The old bells, a heavy five, were originally hung in the central tower which, prior to the 16c was one stage higher and boasted a tall spire. Concerns over the strength of the tower (or lack thereof) prompted the building of the present massive detached campanile. The five bells were transferred to the new tower but it was not long before Thomas Newman recast these into a 14cwt ring of six. Just 25 years later, in 1742, Lester & Pack of Whitechapel were commissioned to cast a new heavy ring of eight. Only two of these bells remain, the rest having been recast at various dates.
The town of Dereham dates back to Saxon times and was probably founded in the seventh century when St Withburga founded a monastery. She was the youngest daughter of Anna, King of East Angles who was killed in battle in 654. After his death Withburga became a nun and settled with other holy women in Dereham, which they had picked as a site for a holy religious foundation. When she died she was buried in Dereham Churchyard, but her body was stolen by monks sent by the Abbot of Ely. It was re-interred near those of her royal sisters St Ethelreda and St Saxburga. In the place where Withburga's body was wrenched from the earth a spring started to flow with healing properties. Withburga is still remembered in Dereham. (Roger Peckham)
- PostcodeNR19 1DN
- Grid RefTF987132
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