Farmstead record BTY 059 - Farmstead: Bentley Hall

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Summary

Bentley Hall is a farmstead visible on the 1st Ed Os map. The farmstead is laid out in a regular multi yard pattern with additional detached elements. The farmhouse is detached and set away from the yard. The farmstead sits alongside a public road in an isolated location. There has been a significant loss of working buildings with the remaining in disuse.

Location

Grid reference Centred TM 1192 3842 (224m by 196m)
Map sheet TM13NW
Civil Parish BENTLEY, BABERGH, SUFFOLK

Map

Type and Period (7)

Full Description

Bentley Hall is a farmstead visible on the 1st Ed Os map. The farmstead is laid out in a regular multi yard pattern with additional detached elements. The farmhouse is detached and set away from the yard. The farmstead sits alongside a public road in an isolated location. There has been a significant loss of working buildings with the remaining in disuse. (S2-5)

Bentley Hall and its associated outbuildings represent one of the best preserved and most historically important Tudor manorial complexes in Britain. No fewer than three buildings on the site are listed at grade II*. The hall was the medieval seat of the Tollemache family. A house may well have occupied the site at Domesday, but the earliest part of the present building dates from circa 1400. An ostentatious new brewhouse was constructed behind the house approximately a century later and this building, later converted to stabling but restored in the 1970s, is an extremely rare survivor of its type. The central part of the house was rebuilt in 1582 and bears its date, the Tollemache arms, and the initials ‘LT’ and ‘ST’ on a fine jetty bressumer. A spectacular barn and meeting hall, extending to 160 feet in length, was built alongside the imposing entrance avenue to impress visitors, and probably faced a matching stable that has since disappeared. The family sold the house in 1668, after which it was partly rebuilt in brick.

The appearance and internal layout of Bentley Hall reflects the standard pattern of medieval houses. Until the late-15th or early-16th century the central part of the house would have been open to its roof in the manner of a barn and heated by an open hearth burning on its clay floor. Flanked by two gabled and jettied crosswings containing storage rooms to the right and a parlour (a sleeping apartment) to the left, this smoky hall was entered by a cross-passage at its ‘low’ end while the chief Tollemache of the day sat on formal occasions at the opposite, ‘high’ end. Only one of the three component parts of the medieval house survives today: both the open hall and parlour cross-wing have been rebuilt, but the service wing remains largely intact despite the replacement of many original timbers during a restoration of the 1970.

The hall was completely renewed in 1582 and reflected the latest fashions of carved decoration and fenestration. The interior of the hall contained a single, spacious room on each floor (The existing corridor and bedroom partitions on the upper storey are later insertions that appear, if their panelling is in situ, to date from the early-18th century). The chimney against the rear wall is largely original, capped with two ‘diamond’ shafts, although much of the lower brickwork and the ground-floor fireplace has been renewed. The arched and rendered fireplace on the first-floor fireplace is better preserved, and retains traces of original red ochre pigment. It is unfortunately impossible to determine the layout at the high end of the 1582 house as its parlour wing was rebuilt in the late-17th century, and it is unclear whether an entirely new wing was provided or the medieval wing retained and extended A new kitchen was added to the rear of the old service wing, and provided with one of the more impressive arched kitchen fireplaces in the county. The contemporary bread oven beside the fireplace is an unusually early survival, and the painted decoration exceptionally well preserved. The small projection to the side of the kitchen is contemporary and probably contained a storage room on its ground floor with a ‘closet’ above that was linked by an original doorway to the bedchamber above the kitchen. The small projection to the side of the kitchen is contemporary and probably contained a storage room on its ground floor with a ‘closet’ above that was linked by an original doorway to the bedchamber above the kitchen.

Bentley Hall was sold in 1668 to one John Cudworth, and by the early-19th century was a tenanted farmhouse before its temporary reacquisition by the Tollemaches in 1895. The chief alteration of this period was the reconstruction of the parlour wing in brick during the late-17th or very early-18th century, and a change of orientation which saw a fashionable new frontage with symmetrical fenestration and central doorway added to its eastern elevation. The new frontage was updated once again in the late-19th century, with sash windows set into a new brick façade.

A remarkable jettied building of the early- 16th century lies approximately 36 feet from the rear gables of the existing crosswings at Bentley Hall. Formerly misinterpreted as a court house, it represents one of the finest early-Tudor brewhouses in Britain. The structure was probably termed a ‘backhouse’ by those who built it, but it would have been a multi-purpose building that combined the roles of kitchen, bakehouse, brewhouse, granary, general storehouse and perhaps even a maltings. In later years it was converted into stables and was derelict before an extensive restoration of the 1970s saw the replacement of many timbers and the complete renewal of its roof and most of the back wall. Extending to 70 feet in length by 22 feet in overall width on its jettied first floor, it contained six bays and was divided into three ground-floor rooms (S1).

Recorded as part of the Farmsteads in the Suffolk Countryside Project. This is a purely desk-based study and no site visits were undertaken. These records are not intended to be a definitive assessment of these buildings. Dating reflects their presence at a point in time on historic maps and there is potential for earlier origins to buildings and farmsteads. This project highlights a potential need for a more in depth field study of farmstead to gather more specific age data.

Sources/Archives (5)

  • <S1> Unpublished document: Alston, L.. 2005. Historical Survey: Bentley Hall, Bentley.
  • <S2> Unpublished document: Campbell, G., and McSorley, G. 2019. SCCAS: Farmsteads in the Suffolk Countryside Project.
  • <S3> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1880s. Ordnance Survey 25 inch to 1 mile map, 1st edition.
  • <S4> Map: Ordnance Survey. c 1904. Ordnance Survey 25 inch to 1 mile map, 2nd edition. 25".
  • <S5> Vertical Aerial Photograph: various. Google Earth.

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Record last edited

May 18 2020 11:59AM

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