Fire crews were called to St Mary at the Elms church in Ipswich town centre at 8.30am on Saturday.
Flames were seen billowing from the tower, which is thought to date from Tudor times and includes the oldest working clock in Ipswich.
Firefighters were able to prevent flames spreading to the medieval church building but the fire caused “severe” damage to the insides of the tower.
Ann Peters, the church Sacrisant, who lives opposite the building, said: “I looked out of my window and there was fire coming from the top of the tower. It was an ‘oh my God’ moment.
“The firefighters did a brilliant job to stop it spreading. They were also very brave - at the top of the tower are five disused bells - I was frightened they could come crashing down.”
Click here to read the report from the East Anglian Daily Times
Click here to read to report from the BBC, with video