Bawdsey (which means Baldhere's island) was a thriving settlement in Anglo-Saxon times and was probably converted to Christianity between the 7th and 9th centuries.
Bawdsey is recorded in the Domesday Book (1086) as possessing a church, most likely of timber and wattle-and-daub construction.
This timber church was replaced by a solid stone structure in the 12th century but none of this structure survives. The current Nave is now thought to date from about 1210 and pillars and arches from this period are now visible in the outside fabric of the building. These pillars and arches were only revealed in the 1950s [Ref 4].
A major reconstruction did take place only a century later, when Bawdsey was part of the havenport of Goseford, which was a major wine and wool port and home to the King's fleet. This church was a magnificent building, with a very high tower, a wide nave with side aisles and a large chancel. Only the Tower (now dated as 1320) remains from this period, plus the original Nave from 1210.
By the 18th century this church had been neglected but was repaired before the end of the 18th century. This restoration removed the side aisles and chancel and the arches were in-filled with debris, which is still visible today. Also the nave roof was lowered slightly.
A fire caused by Guy Fawkes night revellers, gutted the thatched nave roof in 1841. It was repaired in 1841-9, during which time the tower upper stages were dismantled, leaving a 60 foot stump. Architect George Thompson of Woodbridge.
There was further restoration work in 1874.
Soakaways and drains renewed in 1980 and the Tower roof repaired in 1981 (£7,234). Interior plaster repaired and redecorated, pews installed from St. Clement's Church, Ipswich, reredos relocated (£3,260), and belfry floor repaired (£420) in 1982. Organ gallery floor and churchyard walls repaired and electric heaters installed in 1985 (£900). Bell inspected by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry and floor pulley fitted in 1985, following report by the former Diocesan Advisor, R. Clouston. Further churchyard wall repairs in 1986 (£2,673), and new shed in 1987 (£723).
Tower flagpole replaced in 1990 (£471). Work between 1992-8 comprised: replacing bird wire to Tower staircase openings; cleaning Nave Roof space and belfry chamber; installing new safe and repairing original following break-in; dismantling and rebuilding organ against west window and redecorating ceiling in 1994 (£7,000); installing new light fittings and circuits in the Nave and organ gallery .
There was extensive work in 2002 repairing plasterwork and redecorating interior walls and ceilings (except Tower gallery), and externally removing concrete drain channels, reforming roof rainwater downpipe gullies and overhauling gutters and downpipes (£6,109). After seeking specialist advice, the redecoration was carried out using Classidur solvent based paint, which appeared to be the only option due to the previous application of Permaglaze exterior masonry paint (apart from prohibitively expensive removal).
In 2011/12 there were major repairs to the SW Buttress of the Church Tower, costing £86,747. There is more information on this work on the PCC / Project / Tower Repair site.