Bawdsey is a small village of about 200 houses lying at the end of the Deben Peninsula, approximately 7.5miles (12km) south-east of Woodbridge on the B1083 road. It is a linear village with most of the houses situated on either side of The Street and along two lanes, Red House Lane and East Lane, which join up and meander down to the sea half a mile away. The hamlet of Shingle Street, a mile along the coast, forms part of Bawdsey Parish. Along this stretch of coastline stand four Martello Towers, machine gun emplacements and other WWII defences, testament to the vulnerability of this area in the past to invasion.
The origin of Bawdsey derives from the Old English and means 'Baldhere's island'. The term “island” at this time often referred to dry ground surrounded by marsh. We know that in medieval times, Bawdsey was part of Gosford, a group of harbours around the mouth of the Deben. But over the last 500 years the sea has cut in, the Deben has silted up and changed course dramatically, leaving Bawdsey as the only remaining settlement.
The village was originally an estate village and the majority of the old cottages were built by the Quilter family of Bawdsey Manor in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century as model cottages for their workers. The old smithy and workshops lie at the beginning of the village behind the former estate office, now a private dwelling.
Bawdsey has a Victorian Church of England Primary School dating from 1900 with 72 pupils arranged in three classes. An Ofsted inspection in July 2014 rated it as Good overall. There is an attractive village hall, a separate recreation ground with tennis courts, a children's playground and a defunct cricket club and pavilion. A war memorial stands in front of this site. The post office and stores closed in May 1989 but the owners decided to retain the unique Edward V111 wall post-box as the only one left of its type in the UK. Its other claim to fame is the fact it has a cipher of the King's crown and initials that appear on no other post box. There was also a post office in the grounds of Bawdsey Manor.
The oldest building in the village is the parish church of St Mary's the Virgin which stands in a pretty graveyard mid-way down The Street on the right hand side. It dates from the thirteenth century although it has undergone several re-buildings, the latest occurring in 1840s after a fire. This led to the replacement of the thatched roof and a truncated 70 foot tower. The Quilter family mausoleum stands in Bawdsey churchyard.
Another venerable building is the Old Star, formerly a public house, part of which is 500 years old. It is thought that it was originally built as lodgings for pilgrims travelling to Walsingham, but it closed as a pub in the 1980s. Manor Cottage, a listed building, stands opposite and next to that is the earlier 19th century schoolhouse, now disused. Another noteworthy building is a C19th non-conformist chapel which has been turned into a dwelling house.
There are two working farms, Red House Farm and High House Farm, owned by two members of the Mann family. There was a third farm, Manor Farm, situated on a rise at the entrance to the village. The farm house burned down in an accidental blaze in February 2013 and has yet to be rebuilt. Ancillary buildings on the site have been remodelled and turned into a development of holiday homes.
Modern houses have been built as infilling. One row of six along East Lane was designed by architect Rudy Mock and built in 1965. It is only recently that the houses have been re-evaluated, with English Heritage currently preparing a case their listing. Of particular significance is Cavell Close along East Lane, comprising 12 houses built in 2011 as an Enabling Development. This means that the landowner sold the plot as agricultural land and the added value was spent on flood defences. It is thought that other such developments could well follow, local flooding being an ongoing concern at this time. From November 2014-March 2015, the Environment Agency shored up the coastline at East lane Car Park with rock armour.
Once out of the village, The Street becomes Ferry Road which leads down to Bawdsey Quay, two miles away. There is a small sandy beach area, a jetty and beyond the quay Bawdsey Haven Yacht Club where members can store their dinghies over winter and launch them from the slipway at the quay.
A motorised ferry service operates in the summer months, transporting pedestrians and cyclists across the mouth of the river to Felixstowe Ferry. The Boathouse Cafe opens from Easter to October above the boatyard from where a sailing school operates.
Set back from the quay stands Bawdsey Manor, built by Sir William Cuthbert Quilter between 1886 and 1910. It was sold to the RAF in 1936 to become a research station for the development of radar. Bawdsey became the first of the Chain Home stations which were instrumental in helping Britain win the Battle of Britain. A radar museum staffed by volunteers was set up in the former transmitter block in the grounds of the Manor. During 2017, it was refurbished with the aid of Lottery funding and has reopened with a brand new exhibition. Bawdsey Manor became the home of Alexanders College until it closed in 2016. In March 2017 the Manor was bought by the children's activity holiday company, PGL.
Despite its small size, Bawdsey is a very active village with a lively village hall committee and programme of events. On a monthly basis, there is a Coffee and Chat, a Craft Group, winter lectures and a Bird Club; other activities include an annual summer fete, a jumble sale, a local food market in the village hall during the summer months, Quiz Nights, Harvest Supper, Firework Party, the Deben Dip at New Year and other fundraising activities. The mobile library visits once a month in addition to a weekly grocer's van.
Jenny Webb (Local Recorder)