Roots of Dereham – Norfolk

Engineer, millwright, iron & metal merchant, iron & brass founder, agricultural implement maker, machinist, broker, Cart and Wagon maker

J Roots Engineer East Dereham Norfolk

John Roots started his career as a dealer, buying and selling in the various sale grounds and markets in and around Fakenham and Dereham. His success in this field, lead him into agriculture and eventually he farmed around 1500 acres in the Dereham area. Later John took over the South Green Iron works on London road Dereham, the business is listed in the 1883 Kelly’s directory as: John roots, engineer, millwright, iron & metal merchant, iron & brass founder, agricultural implement maker, machinist and broker. By 1900 he had added the skill sets of Cart and Wagon maker to this already extensive portfolio and the works by all accounts had grown to a considerable size. Like many such businesses, it was situated beside a good rail link, with ample sidings assisting in the transportation of the companies products. At the end of the 19th century, John Roots also took over the premises of JW Gidneys agricultural engineers who were based in the St Nicholas works, Cowper road in Dereham, the building had previously been used as an Iron and brass foundry having been erected in 1846.

In 1913 the South green works was acquired by one of the Crane brothers of Fransham (see Cranes) and in 1919 the St Nicholas works was rented by Balding brothers who brought it in 1934 and carried on the business as agricultural engineers

John himself finally retired through ill health and advancing age. John Roots passed away in 1938 at the age of 83, only 4 years after finally selling the St Nicholas works to Baldings. This certainly was a very long and a truly remarkable career.

The remains of the South Green works are now covered by an industrial estate and it is separated from what was to become the massive Cranes (later Crane-Freuhauf’s) facility by the A47 Dereham bypass. The railway adjacent to the works does survive and is run by enthusiasts. Regular services operate to the picturesque town of Wymondham which sits on the main line and Steam train services also operate from here in the summer.

The St Nicholas works also survives in Cowper road, its former use being visually unmistakable as an engineering building from its very conception.









Embossed wheel                            Side on shot of a large Roots Shepherdshut

The hut above was one of three on a Farm near Felbrigg in North Norfolk, all were offered for sale. We managed to rehome this and one other to Devon, where the they now live peacefully together in the National park. Their friend now lives happily with three others in a Norfolk field and will be restored by its new owner in due course.


 Another Roots hut that until 2008 stood beside the road at Great Snoring in Norfolk. If it wasn’t for the fact that we have a photo from the Gerald Beavis collection taken in the early 1980’s which shows a Roots plaque over the door, her pedigree would be lost. Unfortunately cast Iron plaques like this are stolen from all manner of objects without regard to the important part they play in identifying where and when historical artifacts were made. It is also worth noting that not all huts were fitted plaques – this was an on-cost to the manufacturer and in the days when even a stove was an added expense, the lack of a plaque could save a penny or two on the final bill.This hut actually seemed to have been adopted by local villagers as there even seems evidence of it being repainted. We first saw this hut in 2006 when this photo was taken, but by 2007 the top stable door hinges had become detached. Passing this spot on the way to the coast in late 2008 she had gone. There was no evidence that she has been burnt and we can only hope that someone realized the significance of this old girl and is restoring her somewhere in deepest Norfolk – if that’s you please let us know.

In desperate need of TLC, albeit complete and still with her Lambing rack/shepherd’s bed and a large medicine /storage cupboard above the bed. Is a would-be shepherd restoring her as I write this – please let us know?