From Puttenham to Farnham and Kingsley.
Our family history of farming goes back to 1851, with our Great, Great Grandfather William Marshall.
His son, and our Great Grandfather, Sam Marshall was a successful and well respected farmer at Priory Farm, Puttenham growing a wide range of produce, including vegetables for the army in Aldershot and hops. Sam retired in 1933 and continued to live in Puttenham. In his retirement he wrote the book ‘Life of a successful farmer’ published in 1952. In 1955 Sam passed away, aged 91. Today, Priory Farm is private residences and commercial units.
His son, our Grandfather, William (Bill) Arthur Marshall successfully farmed at Weydon Hill Farm, Farnham also growing hops and other crops. In 1947 Weydon Hill Farm was compulsory purchased for housing (and now known as Weydon). In 1951 Bill purchased and moved to Malthouse & Osborne Farms in Kingsley. In 1966 Bill Marshall passed away and the farm was sold at auction in 1970 for £62,000 (including five cottages!) to satisfy death duties. Our father Peter Marshall gained employment as farm manager for the new owners of the farm, Mr & Mrs Bentley.
The new beginning.
And so the Country Market story begins.. with Peter Marshall continuing to farm a smallholding upon the farm, and manage the farm for the new owners, as wife June set off with her Morris Traveller selling door to door the fresh produce grown on the smallholding. Locally produced items were added to expand the range including eggs, mushrooms and honey. By 1971 the family garage had been converted into the first shop with regular open hours, and Peter was granted the ability to purchase 40 acres of Osborne Farm to assist with demand for the new shop.
In 1975, the first poly tunnel was introduced to enable bedding plants to be added to the growing range. In the same year came the first venture into the new craze that was ‘Pick-your-own.’
In other news in 1976, The Wurzels band reached number in the pop charts with the song "Combine Harvester". Farming was officially a hit.
In 1978, Paul Meldrum joined Country Market. He has become our longest standing member of our team, and has been the dedicated manager of our Plant Nursery and Garden Centre for over 40 years.
In 1979 the Bank of England Base Rate reached a record high of 17%. A bad time for borrowing.
In 1981, eldest son Gary Marshall joined the farm working alongside Peter.
In 1983, a twist came with the passing of Mr Bentley, the then owner of Malthouse Farm. Peter took on the brave and ambitious 'once in a lifetime' opportunity to repurchase the farm. With the additional land the farm operation was able to diversify and tailor crops to the growing demand for the shop.
In 1987, Peter initiated car boot sales activities on the farm, with three sellers taking part in the first event.. Hops continued to grow on the farm until the irrecoverable destruction of the hop garden by the great storm of Oct 1987.
By the late 80's Country Market had now outgrown the original premises and inspiration came to Peter on a boxing day walk around the farm. In 1988, with advice from the Weald & Downland Museum, he took on the ambitious project to relocate a redundant oak framed 19th Century grain barn from Malthouse Farm, and rebuild it next to the original shop at Osborne Farm as the heart of a new farm centre. Within the build, timber from the trees felled on the farm in the great storm was used to remake any of the original barn timbers that had perished. This was to become the Country Market that most know and fondly remember, and is shown in the video below.
On 11th February 1989 the new farm centre opened, with a small number of local enterprises added, and a year later part of the first floor was converted into the first Carvery Restaurant.
In 1992, youngest son Dean Marshall joined the business.
In 1997 the family business partnership was formalised to include working sons Gary Marshall and Dean Marshall, and daughter Sharon.
In 1999 the Restaurant was extended and a dedicated entrance created to provide full function room facilities with combined seating for up to 250 guests. It became a popular local venue for celebrations, Christmas parties, weddings and corporate events with Peter Marshall and Dean Marshall as the joint Licensees. In that same year, Country Market entered the world wide web and the first website was launched.
In 2000, Peter took the opportunity to write his own memoirs while away on a rare holiday.
In 2003 the shop was filmed as location for the BBC1 TV series Down to Earth (S3E8). Previous TV appearances had included 'Farm Progress", "Country Ways" and "South Today", and subsequent appearances have been in "Car Booty", "The Great British Village Show", "Life on the Lawn" "Teletubbies" and many others.
In 2006 and 2007 there was a sizable extension to the garden centre and further moves. This provided the much needed ability to introduce a broader range of shopping facilities, a new restaurant, a more modern garden centre environment and the introduction of high quality complementary concessions and shopping outlets.
In 2009 the Bank of England Base Rate fell to a record low of 0.5%.
31st March 2010. Disaster strikes in the early hours of the morning. An electrical fire broke out during the wet and stormy night, and fanned by high winds, fire tore through the oak framed building and the entire collection of adjoining buildings. Fortunately no one was injured but all looked lost.
Within a few weeks of the fire a determined effort brought together a 'temporary' farm shop and plant centre, and then a small cafe by re-purposing our old Hop Picking barn. The nearby Hop Kiln also became utilised for an aquatics centre. Both our plant nursery and farm carried on growing plants and fresh produce, with a small pick your own operation during the summer months too. Encouraged by public support, the business continued while taking the lengthy steps towards the redevelopment.
In 2011, the site of the original shop was cleared for a full archaeological investigation that unearthed the near 2,000 year old Roman pottery kilns that had previously laid beneath the footings to the perished building.
We understood that we could not recreate the history and fabric that was lost, so the intention was to craft the most sustainable and purposeful environment that we could for the future.
In July 2013 work finally started on the construction and a new website was launched to host a time lapse construction camera and capture the action live online. A host of creative projects were also developed and prepared to support the forthcoming launch of the new centre.
Peter, now in poor health by this time, took on his own personal project of restoring his T35 Massey Ferguson Tractor, named by him as "Fergy 5". Which now stands proudly within the Farm Shop at Country Market for visiting little farmers to enjoy with their own adventures.
On the 31st May 2014 at 10am the new Country Market opened to the public.
Since then, the new Country Market has developed into a countryside retail experience and popular destination that is now home to 18 fabulous shops, outlets & restaurants including our own garden centre and plant nursery, farm shop and restaurant.
In January 2017, our father and the pioneering founder of Country Market, Peter Marshall passed away aged 81.
The business remains family owned and managed, and continues to grow a wide range of fresh produce and plants from our 200 acre farm here in Kingsley.
The range of products and services that we offer also continues to grow and develop with over 60,000 products now available in store but we remain focused on providing you with personal service and good customer care. We are also very pleased to be involved with and support a wide number of community led events and organisations.
Thank you for taking the time to read about us. We look forward to welcoming you & hope you enjoy your visit.