Revisit the industrial heritage in the heart of Norfolk

Manufacturing machine and operator at Crane Fruehauf at Dereham in about 1970

Manufacturing machine and operator at Crane Fruehauf at Dereham. Date: circa 1970. - Credit: Archant Library

Trailers, vehicles and containers built by this historic mid-Norfolk firm wound their way across the world – and today we are revisiting the Crane Fruehauf factory in Dereham where many of them were built.  

But this story begins with an industrious gentleman living in Norfolk in the 19th century.

In 1865 William Crane established a blacksmith’s business at Great Fransham, six miles west of Dereham.

Crane Fruehauf Dereham assembling a trailer for charity in 1988

Dereham and Fakenham industries: assembling a trailer for charity at Crane Fruehauf in Dereham. Date: June 20, 1988. - Credit: Archant Library

Mr Crane struck out by making velocipedes – iron and wooden bicycles without springs, earning them the nickname ‘boneshakers’.  

He went on to develop a revolutionary new type of horse-rake, eventually adding wheelwright, timber merchant and wagon building services to his roster.  


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After his death in 1913, Mr Crane’s two sons took over his business and opened a branch works in Dereham.

Welders at work assembling a heavy trailer at Crane Fruehauf in Dereham in the 1970s. 

Welders at work assembling a heavy trailer at Crane Fruehauf in Dereham. Date: 1970s. - Credit: Archant Library

Between 1939-1945, Cranes (Dereham) Ltd. built 3,204 vehicles and 250 tank transporters for the Armed Forces.  

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In 1961 Cranes partnered with US-based Fruehauf International Ltd. to become Crane Fruehauf Trailers Ltd - expanding their Norfolk operations with a new factory in North Walsham as well.

Aerial picture of Dereham showing the industrial premises of Crane Fruehauf, Metamec and Jentique

Places -- Dereham Aerial picture showing the industrial premises of Crane Fruehauf, Metamec and Jentique. Date: March 9, 1970. - Credit: Archant Library

From the 1980s, international competition and changes in global logistics put pressure on companies like Crane Fruehauf and operations in Dereham eventually closed down in 2003.

Please enjoy these old photos of Crane Fruehauf factory facilities from the EDP archive – you might even recognise yourself or someone you know in them. 

Assembling trailers at Crane Fruehauf in Dereham 1970.

Assembling trailers at Crane Fruehauf in Dereham. Date: 1970. - Credit: Archant Library

A Crane Fruehauf bulk power tanker from 1976.

A Crane Fruehauf bulk power tanker that had optional equipment including sleeper bunks, 100-gallon fuel tank, 13-speed gearbox and radio. Date: March 30, 1976. - Credit: Archant Library

Dereham and Fakenham industries: Crane's trailer builders of Dereham.

Dereham and Fakenham industries: Crane's trailer builders of Dereham. - Credit: Archant Library

Crane Fruehauf bulk power tanker from 1976.

A Crane Fruehauf bulk power tanker that had optional equipment including sleeper bunks, 100-gallon fuel tank, 13-speed gearbox and radio. Date: March 30, 1976. - Credit: Archant Library


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