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The bells of St Nicholas are unusual, but not unique, in that the bell tower stands separately from the church. The tower, or clocker, is a robust structure with walls over 3 metres thick. Climbing the tower to the bells is almost a history lesson in itself. The tower has had a chequered history;during the Napoleonic War it was a holding prison for French prisoners of war. There is a memorial to a prisoner, Jean de Narde, shot whilst trying to escape in the churchyard
These days the tower is put to more peaceful uses, as the structure for the town clock and having a peal of eight bells (Tenor 22 Cwt). It is recognised as one of the finest peals in Norfolk with the bells having been re-mounted into a new steel frame in 1957. At this time the new tenor was cast. The oldest bells date back to 1753. The enthusiastic band of ringers meet for practice on Monday evenings, 7:30 till 9 p.m. and ring for Sunday worship from 9 till 9:30. We also ring for weddings and other occasions as required. Occasionally the bells are rung for funerals with the clapper half muffled, producing a very special effect.
We are always on the lookout for new ringers, skilled tuition is available at the tower (please contact the parish office for more information).
As Dereham is the centre of a holiday area, visiting ringersoften join our practice and Sunday worship. Practice nights are sociable occasions and often end with a visit to a local hostelry. Bell ringers are usually people with a wide range of interests, careers, age groups and ringing abilities.