The first church building here dates back to the 12th century, when most of Hawnby belonged to the estates of the Malebiche family, of Acaster Malbis and Scawton.
In 1190 Richard Malebiche was the aristocratic ringleader of the mob that massacred the Jews of York. His lands here were confiscated from him by way of punishment. But ten years later he was able to buy them back – for the payment of four saddle-horses, two hawks and two greyhounds.
The building was then completely reconstructed in the 14th century. This may well have been due to its being ransacked by the invading Scottish army of Robert the Bruce, and left ruined. The present chancel appears to be largely 15th century work. The pews and the ceiling were installed as part of general restoration work in 1871.