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St Gregory, Pentlow, Essex

(52°5′4″N, 0°38′40″E)
TL 813 462
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Essex
now Essex
medieval London
now Chelmsford
  • Ron Baxter
21 April 2015, 24 October 2018

Please use this link to cite this page - https://www.crsbi.ac.uk/view-item?i=3371.

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Pentlow is a small village in the Braintree district of north Essex, on the S side of the River Stour that forms the Suffolk border. The closest major town is Sudbury, 4 miles to the SE. The modern village centre is a mile to the S of the hall and the church, which form a group close to the river and effectively hidden from the road.

The church is of flint and pebble rubble with ashlar dressings. It consists of a 12thc nave with a 19thc S porch of brick and knapped flint; an apsidal chancel, and a round W tower and a N chancel chapel that were added in the 14thc. The chapel was remodelled c.1600 when it became the Kempe chapel, housing three imposing effigies. Pentlow is one of only six round-towered churches in Essex. Romanesque features are the font, the nave W doorway, now inside the later tower and decorated with an animal head at the apex, and a base re-used as building material at the SW angle of the nave.


The manor of Pentlow was held by a free woman in 1066 and by Ralph Baynard in 1086. It was assessed at 4 hides and 3 virgates, with in addition woodland for 200 pigs, 30 acres of meadow and a mill. Of this manor, 30 acres were held by Walcher.

The manor passed to Ralph’s son Geoffrey, then his grandson William who was deprived of his lands following a revolt against Henry I. The manor was given to Robert, a son of Richard FitzGilbert. The manor was held by Robert FitzHumphrey under Walter FitzRobert and remained in the FitzHumphrey family until the early 14thc.


Exterior Features


Exterior Decoration





The list description places the Romanesque font in the early 12thc. and speculates that the N face, against the wall, is probably carved too. RCHME simply asserts that all faces are carved, but offers no firm evidence. This seems most likely as the font surely cannot have been set against a wall originally. The font is a simpler version of the more famous Norfolk fonts like those at Bagthorpe, Toftrees, Shernborne and Sculthorpe.

The W doorway, and the rest base of the same design of those on the doorway offer the best chance of a date for the 12thc work. The narrow proportions suggest an early date, as do the forms of carving and the tall bulbous bases. A date c.1090 - 1100 is suggested here.


F. Arnold-Forster, Studies in Church Dedications or England’s Patron Saints, 3 vols, London 1899, III, 224.

J. Bettley and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England. Essex, New Haven and London 2007, 625-26

Historic England Listed building 408058

RCHME, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 1: North West (1916), 208-11.

T. Wright, The History and Topography of the County of Essex, 2 vols, 2nd ed. 1831-36, I, 563-69.