Bentley's History
A little of Bentley's History...

In 1086, the Domesday Book described Bentley (population 31) as having: “12 acres meadow, woodland for 42 pigs, 8 cattle, 7 pigs, 42 sheep, 1 mill at Dodnash”

The Domesday Book also mentions St Mary’s church, with its 30 acres of free land; the early history of the parish is interesting, with Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age, and Roman finds reported within the parish, and a Roman road forming part of its northern boundary. Around 1230 Dodnash Priory (founded in 1188 in East Bergholt) moved to Bentley, and its Augustinian monks served the parish until it was dissolved shortly before the Reformation.

We still have many fine examples of listed buildings in the village, some dating back to as early as 13th or 14th century. The influential and wealthy Tollemache family came to live in Bentley shortly after the Norman Conquest and lived here for over 400 years before moving to Helmingham Hall. They established many of the major houses in the north of the village close to St Mary's Church. The Church has Norman roots and the nave is believed to date back to 12th century.

In 1674, the number of inhabited houses was 39, and it didn’t change significantly until the coming of the railway station in 1849 (Bentley had its own station until the Beeching cuts in 1966). In 1851, the number of inhabited houses had rocketed to 94. In 1951, following the construction of a council housing estate, it had grown to 157; and in 1981, the number was 309. Population at the last census in 2011 was 776.

In terms of public houses, the village boasted three in 1912; the village has bought the last remaining one, the Case is Altered, and runs it as a community pub, with a community-owned shop in its grounds.

Another important building in Bentley life is the Village Hall.  The village has had some sort of village hall for around 100 years!  The first “hut” was erected in 1923 adjacent to the road. This was replaced in 1965 on an enlarged plot by a substantial wooden building, which by 2000 had reached the end of its life. Grants were sought from many sources, and much fundraising was carried out within the village over a number of years.  We were eventually successful in getting a National Lottery grant. The new hall opened in 2007 and is an important village asset.