The matrix cracking behaviour of a (0/90)2s laminate loaded in flexure is studied analytically and experimentally. Simple bending theory is used in conjunction with a shear–lag analysis to develop an expression for the flexural stiffness as a function of crack density in the single 90° ply towards the tensile face of the beam. A flexural compliance approach is used to deduce the applied bending moment and associated in situ ply stress at initial failure. This method is extended to enable thermal effects to be incorporated. A thermo–elastic analysis is used to obtain an expression for the residual curvature, which develops as a result of cracking. Experimental data have been obtained for crack onset and accumulation in the single 90° ply of a (0/90)2s GFRP laminate as functions of applied bending moment and in situ ply strain, together with data for residual properties as a function of damage. Agreement between theory and experiment is satisfactory.