The square tower of Sutton Church is a landmark that can be seen for miles, even now that there are so many other tall buildings in Sutton. It was built in the fifteenth century by one of the Beauchamp Earls of Warwick, partly to demonstrate his power and wealth, but also to serve as a bell-tower. The bell would ring out three times a day to call the faithful to prayer.
Access to the roof of the tower is by a stone spiral staircase with seventy-one steps. There is a door after twelve steps, leading to what is now the organ loft; twenty-four more steps lead to the door to the bellringers’ chamber, above which is the belfry - the louvred window openings of the belfry sent the clang of the bell echoing across the fields. The roof of the tower is supported on massive oak beams which bear a vertical crown post which rises to the apex.
There are known to have been five bells there in 1550, the additional four are thought to have been salvaged from the dissolution of Canwell Priory. Canwell had come into the possession of Bishop Vesey, whose extensive improvements to the church in the 1530s included the construction of the parapet at the top of the tower as well as the extra bells.
The next big changes to the tower came with the 1760 alterations to the church. A clock was installed. The clock mechanism occupied the bellringers chamber, and the bellringers were moved to a new floor where the organ chamber is now, blocking off the west arch of the nave - now the bellringers were less likely to be deafened by the bell’s clang. The clock was driven by a weight which descended to ground floor level in a specially-made groove in the stonework - this groove gets deeper as it goes lower, showing that the tower leans slightly to the north. In 1784 a new set of six bells was provided.
By 1884 the bells were in need of attention and the clock was on its last legs. It was decided to remove the clock (the new town hall in Mill Street then had a splendid clock tower), repair the bells and add another two to make eight. The bellringers went back upstairs, the western arch of the nave was opened up and the west window, once again visible from the nave, was filled with stained glass in 1896. In 1950 a new organ was installed in the tower, blocking off the west window, but now a new re-ordering of the church costing £1.6 million is about to begin, and the western arch of the nave will be opened up again.