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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55. LITTLE BENTLEY. (E.c.)
(O.S. 6 in. xxix. S.W.)
Little Bentley is a parish 8 m. E. of Colchester. The church is the principal monument.
(1). Parish Church of St. Mary stands towards the S.E. corner of the parish. The walls are of mixed rubble with some Roman and some 16th-century bricks, the dressings are of limestone and brick. The roofs are covered with tiles, slates and lead. The Nave and Chancel are of 12th-century date. In the 13th century the chancel was rebuilt and the North Chapel and a N. aisle added. Late in the 14th century the North Aisle was rebuilt. About the middle of the 15th century the West Tower was built. About 1520 a pre-existing priest's house adjoining the N. aisle was removed and the aisle wall heightened. The church has been restored in the 18th century and in modern times.
Architectural Description—The Chancel (38½ ft. by 15½ ft.) has in the E. wall three mid 13th-century lancet-windows with shafted splays and moulded rear-arches; the middle window has also a moulded internal label with mask-stops. In the N. wall is a 13th-century lancet window; further W. is a 13th-century two-centred archway of one chamfered order with chamfered imposts; cut through the E. respond is a squint with a roughly rounded head; about 6 ft. W. of the window are the Roman brick quoins of the 12th-century chancel. In the S. wall are three windows, the easternmost is of early 15th-century date, partly restored, and of two cinquefoiled lights with tracery in a two-centred head with a moulded label; the splays are probably of the 13th century; the second window is similar to that in the N. wall; the westernmost window is set low in the wall and is of early 16th-century date; it is of one light with a modern head; between the two eastern windows is the modern doorway. The early 16th-century chancel-arch is two-centred and of two chamfered orders; the responds are semi-octagonal with moulded capitals and bases, mostly cut away; the upper part of the wall is of early 16th-century date and has a crow-stepped gable.
The North Chapel (17 ft. by 13 ft.) has a late 15th-century E. window of three cinquefoiled lights with vertical tracery in a four-centred head with a moulded label. In the N. wall are two early 15th-century windows, partly restored, and each of two cinquefoiled lights in a two-centred head with moulded labels. In the W. wall is a late 15th-century archway, two-centred, and of two chamfered orders, the inner resting on moulded corbels carved with leopards' faces.
The Bayning Vault, below the N. chapel, is of brick and was built c. 1647; it has a semi-circular barrel-vault.
The Nave (38¼ ft. by 17½ ft.) has an N. arcade of early 13th-century date, and of three bays with two-centred arches of one chamfered order, circular columns with moulded capitals, circular to square on plan, and moulded bases with square plinths; the responds are semi-octagonal and have similar capitals and bases. In the S. wall at the E. end is the rood-loft staircase of c. 1520; the lower doorway has rebated jambs and a three-centred head; the upper doorway is blocked with 17th-century brick; further W. is an early 16th-century window, partly restored, and of three transomed and four-centred lights in a four-centred head with moulded jambs and label; all of brick; the S. doorway is of the same date, but of stone; it has moulded jambs and four-centred head. The S. wall has brick buttresses and parapet.
The North Aisle (39¾ ft. by 11¾ ft.) has in the N. wall three windows; the two eastern are similar to the S.E. window in the chancel; the westernmost window is of c. 1520 and of brick; it is of two four-centred lights in a four-centred head with a moulded label; further W. is a doorway of brick of the same date and now blocked; it has double-chamfered jambs and a four-centred arch with a moulded label; the N. wall (Plate, p. 143) has a moulded plinth with trefoil-headed panels, except in the W. bay, where the wall was made good c. 1520 in brick after the removal of the pre-existing priest's house. In the W. wall is a window similar to the two eastern in the N. wall.
The West Tower (13 ft. by 11½ ft.) is of three stages (Plate, p. 221) with an embattled parapet and carved gargoyles. The 15th-century tower-arch is two-centred and of one chamfered order on the E. face. The W. window is modern, except for the moulded label, splays and rear-arch; below it is the mid 15th-century W. doorway, with moulded jambs, two-centred arch in a square head with a moulded label and head-stops; the spandrels are carved with foliage and shields. The existence of a former ringing gallery is indicated by a blocked opening in the N. wall. The second stage has in the E. wall a brick doorway opening into the roof and above it is a blocked window. The N., S. and W. walls have each a mid 15th-century brick window of one pointed light. The bell-chamber has in each wall a mid 15th-century window, each of two cinquefoiled lights in a two-centred head with moulded jambs and labels.
The South Porch is of c. 1520 and of brick, with an embattled parapet. The outer archway has moulded jambs, four-centred arch and label. The side walls have each a window, now blocked, of three pointed lights in a square head with a moulded label; the mullions of the E. window have been removed.
The Roof (Plate, p. xxxvi) of the nave is of early 16th-century date and of six bays with hammerbeam trusses with moulded main timbers; the wall-plates are embattled and the hammer-beams are carved with angels holding shields, all much defaced; below the hammer - beams are curved braces with foliated spandrels and wall-posts resting on carved figures holding shields. The early 16th-century pent roof of the N. aisle is of five bays with moulded main timbers.
Fittings—Bells: five; 2nd, 3rd and 4th by Robert Mott, 1599; 5th by Miles Graye, 1625. Brass: In N. chapel—of [Sir William Pyrton, 1490], figure of man in armour, lower part lost, with SS. collar and portcullis clasp, [wife, Katherine, 1501] in widow's veil, five sons and five daughters, and shield of arms, ermine a cheveron engrailed with three leopards' heads thereon, indents of three more shields and inscription-plate. Chest (Plate, p. xxxii): In N. chapel—large, with cambered lid, iron-bound and nail-studded, three locks and two bolts, ring handle at each end, 14th or 15th-century. Coffinlid: In N. chapel—coped slab with moulded edge and carved with cross in low relief, 13th-century, lower part missing. Communion Table: In chancel—with moulded and turned legs, moulded and carved top-rail with consoles at the angles, mid 17th-century. Door: In turret staircase to tower—of two battens with sexfoiled scutcheonplate, early 16th-century. Font: octagonal, one face of bowl with octofoiled panel enclosing a shield of the arms of Pyrton, moulded under-edge, carved with plain shields and rosettes alternately, plain stem and moulded base, c. 1500. Funeralhelm: In chancel—on N. wall, with comb and visor, late 16th-century. Glass: In N. chapel— in N. windows, fragments of canopy work, borders and black-letter inscription, 15th and 17th-century. Hour-glass Stand: On pulpit—of wrought iron, probably 17th-century. Monuments: In Bayning vault—in W. wall, to Penelope, widow of Paul, Viscount Bayning, 1647, arched recess with inscription on brass shield. Niche: In N. chapel—in N.E. angle, with hollow-chamfered jambs and trefoiled ogee head, crocketed and finialed, moulded shelf at bottom, 15th-century. Painting: In N. aisle—on N. wall, part of black-letter inscription, 15th-century, now covered. Piscina: In chancel —with hollow-chamfered jambs and trefoiled head, one round and one octofoiled drain, 14th-century. Plate (Plate, p. xxxv): includes cup of 1623, with an achievement of the Bayning arms, flagon of 1623, both with original wooden cases covered with stamped leather. Scratchings: In tower—on N. jamb of W. window, indecipherable graffiti, and initials and date I.S. 1608. Seating: In nave— four benches with moulded and embattled rails with bench-ends with carved popey heads, eight other bench-ends and eight popey heads, 15th-century. Sedilia: In chancel—recess with double two-centred head springing from moulded corbel in middle, probably 14th-century. Stoup: In S. porch—recess with broken bowl, date uncertain. Miscellanea: In blocked entrance to ringing gallery, reused worked stones. In external quoins, reused trefoiled panels.
(2). Outbuilding, called the "Castle," in the grounds of the hall, 500 yards S. of the church, is a small square building of brick, probably a garden pavilion. It was built about the middle of the 16th century and has a thatched roof. In the E. wall is an original doorway with moulded jambs; the head has been destroyed. In the N. wall is a round-headed doorway and in the W. wall is a similar doorway, now blocked, with remains of a square external label. In the S. wall is an original window, with moulded jambs and now blocked.
(3). Warren's Farm, house, nearly 1 m. S.S.W. of the church, is of two storeys, timber-framed and plastered; the roofs are tiled. It was built in the 16th century and has a projecting upper storey with curved brackets on the E. side. Inside the building are exposed ceiling-beams and joists.
(4). Cottage, on N. side of road, nearly ¾ m. N.W. of the church, was built late in the 17th century. It is of two storeys, timber-framed and plastered; the roofs are tiled. Inside the building the ceiling-beams and timber-framing are exposed.
(5). Fish Stews, S.W. of the hall.