The funeral business was founded by William Rooth (Uncle Billy), the current funeral director's great great uncle. William Rooth was the son of Tom and Harriet Rooth who lived on Draycott Road, North Wingfield, in the family farmhouse.
Initially William was apprenticed at Reeve and Kenning to become a wheelwright and joiner. This perhaps explains why, many years later, his great Nephew, Christopher Rooth Hoult, was apprenticed at Reeve Coach Builders. During World War 1 William volunteered for the Royal Naval Air Service, and worked in France carrying out repairs on aircraft.
When William returned home he established his own business as W B Rooth, Master Joiner. He had a well equipped workshop on the family farm. There William would often be called upon to make coffins. He did this from start to finish: cutting and shaping the planks of wood, sealing the coffin with tar heated up on a gas ring and finally fastening in the silk lining.
At this time cremation was not used. Sadly infant deaths were more common and William made little white coffins for children.
One of the helpers in the workshop was William's nephew Jeffrey Rooth Hoult (or as everyone now knows him, Grandad). Jeffrey could recall as a boy being sent to the timber merchant to fetch the wood for his Uncle. In World War 2 Jeffrey served in Italy before being injured and sent to Egypt to recover. Further injury prevented his return to active service and at the end of the war he came back to North Wingfield.
On his return, and despite having a full time job, Jeffrey helped his Uncle more and more in the workshop and conducting funerals as William's health deteriorated. When William passed away in the 1960s Jeffrey took charge of the business.
To Jeffrey's abiding regret, the farmhouse was condemned as unfit for habitation. The farm and all its outbuildings were demolished and houses built on the land. Fortunately Jeffrey had anticipated this might happen and had moved his family into a larger house with enough land to set up the business there. This house was 30 St Lawrence Road, and it is still owned by the family and used for some aspects of the funeral business.
Jeffrey's next major step, taken with the support of his wife Sylvia (nee Chandler), was to give up his full time job to concentrate wholly on running the funeral business. In those early days he also took part time work when it was available. For many years he delivered the wages to British Rail staff working in the signal boxes around the county. It is hard to believe that, in those days, staff were paid weekly and in cash. This job also perhaps explains why Jeff's first workshop was actually a converted railway wagon. Later he built the first proper workshop alongside the railway wagon. As years went by he became increasingly successful and, as the business grew, he took the opportunity to recruit his grandson Robert Hoult straight from school so that Robert could learn all about the business.
After much training and many years of experience, Jeff recognised Robert's success by renaming his business J R Hoult and Grandson.