Bentley Hall Barn, Bentley
*Update* June 2020 - This beautiful and historic structure is for sale. It is in a lovely location but is in need of extensive and sensitive repairs. Possible reuses would need to be considered extremely carefully and be what Historic England describe as "low key" in their write up of the building on their Heritage at Risk register. At the time of this update, it is for sale for £250,000 through Grier and Partners. Click here for a link to their site. Images 1-5: Grier and Partners (www.grierandpartners.co.uk).
Historic England also report in their entry on their at risk register at the time of this update that the building is in poor condition and that they are in discussion with a building preservation trust, but this has been something talked about for a number of years so it is not clear what level of discussions are taking place. They report that an Urgent Works Notice has previously been served and repairs implemented. A detailed and costed schedule of repairs has been prepared in anticipation of the possible service of a Repairs Notice.
Grade II* listed Bentley Hall Barn is a beautiful 16th century structure, thought to date from 1580-82. It has been described as among the largest and most impressive timber-framed Elizabethan structures in Britain, extending to over 54 metres in length by 7.5 metres in width (see the entry in the Suffolk Heritage Explorer site here).
It is timberframed with brick-nogged side walls. The surviving painting of the brick nogging has been described as "exceptionally rare" and is another reason for it being singled out as important. The barn is a fine example of agricultural construction in the 16th century, but is now redundant and in dire need of renovation and re-use.
The description on the Suffolk Heritage Explorer site refers to the southern end of the building having contained a first-floor chamber lit by four windows with internally sliding shutters of which two retain original ‘diamond’ mullions. It is thought that this could have been a location for manorial courts, harvest celebrations and other entertainments.
Apart from the general poor condition of the building, such as the holes in the roof and damage to the walls, there is a major hurdle to overcome in the rescue of this building - bats! This is a nationally important site for bats, and there are seven different types making use of the barn. They roost here, and there are even some maternity roosts. Hopefully a creative solution can be found for Bentley Hall Barn, otherwise we could see it crumble and disappear over time.
In 2007/8 a Building Preservation Trust were investigating taking the building on. The Council is working with a Bat Conservation Trust. It is unlikely that the situation will change dramatically in the immediate future, so any further interest should be directed to the conservation officer and/or Historic England.