Fenny Bentley

Fenny Bentley is only a small village, spliced in two by the A515, with a cluster of old cottage, pubs, a church and a fascinating old hall. The main road through Fenny Bentley was turnpiked in 1777 to become the Buxton to Ashbourne road, prior to this the route followed a parallel path about two thirds of a mile to the west.

At the side of Bentley Brook a little way from the village of Fenny Bentley are the remains of Woodeaves Mill. The original mill buildings were constructed by John Cooper in 1784 for his hosiery business , but were demolished early in the 20th century. Approximately 100 people were employed there including many of the residents of Fenny Bentley. They also manufactured cotton doubling which was then transported to Nottingham and used in the lace and curtain trade. The mill was powered by water from Bradbourne Brook and fed by means of a ¾-mile long canal which also carried goods to the mill in small boats. The mill converted in the 19th century to steam power and one building held a 16hp engine. Production ceased around 1908 but some of the buildings were later used as a cheese factory.

Fenny Bentley Old Hall is now known as Cherry Orchard Farm. It is a rather strange looking building and has a medieval tower at the front which is all that remains of the 15th century fortified and moated manor house of the Beresford family. Across the road is St Edmunds Church with an impressive spire which was added in 1864.

Thomas Beresford who lived at the aforementioned Hall in the reign of Henry VI raised a private army of troops and fought at Agincourt. He died in 1473 ten years after the death of his wife Agnes, but it is thought that the wonderful monument contained within Fenny Bentley church to their memories was erected some 100 years later, by which time the sculptor had no way of knowing their features as no portraits existed. He therefore created a strange sculpture where the heads of father, mother and all twenty-one children featured around the sides, are contained within shrouds tied over their heads. It is thought that all the children predeceased their parents although some must have reached maturity as a granddaughter of Thomas Beresford eloped with Charles Cotton senior, whose son we all know from his local connections.

Also contained within Fenny Bentley church are an early 13th century oak chest and a beautifully carved rood screen and vaulted ceiling of about 1460. The screen was given to the church by a member of the Beresford family as a thanksgiving after the War of the Roses.