An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Hertfordshire. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1910.
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(O.S. 6 in. (a)xiii. S.W. (b)xxi. N.W.)
b(1). Parish Church of St. Peter, W. of the village, is built of flint with stone dressings; the nave is coated with plaster and covered with ivy. The building dates from the end of the 13th or beginning of the 14th century, when it consisted of the Chancel and Nave only. The North Chapel and the South Porch were erected c. 1330. Early in the 15th century another arch was inserted between the chancel and chapel, and the Tower added, and later in the century the clearstorey was raised. In 1889 the S. and E. walls of the chancel were re-built, and the tower has been recently restored.
The 14th-century arches between the chancel and chapel are of very fine detail.
Architectural Description — The Chancel (33 ft. by 17½ ft.) has a modern E. window: in the S. wall are two 15th-century windows of three lights with flat, traceried heads; the second window is much repaired: between them is a late 13th-century doorway with moulded jambs and a slightly ogee-pointed, straight-sided arch; a third window is modern. In the N. wall are three arches; the easternmost, of c. 1430, is four-centred under a square head, with tracery and shields in the spandrels; the inner faces of the jambs and the soffit are panelled; in the apex is carved an angel holding small figures of a knight and lady, whose tomb is placed under the arch (see Monuments below). The other arches were built with the N. chapel, c. 1330; the middle pier and responds have engaged shafts and rolls, with moulded bases and capitals; the arches are slightly ogee-pointed and elaborately moulded; the eastern arch is further enriched by carved crockets and finials, and is flanked by crocketted pinnacles: the labels have head stops, one being carved with the bust of a knight wearing ailettes. The chancel arch was re-built and widened early in the 15th century. The North Chapel (33 ft. by 13½ ft.) has a 15th-century E. window, two N. windows of the 14th century, and a small N. doorway. The Nave (48½ ft. by 26 ft.) has two N. and two S. windows, of two lights each with tracery; all are of early 14th-century date: in the N.E. corner is a rood-stair turret with four-centred doorways at the head and foot. The 14th-century N. doorway is blocked and its outer stonework defaced; the S. doorway is of late 14th-century date with a pointed arch in a square head. The clearstorey has three 15th-century windows on each side; the stonework is much decayed. The West Tower (14 ft. square) is of two stages, with embattled parapet and pyramidal roof; a 15th-century archway, partly restored, opens into the nave; the doorway and windows are of the 19th century. The South Porch has a 14th-century entrance archway, much repaired with cement, and a window in each side wall. The chancel Roof is modern; the nave roof is of the 15th century; some of the bosses covering the intersections of the ribs bear the arms of Benstede and of Moyne.
Fittings—Bells: eight, 1st 1626, 2nd 1630. Brackets: in E. jamb of S.E. window of nave, carved with angels, roses, and a shield with three horse-shoes in dexter and a bell in sinister: W. of same window, carved with grotesque figure. Brasses: on N. wall of chancel, half figure of priest in cope, probably 15th-century: on E. wall of nave, inscriptions to William Clarke, 1591, and to John Clarke, 1604. Chair: in the chancel, c. 1600. Communion Table: in the chapel behind the organ, late 17th-century. Door: in S. entrance, oak, 15th-century. Font: octagonal bowl of Barnack stone, the alternate sides with engaged shafts resting on carved heads, mid 14th-century, defaced: stem with panelled sides and base, 15th-century. Glass: in some of the windows of chancel and nave, fragments, mediæval. Image: in niche over entrance of S. porch, of St. Michael slaying the dragon; somewhat defaced. Monuments: under the 14th-century arch in N. wall of chancel, altar tomb with recumbent effigies, c. 1320, of knight, with crossed legs, apparently wearing camail, hauberk, chausses, leather knee and elbow cops, and a long surcoat, and of a lady with a long head veil, her hands broken off; their feet rest on lions; in the panels on the sides of the tomb, small mutilated figures, probably of their children; between the heads of the panels are plain shields: under the 15th-century arch in the same wall, altar tomb with canopied niches in the sides; on it lie effigies of knight, in plate armour, and lady, c. 1430: in the chancel floor, slabs to members of the Cæsar family, 17th-century. Niches: in S.E. corner of nave, with carved bracket, the canopied head broken away: in N.W. buttress of tower, with shield bearing the arms of Benstede and Moyne. Piscinae: in the chancel, 14th-century, with modern sill: in the chapel, with crocketted label, 14th-century, sill broken and decayed: in S. wall of nave, plain. Plate: includes cup and paten of 1639. Seating: in the nave, some 16th-century benches. Sedilia: in the chancel, three, with detached shafts in the jambs, 13th-century; heads of c. 1330. Stoup: in S. porch, broken.
Condition—Good structurally; some dressed stones inside and outside are decayed.
b (2). Benington Castle (Mount and Bailey), in the village, N. of the parish church, stands about 380 feet above O.D., and E. of a valley falling S. towards the river Beane. The Keep mount is well preserved and conspicuous, but the other remains are very slight.
The 12th-century Keep is, notwithstanding its ruinous condition, of unusual interest, as few other instances are recorded of a square Norman Keep upon a moated mount, and it is the only example in the county.
The Keep Mount, large and flat-topped, covers 4/5 acre, and rises about 16 ft. above the dry ditch, which is nearly 70 ft. wide. The crest of the mount is lined with a slight bank crowned with a modern wall, and is partly encroached upon by a modern house and gateway on the N. Near the E. side is the Keep (about 44 ft. by 41 ft. externally), built of flint rubble with oolite dressings. The walls are between 7 and 8 ft. thick, and now stand from 2 to 9 ft. high; the rubble facing which remains is of herringbone work. At each of the angles are the bases of two pilaster buttresses about 4 ft. in width and 2 ft. in projection, and in the middle of each wall is a similar buttress; they retain some of the ashlar facing which shows the diagonal tooling characteristic of Norman work. The remains of the Bailey on the E. consist of a bank 6 ft. high, without a ditch, forming a right-angled salient. The Entrances are not traceable.
Dimensions—Greatest length through mount and bailey, S.W. to N.E., 570 ft. Width across mount, N. to S., 350 ft. Average diameter of Keep mount at summit, 200 ft. Width of bailey, S.W. to N.E., 150 ft.
Condition—Of mount, good: of keep, ruinous; nearly all the rubble facing has been picked off the walls; a large fragment of the W. wall has fallen inside the keep, and another fragment, part of the S. wall, has fallen outside it. The junction of the bailey with the mount, and the defences of both have been obscured on the N. and W. by extensive alterations to the house and gardens.
a (3). The Rectory, about 350 yds. N. of the church, built in 1637, as indicated by a dated stone over the main entrance, is of two storeys and an attic. The plan was rectangular, but c. 1680 a wing was added at the back, making it L-shaped; in the 19th century additions were made on the N. and W., and the walls almost entirely re-faced with brick. On the E. front part of a moulded brick string-course remains, and a small projecting porch opens into the hall, which is apparently in its original position. The old kitchen on the S. has been divided into several rooms and a passage; the original fire-place with a wood lintel now has a safe set in it, and the ceiling joists are encased in modern plaster. On the N. of the hall is the original staircase with square newels and pendants, and turned balusters. The present kitchen is in the wing at the back. The rooms on the first floor have 18th-century panelling, and to each a small powdering closet is attached. The roof timbers in the attic are ceiled.
b (4). Cottages: a row on the S. side of the village green, one known as 'The Priest's House'; they are all of late 16th-century date, built of timber and plaster, and have old brick chimney stacks; the roofs are tiled. The timber work is exposed only in the 'Priest's House.'
Condition—Fairly good; two of the chimneys are out of the perpendicular.