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JohnRoots 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.