St Peter's is set quite high and is visible for a considerable distance across the Gipping Valley. It is worth pausing in its pretty and peaceful churchyard to admire the surroundings and to view the church as a whole in its setting. The church is Grade II* listed.
There are several attractive headstones in the churchyard, also three chest-tombs (Grade II listed) which stand side by side near the south transept. The northern tomb has its side faced with stone, which is beautifully carved with a coat of arms and a skull set amidst crossed palm fronds. Although its inscription is now difficult to read, Davy noted it as commemorating John Acton, who died in 1695 and was the third member of this family to be Lord of the Manor here. His grandfather purchased the Manor of Baylham in 1626 and several members of the Acton family are commemorated inside the church. The middle tomb is that of Elizabeth and Nathaniel Acton (died 1741 and 1745), and the southern tomb of Mary, widow of Thomas Wingfield of Woodbridge and daughter of John Fowle of Brome (died 1872).
The exterior of the church itself shows much work of 1870 alongside the medieval work, and careful observation will easily distinguish the ancient work from the modern.
The western tower, dating from the 14th Century is not buttressed, but is sturdy and well-proportioned. The west window has beautiful curvilinear, or flowing, tracery, of c.1320-30. The ringing chamber is lit by single openings with brick at the sides, and each of the attractive two-light belfry windows has a hood mould, resting upon curved corbel heads. Intriguing gargoyle faces peer out from beneath the parapet of the north and south sides; they were carved to throw the rain water from the tower roof away from the walls.
In the north wall of the nave is a blocked Norman doorway (c.1100). Its semicircular arch is filled with a tympanum which is embellished with a diaper of lozenge shapes. Also in parts of this wall the flints are set in layers - all showing that people have worshipped on this spot for maybe 900 years. In this side are two 15th century windows in the Perpendicular style, both moved to their present positions in 1970 and both have hood-moulds which rest upon corbel heads.
What is perhaps the church's most beautiful window is in the south nave wall, east of the porch: a Decorated window of two-lights, again with lovely moulded curvilinear tracery of c.1320-30. It is from this, and from the tower west window, that some of the 19th Century transept windows were copied. The single west window of the porch was inserted in 1870.
The transepts (1870) have two-light east and west windows, and three-light north and south windows. Over the doorway to the south transept is the inscription; ‘Domus Dei Porta Coeli 1870' (This the House of God and Gate of Heaven).
The chancel exterior was much renewed in 1870, although an original tall and two-light window remains on the south side; this has cusped ‘Y' tracery of c.1300. The three-light east window shows a development of the Decorated style. This 19th century window replaced one with intersecting tracery. Its corbels display the IHS and XP emblems of the name of Jesus Christ.
The south porch is entirely 1870 work; it is small and is faced with knapped flints. It has single lateral windows and its outer entrance has corbels with shields showing the three mitres of the Norwich Diocese (to which Baylham belonged until 1914) and the crossed keys of St Peter. Inside is an attractive roof, studded with flower bosses. The hood mould of the 19th century south doorway rests upon corbels with a face and shield with a cockerel.
of St Peter's is in many ways a Victorian period piece, although several older features do survive. The nave and chancel, of equal width, are divided by a broad central arch; the transepts have wide and shallow arches of 1870, but the simple tower arch is the original 14th century one. The walls of the (particularly the south wall) lean outwards, betraying their great age; this can be seen best when viewing from the east.
Looking up into the roofs, we see mostly work of 1870, although the framework hidden by the boarding is medieval, as are the sturdy tie-beams which straddle the nave, also the cornices at the top of the nave walls. These are wagon-roofs; that in the nave is supported by crown posts, and the chancel and transept roofs are studded with carved wooden bosses of flowers and foliage. Frederick Barnes' work of 1870 is tastefully designed and very worthy of its period.
The floors are faced with Maw's tiles and those of the crossing, transepts and chancel, in true Gothic Revival fashion, display colourful patterns.
Into the tower screen, Barnes incorporated 15th century woodwork from the former rood screen, which can be seen in its top tracery. More tracery from this screen can be seen in the carved front of the reading desk.
The benches are of oak; those in the transept and choir stalls being simpler in design than those in the nave. The altar is also of this date, as is the pulpit, the tracery panels of which were clearly inspired by the south chancel window.
In the south wall of the sanctuary is a medieval piscina drain, set beneath a restored cinquefoil-headed arch. Here the water from the washing of the priest's hands at the Eucharist was poured away. On the east wall, above the altar, are the words, “Holy, Holy, Holy” and flanking the east wall are double arches framing the 10 Commandments on the north side, and Lord's Prayer and Creed on the south. This, together with the Communion rails (by Hart & Co) is all work of 1870.
The octagonal font is a good (though rather defaced) example of a typical 15th century Anglian font. Around the stem are lions with defaced heads and mutilated angels support the underside of the bowl. There is fine carving of the bowl panels, some of which have tiny flowers in their borders. Here we see two lions, four Tudor roses, and angels with shields, displaying the emblem of the Trinity (south) and the Instruments of the Passion (north). These last two motifs are very defaced, so clearly Dowsing's orders in 1643 were carried out! On the north nave wall hangs a
List of Rectors of the parish, complete from 1687. Further east is the blocked 15th century doorway to the rood loft staircase. The north transept now serves as a vestry and here may be seen the 17th century communion table which was the High Altar of the church until1870.
The organ, by Thomas S Jones of Pentonville Road London N1, was installed in 1901. It has two manuals, pedals and ten stops.
Hanging before the altar is a sanctuary lamp, which was given in 1956 in memory of William Richards, who was People's Warden here from 1937-1954. Its red light reminds us that this is a holy place.
The few fragments of medieval glass which have survived have been assembled in the top of the west window of the tower. The east window contains 19th century glass by Clayton & Bell, given in1870 as a memorial to the Revd W Colvile. It shows the Risen Christ, flanked by the women with their spices and ointments and the two disciples at the tomb. The south-east chancel window, showing Jesus as the Good Shepherd, commemorates eight-year-old Margaret Barry, who died in 1902 at Bangalore, India.
The tower contains a ring of six bells. The 3rd, 4th and 5th were cast by Myles Graye of Colchester in 1636, although the 4th was recast by Alfred Bowell of Ipswich in 1911, when he also cast the treble bell. The 2nd was cast in 1865 by John Warner & Sons of London, and the tenor (which weighs 10cwt and has a diameter of just over 39 inches) was cast by Pack & Chapman of Whitechapel in 1772.
See also Simon's Suffolk Churches entry for Baylham