Since 1896, Farrants has been a familiar sight in Cobham High Street, supplying all manner of ‘fancy goods’ and services.
Back then, our main business was printing stationery. This was a time where it wasn’t a luxury to have printed letterhead and notelets, it was a necessity for every household as all essential communication was made by a handwritten letter and not via Facebook or Whatsapp.
Throughout the years we have added a large array of products to our shelves but stationery remains a core part of our range.
We have witnessed many changes in Cobham from the widening of the High Street, the demolition of the Gas Works and Ashby’s Garage being redeveloped into a Waitrose. We’ve witnessed the evolution of a High Street, once full of independent family businesses like ourselves, transform into coffee shops, restaurants, estate agents and multi-nationals. And we’re still here, as independent as ever!
A Very Brief History:
Cobham was a small rural village when Mr GC Farrant established our business in 1896 with Farrants occupying just one of the three retail units that comprises 15, 17 and 19 High Street.
In the 1920’s GC Farrant bought the Freehold to 15,17 & 19 High Street from Arthur Corfe Mills, a London based investor, who had built the premises with the intention of leasing them to retail outlets.
GC Farrant died in 1938 and his estate sold his interest in Farrants and the freehold to Mr EA Stoddard trading as Stoddard Services Ltd. Stoddard Services Ltd quickly sold their interest in Farrants and the freehold to Mr Tommy Wiseman, late in 1938.
In September 1954, Tommy Wiseman transferred Farrants to the newly incorporated T. Wiseman Ltd, of which he was 100% shareholder, and registered the company for VAT. Tommy owned and operated T. Wiseman Ltd trading as Farrants up until his retirement in 1965.
In 1965, T. Wiseman Ltd was sold to a long-standing employee of the company, Mr CAA Worsfold, and his wife Mrs M Worsfold, Tommy’s daughter. Colin and Mary were appointed to the Board in July 1965.
In 1982, Colin and Mary’s son, David Worsfold joined the family business which at that time was running two businesses next door to each other: a stationers and a tobacconists, confectioners and newsagents. In the mid eighties, the two units were amalgamated and the basis of modern Farrants was born.
During the 1990’s, further renovation works took place enabling us to increase our storage space and office space. This was a crucial move for Farrants as it allowed us to vastly increase our product range.
In 1998, Colin and Mary sold their interest in T. Wiseman Ltd to their son, David and his wife, Louise, and both were appointed to the Board in March 1998.
David and Louise continued our traditions and modernised many aspects of the business. They added a successful cigar humidor and services such as Paypoint and a Photo Processing centre.
In 2008, our shop was looking a little dated. Prompted by this, David and Louise decided to modernise ‘brand’ Farrants to better reflect our motto of “traditional service, modern methods” and we renovated the shop front and changed our logo. This meant new carrier bags, staff uniforms, pricing labels and everything else with our logo on it – there’s more than you’d think! The final cost of the project was around £15,000 which, incidentally, was ten times the original building cost of the entire building.
In 2011, it became apparent that our building needed more fundamental works – the roof was leaking and had been patched up many, many times with every repair costing around £5,000. The offices above the shop needed major renovations and were not fit for modern business occupation – no air-conditioning, narrow staircases, the aged plaster was blown and falling off the walls in places, a serious lack of plug sockets on aged and unwieldy electrical installations – Farrants alone had 5 different fuseboxes as we’d added services throughout the years. In other words, we were looking at spending huge sums of monies just to keep the building up.
After looking at the costs for the remedial repair works, David and Louise hatched an audacious plan to, essentially, knock the building down and rebuild it.
And so we embarked on our building works. Due to the buildings central location on Cobham’s High Street, our primary concern was to retain the external character of the building whilst entirely modernising the internal floor space. From January 2015, our main premises were shut for nearly a year and we traded from our premises in Holly Parade. It took us until November 2015 to reopen Farrants and a further 3 months to open the offices above.
Throughout our history, Farrants remains a local family owned business for whom traditional values and service still hold true. Our shop is family life orientated and as such we endeavour to exceed the needs of all, from age 0 to 100!