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Essex Field Club
Essex Field Club
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Essex Field Club

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EFC Centre at Wat Tyler Country ParkWe are closed due to the Covid-19 situation, but we are otherwise normally open to the public at our centre at Wat Tyler Country Park every Saturday, Sunday and bank holiday 11am-4pm, check. We are also normally open on Wednesdays 10am-4pm.

Geology Site Account

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St Marys Church, Great Bentley, GREAT BENTLEY, Tendring District, TM10902162, General geological site

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Site category: Building or wall


Building of interest for the stonework, which is of local origin.


Site description

The parish church of Great Bentley stands on the west side of the largest village green in Essex. The church is unusual as it is largely constructed of ferricrete, an iron-cemented gravel that was quarried locally. This stone, which makes a remarkably durable building material, was formed within local Ice Age gravels as an ‘iron pan’, which can be up to a metre in thickness, at the level of the groundwater table. The occurrence of ferricrete beneath the ground in this area is noted in the Victorian geological survey memoir for the Colchester district (published in 1880) which states: “Near Little Bentley, Great Bentley, and Wivenhoe Cross, the gravel is cemented by iron into a coherent mass, overlying loose material.”

In the church walls the blocks of ferricrete are laid in an attractive pattern. The nave is thought to date from about 1130 and the tower late fourteenth century. Ferricrete is one of the few building stones native to Essex.

The church walls also contain some fine cobbles of attractive metamorphic and igneous rocks which may have originated locally from the Thames gravels (Wivenhoe Gravel).

St.Mary’s Church, Great Bentley is built mostly from ferricrete, one of the few building stones native to Essex. Photo © G. Lucy.


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Reference: Dalton 1880 (p.3), Potter 1987 (p.167-168), Potter 2005.

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