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St Mary, Bentley, Suffolk

(52°0′6″N, 1°5′8″E)
TM 119 382
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Suffolk
now Suffolk
  • Ron Baxter

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Bentley is a large village in S central Suffolk, 5½ miles SW of Ipswich and only a mile from the A12 and Capel St Mary, the nearest town. The village itself has a good deal of newer housing, but the church, the hall and Bentley Park are a mile to the N. The country here is arable farmland, with plantation around the park and older woodland nearby. St Mary’s is a flint church comprising a nave with S porch, chancel and W tower. The nave was given a N aisle with its own double pitched roof and a three-bay arcade by Benjamin Ferrey of London in 1858, and this extends E as a pseudo-chapel (actually an organ room and vestry) with an arch to the chancel. Ferrey’s work included a major restoration of the nave, and the chancel was reconstructed during the incumbency of Canon Beauchamp (1879-99), but some older fabric remains. The nave has a 19thc. S doorway that includes two 12thc. chevron voussoirs in its inner order, and the chancel has a N window, refaced outside but retaining its deep splay within. There is a loose chevron voussoir in the vestry. The tower is 15thc. with diagonal W buttresses, a polygonal S stair and an embattled parapet with flushwork decoration.


The Austin priory of the Holy Trinity, Ipswich, held Bentley church in 1291, according to its Taxation roll, and the same priory gained small plots of land here in 1335, following the grant in 1327 of a licence to obtain land or rents in mortmain up to an annual value of £10. The small Austin priory at Dodnash held lands in Bentley in the 13thc., and in 1327 the prior obtained right of free warren over his lands here and elsewhere. Bentley Hall held by Hugh Talmache (Tollemache) 13thc., Sir Lionel Tollemache (1571). Old Hall Bentley / Church house Linked to Levington, Nacton, Holbrook and Holton St. Mary (Fastolf family) in 15thc. Linked to main manorc.1532 (Lionel Talmach).

Benefice of Sproughton with Burstall, Copdock with Washbrook and Belstead and Bentley with Tattingstone.


Exterior Features


Loose Sculpture


The attribution of the N aisle to Ferrey is from the Incorporated Church Building Society archive in Lambeth Palace Library, available online through Church Plans Online (http://www.churchplansonline.org/). Mortlock attributes the work to R. M. Phipson. No other occurrence of point-to-point chevron has yet been identified in Suffolk.

Victoria County History: Suffolk II (1975), 99-100.
H. M. Cautley, Suffolk Churches and their Treasures. London 1937.
D. P. Mortlock, The Popular Guide to Suffolk Churches: 2 Central Suffolk. Cambridge 1990, 21-22.
N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Suffolk. Harmondsworth 1961, rev. E. Radcliffe 1975, 98-99.