Little Bentley Hall Waterways and Garden Show 2019
  • Village History

Village History


Little Bentley is a long lane of a village running between one parish and another with, to the east, the village of Tendring - its very name ending indicating that it was an early Saxon settlement. To the west lies Frating which was also established at the same time.

The name of Bentley probably means a clearing in the rushes. The word Bent means a place where rushes grow and the parish gives rise to two sources of a rivulet. Coarse grass is still referred to as “bents in many East Anglian districts today. A Ley is a pasture or unploughed land.

TO RIGHT : Sunday School in 1930s
Jack Rycraft as a Choirboy, and with his parents (front row)

Bentley, Little (St. Mary)

BENTLEY, LITTLE (St. Mary), a parish, in the union and hundred of Tendring, N. division of Essex, 8 miles (E.) from Colchester; containing 472 inhabitants. It comprises 2000a. 2r. 14p., of which 1660 acres are arable, 135 pasture, and 162 woodland. The living is a rectory, valued in the king's books at £13, and in the patronage of Emmanuel College, Cambridge: the tithes have been commuted for £650, and there are 58 acres of glebe. The church is an ancient building, consisting of a nave, north aisle, and chancel, with a tower of stone. A chantry was founded by Sir John Le Gros. There is a place of worship for Wesleyans; and a school is partly supported by the rector.

Early History

Once the Romans withdrew their soldiers from the forts built between the Solent and the Wash, the Anglo-Saxons made frequent attacks upon the south east corner of Britain. The Saxons travelled inland along the rivers and Holland Brook was a navigable river for some miles in those days. Two factors governed the siting of the Saxon village - the nature of the soil and the availability of water. The pattern of their cultivation was shaped by the distribution of river and stream. Suitable clearings were found in which to settle and villages were established similar to those that the Saxons had left on the Continent. There the land had often been flooded and was not fertile, but in the east of England the soil was good and there was running water to supply the village and the farmland when needed.

At first the Saxons built rough wooden and thatched huts, round or rectangular, and only the Thane’s hall (a large barn type structure) was big enough for meetings and feasts. Later as the Christian religion spread, the buildings were of wood and rubble and mortar.  It has been suggested that the Church has Saxon origins and this seems possible given there is evidence of Roman construction in the quoins (brick bases of pillars) found in the present building.

There were once two Manors at Little Bentley called Benetlea and Menetlea which were in the possession of the Saxon nobles named Elwin and Wisgar. This was in the reign of Edward the Confessor. Edward was succeeded by Harold, the last of the Saxon kings, who died within the year at Hastings. The new Norman ruler William started to reward his Barons and followers including his nephew, Alan Earl of Bretagne, to whom he gave the Manors of Little Bentley. At the time of the General Survey it was held by this nephew and Richard Fitz-Gilbert, Lord of Clare, their under tentants being Henry de Spain, and a person named Roger.. Later, these two Lordships were united into one Manor and called Bentley Hall.


14th Century

There is no record of the owners of the Hall until, in Edward II’s reign, it was held by the Le Gros family who had several estates in other parts of the county. The manor changed hands many times with this family - the names William, Walter and Hugh Le Gros occur all within the course of ten years. In 1360 it was held by Alicia, and Hugh de Gros .On her death was succeeded by his son William Le Gros, who died 2 years later and was suceeded by his brother  Thomas. It was a Sir John Gros who was last mentioned as the owner and he died in l383. A Grose-Preste is mentioned as Chaplain of a chantry founded in the Church in 1386.

Sir John granted the Manor, should he die without an heir, to Sir Richard de Sutton and others on condition that they found a Chantry. Sir Richard and Sir John Cherteseye and others rebuilt the old Chapel belonging to the Church and founded a Chantry for one Chaplain. (The purpose of the chantry was the offering up of prayers for the souls of the founder and his family.  The ordinary chantry priest, however, had parochial duties assigned to him under the direction of the rector and corresponded to the assistant curate – he was also often a schoolmaster.)  Little Bentley’s chantry was endowed with one acre of land, a yearly rent of £8.3d, and two hundred faggots from Little Bentley Woods, New Hall Tendring and Hamnestall in Wykes. Sir Richard, who died in l395, had a son and heir named Thomas.


After this, the Manor came into the hands of the Bourchier family - Sir Bartholomew married the widow of Sir John de Sutton. When he died in l409, he left it to his second wife Idonea Lovee, widow of Edmund, son of Sir JohnBrookesbourne.. They had an only daughter Elizabeth who had two husbands; her first, Sir John Stafford took the title of Lord Bourchier arid died in 142l. Her second husband was Sir Lewis Robessart (Knight of the Garter, Standard Bearer of England to King Henry the sixth) who died in l43O. There were no children and when Elizabeth died, three years later, her cousin Henry Bourchier Earn of Eu inherited the estate. Elizabeth is buried in St. Pauls Chapel in Westminster Abbey.


15th Century

The Pyrton family whose Coat of Arms (Ermine, on a chevron engrailed azure, three leopards, or) is on the Font, held “the Manor of Little Bentley and all lands and tenements thereto belonging...” in the fifteenth century. This family descended from William Pyrton of Ipswich and it is his grandson William Pyrton and his wife Catherine who are buried in the Chancel of the Church. William, described as a great warrior (and Captain of Guisne in Picardy) was knighted and died on the 1st July l490. Sir William had five sons and five daughters who were either buried in the Church or were referred to on a stone slab with brasses which was removed to the vestry a hundred years ago or more. (The brasses and stonework have been very much damaged). Four generations of Pyrtons held the Manor until in l609 it was left to a cousin Edmund Pyrton who sold it.


The 16th Century

In Little Bentley, evidence of the changes brought by the Protestant Reformation can be found in the closure of the chantry and its priest that had been set up by Sir John le Gros in the 14th century. Church property was frequently destroyed or removed during this period for both the religious reason of removing ‘popish’ adornments and the secular reason of providing revenue for the Crown.In 1552 Sir William Pyrton seized Little Bentley’s church bells to ensure that the bells were sold to benefit him rather than the King. Puritanism had a particularly strong presence in Essex.  Little Bentley had a Puritan rector, William Tey, who was suspended in 1588. He was later, however, installed as a rector in Peldon.  Tey was a leading member of a group of local Puritan ministers who met weekly to discuss doctrine and evaluate the moral and spiritual qualities of neighbouring clergy.


In June 1589, Morant notes that Captains were to muster men in Little Bentley, with orders issued for the Lord Lieutenant to review them.  Soldiers were to assemble at the sound of the drum under pain of death for absence.


A reminder that Little Bentley was not that far from the coast and its smuggling trade is provided by a report that the privateer Captain Blunt was believed to be staying at Warrren’s Farm in 1572. 


Paul Bayning acquired the Manor of Little Bentley in 1609. Born in 1559, he was the son of Richard Bayning of Dedham and the family came from Nayland. Paul Bayning was an Alderman of the City and in 1595 had been Sheriff of London.  Morant states that ‘he accumulated a very great fortune merchandizing; so advantageous was Trade even in its infancy.’ His extensive land holdings in Essex and Suffolk included almost the whole parish of Little Bentley.


During the reign of James I, Paul Bayning had the stately Hall of Little Bentley built as his own private residence. It was a magnificent building with tall red brick towers and stone decoration. It had spacious halls and extensive dormitories and high mullioned windows made of stone. There was a great arched entrance and its western front overlooked a large sheet of water. It was at this time that the grounds were laid out and the stewponds were made -these were a series of pools for the rearing of fish.  Paul and his second wife Susan (daughter of Richard Norden of Mistley) had a son who was knighted and created a Baronet. Paul the Peer married Anne, daughter of Sir Henry Glenham and had one son Paul and four daughters, Cecily, Anne, Mary and Elizabeth. They all married well. In fact, Mary married three times. Her second husband was Christopher Villiers and one of his descendants came from Canada to Little Bentley in the 20th century and found a bride.


From the will of Joan Bartlet, widow, of Little Bentley (in Essex Wills, Archdeaconry of Colchester (762)

To Peter Cranvin of ‘Bilson’ (Bildeston, co. Suffolk) the bed that I lie on, a table napkin, a pair of sheets, 2 kerchiefs (1 of holland, the other of lockram), a canvas apron, a smock, a neckerchief, a black apron, a tablecloth, a brass pot, a kettle, a skillet, a pewter dish, a condlestick, and a salt.  To his wife a russet petticoat and my best cassock.  To Thomas Lindar of Weeley a bed, a tablecloth, a pair of sheets, 2 kerchiefs, a rail, a crosscloth apron, a board cloth, a brass pot the least, a kettle, 2 pewter dishes, a skillet, a candlestick, a salt, a red petticoat, and a table napkin.  To Robert Hose that dwelt in Wix a bed, a pair of sheets, a kettle, a skillet, a pewter dish, a candlestick, a salt, a kerchief, a rail, and a neckerchief; to his wife a smock; to his least daughter a saucer.  To Edmund Hose a pair of sheets, a covering, a kerchief, a napkin, a holland pillowbere, a saucer, and a pewter dish; to his mother a double rail and a kerchief.  To John Steven the cupboard in the hall, paying 4s for it, and a frying pan.  To Thomas Herd’s wife, the chest that standeth at my bed’s feet and 2s.  To Thomas Coole the younger and his brother George Coole each 6s 8d.  To Mr. Pirton’s wife the hangings in the hall.  To the poor of Little Bentley all my wearing apparel.  To three poor women of this parish that of my ‘verworne’ sheets.  To the poor of this parish 3s 4d.  The rest of my goods to Thomas Coole of this parish for the poor of Little Bentley, he being paid for all his labour, charges and pains, whom I ordain my executor. Proved 27 April, 1574.


17th Century

Life in Little Bentley during the seventeenth century centred on the Manor and the Church and the southern end of the village was then well populated. While the first two decades of the century were prosperous, the following three brought repeated crop failures, depression in the cloth trade, and Civil War. The effects of Puritanism and the Civil War can be seen in the decapitated angels on the Church’s hammerbeam roof. 


Paul, Viscount Bayning born in 1616, the year in which his Grandfather died, lived only 22 years and died on the 11th June, 1658. He was buried in the Church vault. His wife Penelope (only daughter and heir of Sir Robert Nautin) was left with two daughters, Anne and Penelope. Anne married Aubrey de Vere, the 20th  and last Earl of Oxford.  The De Vere family money had been largely dissipated by the 17th Earl in the reign of Elizabeth.  The 20th Earl worked his way through the Bayning money and then pulled down the Hall which was sold by auction. The materials from the Hall were then used to build many of the best houses in Colchester and elsewhere. Farm buildings now stand upon the foundations of the old Hall and part of the Park yielded to the plough. The deaths of Paul Bayning and Aubrey de Vere thus ended both the short-lived status of the Bayning family as members of the upper gentry and the prominence of the De Vere family, Earls of Oxford since 1142.   In about 1680 they sold their estates to Edward Peck esq. seageant at law of Little Samford, then passed to William Peck his grandson. His son William sold it in 1740 to John Moore, who again sold it to Sir Perry Brett, captain of a man of war and Commodore.


Another major landowner in the 17th century, as documented by the Glebe Terrier of 1610, was William Warren, owner of Warrens Farm. William’s land adjoined the Bayning estate and extended to Tendring.




The Revd. John Willis was both a Stenographer and Mnemonician. He graduated (B.A.) from Christ’s College, Cambridge in 1592-3 (M.A. 1596 B.D. 1603) and on the 12th June, 1601 he was admitted to the Rectory of St. Mary Bothaw, Dowgate Hill, London. He resigned in 1606 on being appointed Rector of Little Bentley in Essex.


Willis invented the first practical and rational scheme of modern shorthand founded on a strictly alphabetical basis. The earlier systems (devised by Timothy Bright 1588 and Peter Bales 1590) were utterly impracticable and had no result whereas Wilils’s method was published again and again, and was imitated and improved upon by succeeding authors.


The first work in which his system was explained appeared anonymously under the title of “The Art of Stenographie, teaching by plaine and certaine rules, to the capacitie of the meanest, and for the use of all professions, the way to Compendious Writing”. This was printed in 1602. The only copies known to exist are in the British Museum and the Bodleian Libraries. The fourteenth edition of his work appeared in 1647 - some twenty years after his death. Willis’s shorthand alphabet, the first introduced into German literature, appeared in Nurenberg in 1653.


To students of mnemonics, Willis is well known as the author of “Mnemonica” - a book which develops the principles of the local memory in an apt and intelligible manner - this was originally printed in Latin in 1618. The whole work was translated into English by Leonard Sowersby, a bookseller at the Turn-Stile, near Newmarket, in Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1661.


18th Century

The population of the Tendring Hundred gradually rose during this century.  Nearby Colchester and smaller towns such as Dedham and Ardleigh were hard hit by the decline of their previously flourishing cloth making industries. Little Bentley was not unaffected by the decline of spinning, but few weavers had worked in the Tendring area. The economic situation in the countryside was fairly static; food prices and rents were generally stable. Wages in 1700 were probably 6s for a farm worker -this seemed to be the standard wage over most of Essex. After 1750 things began to change and wages rose to 7s. This was not the only income as the wife probably had some employment, although spinning ceased to be a reliable source of income, and sons might earn a shilling or two on a farm. At this time, two pounds of Beef cost 5d. and Cheese too could be bought for 2 1/2d per pound.


For many years there are records of two Inns or Beerhouses in Little Bentley - as far back as 1604, 2 Inns are recorded. However, after a change in licensing laws and the closure of many beerhouses in Essex, the village was left in 1769 without one Inn for a time. (Little Bromley also suffered in this way).


Figures in the Guildhall Museum collected by the local clergy indicate that the population in 1723 is recorded as 27 families and in 1763 as 30 houses. By 1790, there were 34 houses. (See appendix for population figures)  A 1772 history of Essex states that the Hall was in a ‘ruinous condition’.


19th Century.

Villages on the Tendring Peninsula, some distance away from market towns such as Colchester, did not attract many of the small but growing middle classes of 19th century merchants and professionals.  Nor were there many large estates of the landed gentry.  The formerly grand Manor of Little Bentley had been divided into smaller parcels. The land in Little Bentley instead supported a number of small and medium sized arable and mixed farms.  In Little Bentley, only a few well-to-do farmers and the vicar could afford to keep household servants.


The reverend H.R. Somers Smith came to Little Bentley at the beginning of the century and died here in 1871. The original Parsonage was situated on the opposite side of the road to the Church and in the vicinity of the Glebe Barn. The new Rectory (with 52 acres of Glebe) was built in the centre of the village in 1825 for the Revd. Somers Smith .(Now Filde Hall)

Church Choir in 1930s - Photo top of page.

There was a sudden increase in the number of available dwelling houses in the village between 1801 and 1831. The population figure rose by over a hundred - from 331 to 438 - and this accounted for 92 families. There were 89 inhabited houses; two families shared a farmhouse and two more families shared the Workhouse facilities.

The population total of 438 is made up of 226 Males (110 over 20 years of age) and 212 Females.


The village was completely self-sufficient and all needs were catered for within the parish, Amy South (a widow with one daughter) ran a little General Shop. Thomas Askew was a Shoemaker and so was James Meyer who also had a shop. James Porter was a Butcher and there was a miller, Brewer and Master. James Burling was the Blacksmith and Thomas Salmon was a Wheelwright. There were two Beershops; one run by a man named Church and another by Joseph Pellen at the top of the village - this is how Pelhams Corner was named, Pellen was corrupted to Pelhams which is easier to say. The village had two Carpenters by the name of Seger - Samuel and his married son Samuel Seger jnr.


The population of the village was thus able to provide much of its own needs, but life was very hard for most, particularly the agricultural workers.  Their thatched cottages, while outwardly picturesque, were overcrowded and poorly ventilated. Many cottages were very small and many of them were double tenements. There were two Round-houses in those days and each was intended for two tenants - the only “uninhabited dwelling house” in the village in 1831 was half a Round-house!


Another trade that appears in the 1831 Census return is that of a Brickmaker by the name of James Cooper. The tithe map of 1840 shows a brick kiln on Tendring Road just before the boundary with Tendring.



Little Bentley Windmill was a typical East Anglian Post  Mill.  It was located on the south side of Tendring Road during the 19th century and was demolished in 1905.  Post mills were the only mills designed to move as a unit in the course of their everyday work. It had a three-storey roundhouse and there were three separate floors in the buck - meal, stone and bin. The buck was turned to face the wind automatically by a fan mounted over the rear of the roof: an unusual feature.

Mill House, Tendring Road and Old Windmill approx 1890  - PHOTO TOP OF PAGE

In the beginning of the 19th century, the Mill was owned by Robert Buttrum. A history of Essex windmills provides details of his complicated life:

In January 1811, Robert Buttrum of Little Bentley offered through the columns of the Chelmsford Chronicle a reward to any who could name the person circulating rumours imputing to him unwillingness to settle his debts.  These, he confidently asserted, did not exceed £100 and he had intended to ignore the slanderous attach, but finding ‘that it was industriously circulated with the evident intention of injuring my credit and reputation, upon further reflection I deemed it advisable to pursue the steps I have taken, as a means of repelling the malignant motives directed against me.’  So far as Buttrum’s reputation was concerned, the bubble must long since have been pricked in the sight of the primly conventional, for he contrived to run not only three pairs of millstones, a bakehouse and a modest land holding, but also a wife and mistress.  In June 1824, when his health was in rapid decline, he made a will and dies three months later.  By Elizabeth Brooks, formerly of Brightlingsea, he had two natural sons, Robert Brooks and Frederick William Buttrum Brooks.  To the second son, Buttrum, he devised ‘All that my copyhold messuage, windmill, corn granaries, stable, barn, outhouses, yards, gardens…three parcels of copyhold land…called Tye Fields…holden in the manor of Little Bentley…for ever’, to be entered on Buttrum’s attainment of 21 years.  Robert was to receive a substantial legacy in addition to real estate to equalise the inheritance; during Frederick’s minority, the miller’s ‘beloved wife’ Martha was to receive £25 per annum from rents and interst, and Elizabeth Brooks £30 annually; each to choose items of furniture as desired, and both to live in a specially built cottage, Martha in one part and Elizabeth and her offspring in the other.  Elizabeth was charged with the care of Martha, then ‘very weak in body and mind’, and, ironically, was to forgo her income of £30 if she married.  According to a sale notice relating to the windmill in 1824, it had undergone complete repair, winded itself, and was working three pairs of stones, using patent sails.  Frederick William Buttrum Brooks, miller and farmer, was concerned with the business until he died in 1850.  A chip off the old block, he made generous provision in his will for the wife of a local butcher ‘irrespective of her husband’s actions’, by arranging for the investment of £500 from the sale of the estate, she to draw the interest.

 *****  Patricia Spray from New Zealand has written in to correct some of the claims made in the windmills book which is quoted above...

I can vouch for the correctness of the information beginning "So far as Buttrum's reputation was concerned...."  There's a digit missing from the date at the beginning of the paragraph and an 'e' missing off the end of  'car' but those are minor errors.

The part that is most definitely incorrect is the last sentence beginning "A chip off the old block" etc. It seems to imply that Frederick William Buttrum Brooks had some sort of an affair going on with the local butcher's wife. Not so. The local butcher's wife was indeed his own mother, Elizabeth. Elizabeth Brooks was very young when she was with Robert Buttrum. I should imagine, but have no proof, that his affair with Elizabeth was a business arrangement. He had a sickly wife, who was unable to bear him children. He badly needed offspring and Elizabeth was a young healthy girl. She was only 20 years old when her first son was born. Robert Buttrum was in his mid forties. Of course, as I said, I have no proof of this, but it does seem likely.

However, I am sure that the last sentence is incorrect. Robert Butrum died in September 1824. Elizabeth was then only 23 years old. In approximately 1834 she married the local butcher, Carrington Cooper, and it was she that Frederick William Buttrum Brooks "made generous provision in his will for" . Elizabeth went on to have two more children, William and Carrington.


In the Census of 1831, the Mill House was the residence of the Mayhew family who had one son and two daughters. Mark Mayhew and his son ran the milling business.

After this, Frederick Brooks himself became the corn miller until he died in 1850


In 1870 Robert Brooks moved to Little Bentley from Ramsey where he had owned and worked the mill for 28 years. His son, Robert Brooks Jnr., took over the running of the Ramsey Mill for a few years and then leased it to his younger brother John. He succeeded his father at Little Bentley in 1878.  By 1882, he was listed under liquidations, and twelve years later a successor, Benjamin Richardson, suffered a similar fate.  The difficulties of keeping the mill as a going concern seems to have led to its remaining idle thereafter until its 1905 demolition.




In a majority of Essex villages workhouses were established to house poor and disabled people.  Little Bentley’s Workhouse was established in 1774 and had accommodation for 26. It was situated on the opposite side of the Harwich Road . Many sale catalogues of the local farms and cottages describe places “on the any to Workhouse Green” or “at Workhouse Corner”.  The parish was advertising, in l774, for a man “able to run the spinning”, which was a major source of workhouse income. In 1831 there were 17 inhabitants of the Workhouse. Two families accounted for 10 of these residents. The man of each of these two families and the Master of the Workhouse are listed in the Census as employed in Agriculture. Three other men were perhaps elderly, ill or disabled. There were also two young brothers and two girls listed.


The Poor Law Amendment of 1834 removed responsibility for the poor from parishes over to a Board of Guardians for the area.  Each union had its own workhouse, and Little Bentley was part of the Tendring Union with its workhouse at Tendring Heath.




At the beginning of the 20th century, the Bricklayers Arms was a weatherboarded building looking south towards Church Road where the Post Office (run by Mrs. Elizabeth Hazel) was situated at Orchard House. To the left of the house was a large shed where, amid the sweet aromatic smell of many woods, Mr. Hazel was busy with spokeshave and other fine woodworking tools for he was the Wheelwright and also the Coffin Maker.


To the east, the Tendring Road ran past the Village Pump, its refreshing waters always flowing and safe from the winter frost because of the solid wooden box (stuffed with straw) which encased it. There were a number of other wells and springs scattered throughout the village providing additional sources of water. On the right was all that remained of the old Postmill - the ruined round-house and soon that too was to disappear.


At the junction of the roads, the Corner House might aptly have beer called ‘Shoemakers as five people had carried on the craft in this house. First James Meyer and then his son of the same name, followed by Askew, Southgate and finally Mr. Fred Eagle.


The “High Street” of Little Bentley was Rectory Road where there were shops for provisions. Looking north from the Green the chimney of the Bakehouse (now “Coppins”) could be seen to the left of the Bricklayers Arms - the morning air was heavy with the aroma of freshly baked bread. Later, the cooling ovens, heated in the age-old way with wood, were used on payment of a copper or two for the baking of people’s pies and puddings etc. Mr. Arthy was the Baker and he also ran a shop.


A few yards further on could be seen the ebb and glow of the Smithy - the ringing notes of the hammer echoing around the heart of the village. This was a farming community still, and farming as dependent on horses; horses were dependent or Austin Suggate the Blacksmith. Mr. Suggate was a busy man - there were always new shoes needed for plough horses, frost nails to be fitted in the winter. Ploughs to repair, shares to be made - the Smithy was a meeting place. This was the time when a day's ploughing at The Hall saw thirteen teams (26 horses) cross the road to begin work on the big field.


There was another General Store opposite the Rectory gates and Mr. Southgate continued his shoe repairing now in this road, surrounded by a pile of leather shavings so deep that he fitted a board across the doorway rather than remove his thick spongy carpet.


At the Rectory, the Revd. Joseph Dixie Churchill was in Residence. In the Cottage at the gates lived the School Mistress and in the old Schoolroom at its side had long since been converted into a dwelling house.


Between the Rectory and “Huntsboys” there was a grassed down field in which the popular game of Quoits was played. The Quoits were heavy and made of steel and could weigh 2 or 3lbs (sometimes more) and were pitched onto an iron stake standing on a mud (on clay) bed. Two points were scored if the quoit fell over the stake and one point for a hit. It was an absorbing game with many finer points and matches were held in competition with other villages. The teams were usually attached to the local Public House and this was the meeting place of the Bricklayers Arms Quoits Club - at one time Captained by Austin Suggate.


This was a time when all entertainment was homemade and the community spirit was strong. Shows were held at the Hall and concerts, were performed in the village hall. Many children spent happy hours at the Rectory rehearsing and reciting in the Playroom.


Further to the northwest is Monkey Street where legend has it that in an old Cottage set back from the road and now destroyed, an elderly man kept monkeys.

The old Workhouse opposite Pelhams Corner had been converted into four Cottages in the l9th century.


To the west and almost on the boundary lime, the buildings of Clipt Hedge farm still looked new, replacing those lost in a serious fire on a September night in 1892 when seven stacks where also ablaze and furniture from the house was carried out to the lawn when it was feared that it too might be destroyed.


The last farm to the north is Welhams Farm. Those who remembered the stockyard blaze could remember also the tragedy here in the August of 1892 when there was a fatality in the harvest field. Steven Mason was pitching and, as the wagon moved forward, he fell. Both wheels, passing over his head and chest caused “almost instantaneous death”.


From this end of the village, children had to walk to the School standing in the shadow of the Church. Children from Ravens Green walked through the beautiful Beech Avenue of Little Bentley Hall Wood when weather permitted. (This avenue of trees was felled during the First World War). In the Hall grounds, the Lakes were clean and alive with fish and on the islands in the centre there were Summer Houses.


There was another Public House in Ravens Green called the Gamekeepers Arms. This quiet house was taken over before the First World War by Mr.& Mrs. Neal. None of the family drank beer (or any other form of alcohol) and as only 4 gallons of beer were consumed during the week in the bar, business was very poor. When the War broke out, Mr. Neal went off to fight and Mrs. Neal’s name “Sarah Jane” went up over the door as licensee. The arrival of the Somerset Regiment who were stationed in Little Bentley for a time revived the trade. Mrs. Neal was an excellent cook and served some of the Officers with their evening meal. The Gamekeepers Arms soon became a popular meeting place and remained so until its closure in the middle of the century.

A rew report has been obtained  1/2014 about Gamekeepers Inn with a photo which is being added.



The Annual Outing to Clacton when the Harvest was safely gathered in was a day to be remembered. Wagons and horses supplied by Mr. Carter of Dairy House Farm, Ravens Green and Mr. Knowler of the Glebe Farm took as many of the inhabitants as possible for a day at the seaside. Both the waggon and horses were gaily decorated.

John Knowler senior was born in 1821 the address was The Cottage , Tendring Road, Little Bentley   on the tendering road and their occupation was agricultural labourer  and horsekeeper , and his son john was born in 1854 at the same address( Supplied my Mrs E Shackleton - relative)

Later in the year, there were Harvest Suppers - Cold Beef, Salads, Apple pies and plenty of Beer. These were held in the larger farm barns which were decorated for the festival with bracken and other greenery. Opportunity certainly knocked for local talent on these occasions - “Come on Joe, give us a song boy...”.


Prior to the First World War, a Carriers Cart pulled by a pair of horses, was the only transport available. This was provided by a Mr. Parker from Thorpe-le-Soken and. ran into Colchester three times a week. It was a very special treat for a child to have a ride and visit the tows. Mr. Robert Southgate was a general carter from the village to Thorpe Market, taking provisions such as eggs and chickens to be sold. After the War, Hooks Bros. from operated a service with Motor Driven Vehicles, built by themselves. Many people owned bicycles and they could be bought in the village itself from Mr. Eagle. The first two Motor Cycles seen in the village were ridden by Dr. Frank Atthill (from Great Bentley) and Mr. Bell the Road Superintendent.



Village Fete ad Filde Hall (Old Rectory) in 1920s
Later Fetes in the Village Rev Barlow & Mrs Rycraft

The annual event to which the Village looked forward between the Wars was the “Flower Show” held in the Park of Little Bentley Hall. The Show took place in July and arrangements were made to avoid it clashing with the Tendring Hundred Benefit Feast - this event was organised by a Friendly Society and it was most important to see that the two dates did not coincide. Also the same Committee who were organising the Show were probably the people who would be asked to help with the Benefit Feast. (If the Feast were to be held in the parish, there was a Church Service followed by a meal. There was also a Beer Tent on these occasions)


The schedule for the Show included “A Collection of Potatoes” of four varieties - six of each; the entrance fee for this class in 1926 was 6d. and the prizes were 7/6d, 5/- and 2/6d. There was also a special prize of 7/6d to a Member and Exhibitor in Class A. who had the greatest number of exhibits in all classes. There were classes for Pastry and Buns and another section for Knitted Garments, Crochet and Embroidery. The class for Fruit included plates of Raspberries, Black Currants and Red Currants and various Jams and Preserves. Among the Flowers, Sweet Peas reigned supreme and a collection of these meant six varieties twelve spikes of each. The biggest prizes were given for Table Decoration and was the highest award. Children were catered for and there was a special class of Handwriting for the under-eight’s. The prizes of 2/-, 1/-. and even 6d must have been greatly treasured.


The Great Bentley Brass Band were asked to play between the hours of 2-30 and 9-0 p.m. and there were many Sideshows in the form of Bowling for the Pig, Aunt Sally, Skee Ball, Coconut Shies, Darts, Guessing the Weight of the Pig, Driving the Nail, Guessing the Number of Peas in a Bottle and Ringing the Peg.



Farming has always been at the heart of life in Little Bentley. The Saxons were farmers and for 900 years their methods of sowing, scything, thrashing and winnowing were still in use. The importance of farming is clearly revealed in the Census figures for the 1800s which show all in the village employed as farmers, agricultural labourers, or the trades and businesses supporting them such as the blacksmith, miller, baker, and beer-shop keeper.  In 1831, for example, of the 92 families, 75 were concerned with Agriculture. 14 were employed in and maintained by Trade, Manufacture or Handicraft.


Farming practices and methods changed little in the years prior to the 20th century, although the types of arable crops changed over time, and improvements to farming practice such as crop rotation were readily adopted by Essex farmers.  One Little Bentley farmer in 1724 was quick to introduce the newly introduced crops of clover and turnips, used to provide animal fodder. 


The families in Little Bentley did, however, change over time, with many labourers moving between nearby villages.  The Census records for the 19th century show that Little Bentley residents were more likely to be born in adjacent villages or even counties than to be Little Bentley natives.  The agricultural depression of the last part of the 19th century had a particularly dramatic effect on the makeup of the village, with many emigrating elsewhere to better their fortunes, and their places taken throughout the next few decades by immigrants from Scotland and elsewhere in England.  Current Little Bentley farming families tracing their arrival to the early years of this century include the Kings and the Evans from southern England and the Clachans and the McDonalds from Scotland.


20th century mechanisation has had a dramatic effect on farming, reducing the numbers needed to grow crops with machines replacing men and animals.  Mechanisation, however, took its time to finally triumph – McDonald’s farm, for example, continued to use a cart horse until the 1960s, as seen in the photograph.  Little Bentley’s population declined from its mid-19th century peak of over 400 as result of the decline in demand for farm labourers, but it remained fairly constant through the 20th century, with former agricultural cottages now inhabited by those who commute to jobs elsewhere. 



The Quarter Sessions records at the Essex Records Office provide an interesting window into daily life in Essex villages, in particular the nature of crime and punishment.  As would be expected in a rural area, livestock theft was a frequent crime.  In 1559, Ardleigh labourer Robert Sparre was indicted for stealing 8 sheep from a Little Bentley farmer.  In 1667, three Great Bentley residents were indicted for killing four ‘fallowe deare’ in Aubrey, Earl of Oxford’s Little Bentley Hall Park. 

In 1671, there was an indictment of Elizabeth Livinge for stealing ‘one petticoate’ worth 2s, ‘one sheete’ worth 6s, ‘three squares’ worth 6d, ‘foure handkerchiefs’ worth 8d, ‘one apron’ worth 4d and  ‘one stomacher’ worth 4d.  The records noted that the accused confessed and was branded.



Bayning House - A newspaper article written after the official opening noted “The Datchet Evangelical Fellowship built the flats particularly for retired Christian workers but their isolated situation only suited the active and mobile.

Late last year the flats were taken over by the Baptist Men’s Movement Housing Association, and nominations for half the tenants are now made by Tendring District Council”.

Filde Hall -  Kelly’s Directory of 1870 states “The Rectory, a handsome residence, standing in a small park, was built by the present Rector (Richard Somers Smith) in 1825”.

 Memories of Eleanor Worne, daughter of Rev. Barlow (Lt. Bentley vicar 1929-34)

My father was offered the Little Bentley living in 1919.  It belonged to Emmanuel, his old Cambridge College.  The previous incumbent had been there about 40 years and nothing had been done to the house in that time!  He had been looked after by his daughter and finally left at the popular request as he had done nothing for some years.  My mother nearly ran away when visited it when it was offered.  However, they accepted it, but had to have the house completely ‘gone over’.  There was no water of course, only a pump by the stable. There was also no water or gas – none in the village, and the nearest phone was at Great Bentley.  But we all loved the house and even then, it was lovely.  The ‘living’ was between £600 and 700, good for those times, but as his predecessor was still alive, my father had to pay him £180 a year, as that was then the custom for incumbents.  So my father took 3 resident pupils to coach for Cambridge.  They were Persian – we had 2 or 3 lots and they were all very nice! The bedroom over the scullery was made into a bathroom, with a hole made by an ‘installed’ bath.  This went down into the scullery where the maid worked a rotary pump from water heated in the boiler. We restored the tennis court which faced the front of the house.  This was done by most of the Rectories who had young families.  This was really the only and favourite amusement, particularly in our case as my father was a Cambridge Tennis Blue.


Gurnhams -“Landes Lyinge within the Parrish Of Tenderinge” and in the occupation of William Warren in 1627 was “One Caputall Messuage called or knowne by the name of Garnams”. Although much of the land lies within the Tendring boundary, Gurnhams has always been attached to Little Bentley. (A Manor of Gernons - site unknown - was quoted in 1384; in 1512 the name of Garnons appears in records and it was by this name that Paul, Viscount Bayning held a Manor at the time of his death in 1629). The carriageway to the house was in a direct line from the Church. bearing south across the fields opposite the Hall and crossing the Brook below Spring Meadow.

Little Bentley Hall About 1680, the reversion of the Manor and other estates were sold to Edward Peck of Little Sampford (serjeant-at-law) Edward Rigby of Covent Garden and Mrs. Pierpont etc.

 When the Earl of Oxford died in 1703, an Act of Parliament was obtained to settle the division of the estates. Little Bentley Hall was allotted to William Peck (grandson of Edward) and his son William succeeded him. The Peck family owned the Manor of Little Sampford at one time and a Gertrude Peck (1705) and William Peck (1740) were recorded as benefactors to the poor of that parish. In the Church there, are several handsome monuments to the Peck family. (William White’s Directory 1848).

 In 1740, William Peck parted with the Manor and Estate to John Moore of Southgate in Middlesex.Morant records that in 1761 the estate was sold for £8,800 to Sir Percy Brett, “Captain of a Man of War and Commodore”. After his death, it passed to his only daughter Henrietta. In 1812, Thomas Hamlet - the London Goldsmith bought the estate and in 1826 it was sold to John Shaw of London. Mrs. Bond, daughter of John Shaw, held the estate until her death in 1868 when her heirs sold it to John Woodgate who had resided there since 1846. An Essex history written in 1877 notes that he had ‘done much to improve and embellish it as a residential property.’ He also ‘accumulated a valuable library of old and rare books’.


Bentley Manor  This is the location of the Parsonage prior to 1825. The Glebe Terrier of 1610 notes that it stood one hundred yards farther north from the Church and situated on the left hand side of the road stood “..... the Parsonage House and Barne and Stable with 7 yards lying east betweene ye house and the higheway. . .“. On each of the other three sides were pightells named respectively South, West and North “which sayde three pightells does abutt West upon Cowey Wood”. “The south parte of the Parsonage house with the West Pightell. is in the occupation of John Willis, now parson of Little Bentley and the North part of the house, Barne, Stable Yardes and the South and North pightells in the tenure and occupation of Robert Munte”. 

( Pightell = Enclosure )


Rectory Cottage  This used to be two cottages with, in the early 19th century, a schoolroom attached.

Warrens Farm   The name of Warren (sometimes spelt Warren, Warne or Wareyn) has been associated with Little Bentley for many years. In 1492 the lane to the south of the present farmhouse was known as Wareyn’s lane. The earliest Will still in existence in the name of Warren was made in 1501. In 1578, Agnes Rand agreed to serve Robert Warren for one year, taking as wages 24s and one pair of shoes of thread.  The Parish Register notes that in 1602 William Warren married Susan West.



In his history of Essex during the 18th century, Arthur Brown notes that the Anglican and traditional non-Conformist churches both had a low profile in the Tendring Hundred, giving space for expansion to the Methodists ‘the latest and most zealous of all the denominations’.  Methodist services were held in a Little Bentley farmhouse in the early years of the 1800s and in 1811 were transferred to a permanent chapel.



The Church of St. Mary the Virgin holds the history of the parish in its masonry. The Nave and Chancel are of Norman origin and Roman brick quoins are incorporated into the Chancel.

The three tall lancet windows at the east end of the Chancel are 13th Century; also the lancet windows of the north and south walls. There is a 15th century window on the south side and the third window, set low, is 16th Century. The archway into the North Chapel is 13th Century and there is a hagioscope or “squint” cut into the east respond. The Chancel has a beautifully painted Victorian barrel ceiling.


The Nave has seven hammer beam trusses - mostly elm -and these are carved with angels holding shields although have been very much defaced. There are massive 15th Century pillars dividing the Nave from the North Aisle and in the south wall is a stairway cut in the 16th century which led up to a Rood Loft or Candle Beam. The use of the Rood Loft for Religious festivals was forbidden in the reign of Elizabeth I and the beam was removed Later the top of the stairway was blocked with 17th century bricks. The south window is also 16th century and made of’ brick. The south doorway also of the same date is stone.


The North Chapel (now used as a Vestry) has a late 15th century East window and two early 15th century windows in the north wall. In the N.E. corner of’ the Chancel is a beautiful little Niche with ogee head, crocketed and finialed: it has a moulded shelf at the bottom. This north Chapel was originally the Lady Chapel. The 15th century western archway has viners resting on a moulded corbels carved with leopards faces. Leopards appear in the Pyrton Arms carved on the Font.


The North Aisle has three windows in the north wall; the two eastern are similar to the S. E. window of the Chancel. The window to the west and a doorway are c. 1520 - the doorway can be clearly seen on the outside of the Church although the opening is now bricked up. There is also a moulded plinth running along this outside wall with trefoil headed panels - the only break occurs where the Priest’s house was removed and the wall made good. The window in the west wall is again similar to that in the Chancel.


The West Tower has three stages and was built about the middle of the 15th century; it has an embattled parapet and carved gargoyles. The only graffiti in the Church occur just inside the West Door but it is indecipherable except for the initials “I.S.” and the date - 1608. There is a blocked opening in the north wall of the tower which indicates the existence of a former Ringing Gallery.


The Bells.

There are five bells in the tower of the Church; the second, third and fourth made by Robert Mott in 1599. The fifth bell was made by Miles Graye of Colchester in 1625 - the year in which he also made one of the finest bells in Suffolk. This hangs in Lavenham Church and is the famous tenor bell said to be the sweetest bell in England.


The South Porch is made of brick and is c. l520. There are mullioned windows on each side which are now blocked and there is a Stoup in the east wall (recess with broken bowl) but the date of this is not known.


The parish Chest which stands in the Nave is 14th/15th century. It has a cambered lid and is iron-bound and nail studded. There are three locks; two bolts and a ring handle at each end.



The names of the Rectors of Little Bentley from the first year of the reign of queen Elizabeth I.

            1558.            William Robinson.
            1606.            John Willis.
            1625.            Anthonie Whiting.
            1648.            Henry Stenrner.
            1687.            Thomas Menzies.
            1712.            Andrew Thexton.
            1721.            Charles Lidgould.
            1765.            Yorick Smythies.
            1824.            H.R. Somers Smith.
            1871.            William Denton Attwood.
            1885.            Joseph Dixie Churchill.
            1928.            C.W. Barlow.

            1935.            Robert C. Chattey.
            1935.            H. Walker.
            1943.            A.C. Kibble.
            1947.            Herbert Henry Griswell.
            1950.            Charles Tatham.
            1956.            Percy H. Wingham.
            1960.            Christopher D. Alderson.
            1968.            Gordon Watkins.
            1974.            Christopher Elliott.




There is evidence that nearly all of eastern England was covered with forest in pre-historic times with clearings, to form the present day farmland, taking place between the Neolithic and Anglo-Saxon period. (In 1086 there was not much more woodland than in 1800).


Little Bentleyhall Wood appears to be an ancient woodland which has continued since the last cold phase of the Ice Age some 10,000 to 11,000 years ago.


Traditional woodland management results in ancient woods retaining their continuity with the original forests and are of particular biological and historical importance.


Little Bentleyhall Wood is, in structure, a coppice with some standard woods. The Coppice, mainly sweet Chestnut, is felled at intervals for large poles and allowed to grow again. The larger trees, of sweet chestnuts and Oak are allowed to mature and may be felled at longer intervals to yield large trunks. Coppicing was recorded here in the Middle Ages.


The sweet Chestnut is a long established alien species (its remains are often found in Roman sites” in the woods of the Tendring Hundred. There are few mediaeval references to it but one of these, for Little Bentley, shows that it reached the Tendring peninsula by the 15th century.


A Manorial Survey of 1627 provides information compatible with the present wood boundaries. And other historical evidence leads to the conclusion that this wood has existed within its present boundaries since the 17th century and, prior to that, as part of a mediaeval woodland park.

A Survey of the 1790’s included Little Bentley in a list of Essex parishes with coppiced woods.


Little Bentleyhall Wood is the largest tract of woodland left in the Tendring Hundred.










































































Sources:  17th Century – Essex at Work, 1700-1815, A.F.J. Brown, Essex Records Office, 1969

18th and 19th Centuries – Decennial Census


Follow above link for Weddings and Baptisms in Little Bentley 1754-1813




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