A Brief History of the church
The Parish church of St Mary the Virgin, Great Bentley dates from the mid 12th century, and has served the parish continually since then.
It was incorporated into the newly created Chelmsford diocese in 1914.
The building is constructed from iron puddingstone, interspersed with some courses of septaria (limestone), and there appears also to be some Roman brick. It has a tiled roof and a crenellated square tower. The plain interior is whitewashed, with roof beams exposed. Only one window has coloured glass, which was installed in the 20th Century (1958).
The earliest parts, the nave and chancel, together with some of the windows, have been dated to circa 1130-40.The stone font is thought to date from the 13th Century. The tower and an extension to the chancel were completed in the 14th Century, together with a porch on the north side. The current porch is 19th Century. The Reformation saw the sale of many church objects and the removal of the rood screen. The rood loft was also lost at this time but the steps which led to it can be seen near the font, on the North side of the nave.
In the mid 19th Century, with an increasing congregation, various internal changes were made to accommodate more seating, and the roof was repaired. A new organ was installed in 1897, and in 1904, the false ceiling of the nave was removed to reveal the beamed roof we see today.
There have been bells in the church since the tower was built, with 5 being recorded in 1707. The bell-ringing tradition is still strong today, with the current 8 bells being rung regularly.
The most recent repairs and alterations include a separate Parish Hall, kitchen and toilets completed in 1987 and reached by a linking passage from the south doorway of the church.
The church tower was repaired in 2005, with money coming from various sources, including the Friends of Essex churches and the Association of Bell-ringers.