tower was built about 700 years ago and is older than
most other parts of the church, and older than most
other church towers in Pembrokeshire. When first built
it provided a belfry and a chapel, and could also serve
as a lookout point and a place of refuge in troubled
times. The spire was added about 200 years later, and
its height (152ft.) makes it a notable landmark for
travellers by land or sea.
The doorway into the stair turret from the churchyard
was made in 1862 by enlarging a window opening, and
the original doorway inside the church was blocked up.
This was done because the rector at that time thought
the bellringers often had too much to drink after ringing
and disturbed the congregation. Halfway up the winding
stone stair is a blocked doorway that formerly gave
access to a rooftop within its church; it was reset
here from another winding stone stair that was filled
in when the spire was built in the late 15th Century.
first-floor chamber, its stone floor resting on the
vaulting of its ground floor, was originally a chapel
which now serves as the ringing chamber. In the eastern
window opening (the tallest one opposite the entry)
the damaged altar slab remains though now covered by
boarding, and to the right of it inside the wooden casing
is a small pointed recess or piscina for altar vessels.
The mechanism of the clock was installed in 1888 and
until recently the three sets of weights had to be wound
up by hand everyday; this is now done automatically
by electric motors.
There was a clock in the tower in 1650 but it may not
have had a dial and simply struck the hours. It was
replaced in 1726 by a clock with one dial, and in 1813
two other dials were added. A new clock was provided
in 1861 but the fourth dial was not added until the
present clock replaced that one. The boards on the walls
of the ringing chamber recording local charitable gifts
used to be hung inside the church. Two of them were
painted in 1703 and show the quaint spelling of that
time. The heading "Benefactors of this corporation"
shows how civic and church affairs were intermixed,
the Town Council being responsible amongst other things
for the maintenance of the church itself.
stairs lead on up to the belfry where the eight bells
hang in a wooden frame. Four of them were cast in 1789
as part of the a ring of six bells by William Bilbie
of Chewstoke in Somerset, and the frame is mainly of
this date. Each of them is lettered with the names of
the churchwardens at that time: Thos. Saer and John
Lock, and the tenor bell (the heaviest weighing over
12 cwt.) also has the inscription: "I to the church
the living call and to the grave doth summon all".
The two treble (or lightest) bells added in 1818 are
by Warner of Birmingham, named and lettered respectively:
Sanctus Georgius, Sanctus David, and Sancta Maria. The
fourth bell was recast in 1951 by Taylor of Loughborough
and is suitably lettered, the whole ring being then
retuned and re-hung. A 15th-century bell that used to
hang outside the north side of the spire now stands
inside the church. IN 1659 there were five bells but
several had to be recast before 1789 because they cracked.
Standing by the bells it is possible to look upwards
and see the hollow interior of the spire almost to its
full height. The stones on the inner faces are local
limestones like the tower, but the outer faces are of
a finer dressed stone brought from Somerset. Notice
also how the angles of the tower are built across to
produce the eight equal sides of the spire. The narrow
belfry openings were meant to give protection rather
than allow the sound of the bells to be opened out over
The stairs continue up to the parapet walk at the top
of the tower, 83ft. above the ground. The builders of
the spire had to form the octagonal shape face the square
top of the tower, and the spire base shows how ingeniously
this was done. The top-most 8ft. of the stonework was
renewed in 1963 and the weathercock restored and reguilded.
This copper weathercock may well be the one set up in
1715 and often repaired afterwards. In 1894 it was blown
off in a tremendous gale and landed in the harbour!
view from the parapet gives a fine impression of the
medieval town with its tightly packed houses, narrow
streets, town wall and harbour. The more distant views
show Caldey Island to the south with St. Margaret's
Island partly hidden by Giltar Point; to the east, across
Carmarthen Bay is Gower and Llanelli; to the north,
Monkstone Point and Amroth; and to the west, the Ritec
Valley and the Ridgeway with Penally nestling at its
For more photos of views from St. Mary's Tower, click