Norfolk estate agent retires after 49 years

Rob GarrattJohn Mann was just a 16-year-old boy when he landed a job as a tea boy at the local estate agents. Now 49 years later he is retiring from the firm in Dereham, Norfolk.Rob Garratt

John Mann was just a 16-year-old boy when he landed a job as a tea boy at the local estate agents.

Now 49 years later he is retiring from the firm as a partner, and a fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

When he signed up for what could have been a youthful summer job, in June 1961, the world was a very different place.

The farthing coin had that year ceased to be legal tender, Tottenham Hotspur had become the first football club to win the league and cup double this century, and Kuwait was now independent of British rule.

Now leaving the Dereham's oldest estate agent Case & Dewing, aged 65, Mr Mann said: 'David Case came round one day and said 'why don't you come and give us a hand?' And I never left.'

After studying hard for his qualifications, Mr Mann formally qualified as a surveyor aged 20, quickly rising up the ranks to be made partner in 1973 - the same year he bought his current home, a 200-acre farm in Beetley he continues to manage.

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'It's changed,' said Mr Mann. 'When I first started a three-bed bungalow was �3,250; now you'd pay �300,000 for the same home. 'In those days we had just one typewriter in the front office for six people - now it's all computers.

'I got to know a lot of characters in the business, but the thing I'll miss most is the staff, we're like a family.

'The reason the firm has survived is personal service. That's what we do. People come to us and get treated as a person, not a number.'

The firm's building, in Dereham's Church Street, has been used as a solicitors ever since the first world war. In the fifties it was named Thistleton-Smith until 1959, when Case & Gamble put their names on the door. In 1973 John Dewing and John Mann joined David Case as partners, and the firm became Case and Dewing. Later Andrew Cross, 46, joined in 1981 and became the youngest partner.

As well as his professional life Mr Mann has also built two homes from scratch, including a cottage on Brisley common, and says he will have plenty to keep him occupied throughout his retirement.

Mr Mann, a bachelor, added: 'I think I'll miss it, but it's another stage in my life. One door closes and another one opens.

'It's been a long journey. Throughout life we come to certain forks in the road and you take a decision when you get there, and that's how life goes.'

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