; the two lowest steps are cut in the sill of the window; the stair is set in a thickening of the wall, with a tabled top; the two western windows are of the 12th century and similar to that in the chancel; the westernmost is very much restored; between them is the 12th-century N. doorway, with plain jambs and round arch, each voussoir of which has axe-worked diapering; the impost stones have a boldly projecting volute worked on the inner face of each. In the S. wall are three windows, the easternmost is of the 15th century and of three cinquefoiled lights with vertical tracery in a four-centred head; the two western windows are uniform with the corresponding windows in the N. wall; between them is the 12th-century S. doorway, with a round arch carved with cheveron ornament and a label with cable ornament, and terminating on the E. in an upright grotesque head; the inner order has a segmental arch supporting a tympanum and with each voussoir carved with two sunflowers; the jambs have each a free shaft with cushion capitals carved with leaf ornament, moulded bases and chamfered abaci continued round the plain inner order.
The West Tower (12 ft. by 10¾ ft.) is of late 14th-century date and of three stages, with an embattled parapet. The two-centred tower-arch is cemented and of uncertain date. The W. window is modern except for the head, label and head-stops; the W. doorway has double hollowchamfered jambs and two-centred arch with a moulded label; the hollow-chamfers of the head have a series of carved square flowers. The second stage has in the N., S. and W. walls a pointed window of brick. In the E. wall is a four-centred doorway of brick now appearing in the nave above the collar-beams. The bell-chamber has in each wall a window of two cinquefoiled lights with a quatrefoil in a two-centred head with a moulded label and head-stops; the N. and W. windows are mostly modern and the other windows partly restored; above the E. and N. windows is a cross in brickwork, and W. of the S. window is set a round stone bored through.
The North Porch is of timber on modern dwarf walls; the old timbers are of the 14th or 15th century and include the inner pair of posts, curved outwards at the top and the hollow-chamfered plates with the mortices for diamond-shaped mullions now replaced by modern work.
The Roof of the Chancel has moulded 15th-century plates (now  being opened out). The early 15th-century roof of the nave is of trussed-rafter type and of four bays with curved and chamfered principals, with moulded and formerly embattled wall-plates and moulded wall-posts.
Fittings— Bells: eight; 6th by Miles Graye, 1683; 7th by Henry Pleasant, 1703. Chest: In tower—with cambered lid and iron straps, chest covered with skin, late 17th-century. Coffin-lid: In nave—upper half of tapering slab with hollowchamfered edge and remains of formy cross, 13th-century. Font: octagonal bowl with doubletrefoiled panels and shields alternately, three shields with traces of crosses, moulded under-edge with carved flowers, stem with plain pointed panels, 15th-century. Niches: In chancel— flanking E. window, two with hollow-chamfered jambs carved with flowers, ogee crocketed heads and finials, carved spandrels, side pinnacles and embattled head, late 14th-century, head of N. niche, modern. Paving: In chancel floor, nine slip-tiles with various patterns, including a greyhound, and a stag, late 13th or early 14th-century. Piscinae: In chancel—with chamfered jambs and two-centred head, quatrefoiled drain, 14th-century. In nave—in S. wall, with chamfered jambs and trefoiled head, remains of colour, 15th-century. Plate: includes cover-paten without date mark and a pewter flagon perhaps of early 18th-century date. Scratchings: On font and W. doorway, date and other marks, 17th-century; on E. jamb of S. doorway, two sundials. Stoup: In nave— W. of S. doorway, recess for former stoup.
a(2). Parsonage Farm, house, barn and moat, ¾ m. N.N.E. of the church. The House is of two storeys, timber-framed and plastered; the roofs are tiled. It was built probably in the 17th century and has cross-wings at the N. and S. ends. Inside the building the main block has exposed ceiling-beams and joists.
The Barn, E. of the house, is timber-framed and weather-boarded. It was built in the 16th century and is of four bays with a porch on the N. side.
The Moat is fragmentary.
Condition—Of house, good.
The following monuments, unless otherwise described, are of the 17th century and of two storeys, timber-framed and plastered or weather boarded; the roofs are tiled or thatched. Many of the buildings have original chimney-stacks and exposed ceiling-beams.
Condition—Good, or fairly good.
a(3). Crabtree Farm, house, nearly 1¼ m. N. of the church, with large modern additions.
b(4). House, two tenements, at Green Corner, 500 yards N.N.E. of the church. The front half is probably part of a 16th-century house; the back half is modern.
b(5). House, two tenements, standing back from the road, 250 yards S.S.W. of (4), built probably late in the 16th century.
b(6). House, 100 yards E. of the church, with walls of red brick.
b(7). House, adjoining (6) on the W., built probably in the 16th century. Inside the building some of the timber-framing is exposed.
b(8). House, called the Poplars, 300 yards N.E. of the church, has been refronted with modern brickwork.
b(9). Eden's Farm, house, nearly 1 m. E. of the church, was built probably late in the 16th century with a cross-wing at the E. end. There is a modern addition on the N. side. The gable of the cross-wing has the date 1717 probably indicating some alteration.
b(10). Tye Homestead, house, two tenements, nearly 1½ m. E.S.E. of the church.
b(11). Moat and Fish Pond in Hall Field, S. of the church.