Cranes (Dereham) Ltd plate on living van chassis - IMG 7287

Cranes (Dereham) ltd plate on a Living van (conversion) on a drawbar chassis unit

The company of Cranes (Dereham) Limited (usually referred to as Cranes Trailers) were an early manufacturer of trailers for road haulage and built some of the early heavy haulage trailers used by firms such as Pickfords and Robert Wynn with the steam road locomotives of the early 20th century. William Cranes a local blacksmith started in 1865 in the village of fransham, Norfolk. He expanded to become a wagon builder and took over a factory in the nearby town of Derham in Norfolk, England. Cranes later had various manufacturing facilities in the UK and Ireland. The company became Crane Fruehauf. The company closed down in 2005, with the Fruehauf brandname being taken over by ?

History Edit

For later company history, see Crane Fruehauf.

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The companies history goes back to 1865 when, at the age of 24, William Crane set up a Blacksmith's shop in the village of Great Fransham in Norfolk. William and his three brothers had all followed in their Father footsteps by becoming apprenticed Blacksmiths. William went on to develop a new type of horse rake, cart wheels and farm wagons. Later with his two sons, the business expanded further and was registered in the 1883 White's directory as "William Crane - Agricultural implement maker, joiner and builder, blacksmith and wheel wright". Due to a bad debt, they acquired a load of timber which provided the raw material for the production of various carts and wagons, using the wheels they produced.

William passed away in 1906 and his two sons carried on the business which continued to expand and in 1913 Cranes acquired the former Mallons agricultural works at South Green in Dereham. Cranes by this time had such an excellent reputation for its products that is secured a substantial order for gun carriage wheels and field ambulances for the army. In 1920, Edward Crane returned to the Fransham workshop to continue his Timber business and the Dereham facility branched out into road trailers in 1920.

Cranes had an excellent reputation for specialist trailers and secured some significant military contracts on the back of their expertise and quality of build.

Crane's began making trucks with aluminium bodies using designs by the American-based Fruehauf Corporation in the early 1960s, with the North Walsham factory opening in 1962 and Toftwood (Dereham) in 1968. The Crane name then became intrinsically linked with Fruehauf and the Crane Freuhauf brand became synonymous with the trailer units plying their trade all over Europe, following the growth of roll on - roll off routes to the continent.

Taken over by General Trailers in 1997, the company later restarted under the Fruehauf brand in the UK.

The Crane Fruehauf factory in Dereham collapsed in 2005, laying off its remaining 345 workers. With it an important chapter in Norfolk's industrial history came to an abrupt end. The site of the first Crane factory known as 'Crane Corner' in little Fransham is nw home to the Fransham Forge run by Nigel Barnett an extremely talented blacksmith. He has opened a gallery of his work on site, as well as a museum of Crane's memorabilia. Nigel is more than happy to help out with any iron work connected with cart or shepherd hut reconstruction and can also fabricate itens like Shepherd hut wheels. Nigel can be contacted on 01362 687116 and E-mail:

Subsidiaries / take oversEdit

  • Boden Trailers Ltd - 1967
  • Crane Fruehauf Trailers (North Walsham) Ltd - JV between Crane, Fruehauf, and Wall Engineering.
  • Dennison Trailers of Ireland - 1967 - 51 % stake acquired & 100% in 1975
  • Created Rentco Nationwide Ltd to lease trailers - 1970
  • t/o Imperial Coach builders - 1971
  • create Crane Fruehauf Iran Ltd - 1975
  • t/o Abel Bodywork of Oldham - 1977


  • Blacksmiths products
  • wagon wheels
  • farm carts
  • sheperds huts
  • pole & timber carriers
  • Low loaders - early solid tyred versions shown in some old photos of steam heavy haulage
  • Turntable chassis - used for living vans and showmans caravans as well as early road trains of wagons in steam haulage. latter used with pneumatic tyres by the army.
  • Box vans
  • Semi trailers
  • Containers
  • Tanker units


Listed in 1976 the UK M&M commission inquiry.

See alsoEdit

References / sources Edit

External linksEdit

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