Welcome to Foras, and how delighted we are that you are here! This is the story of how an idea became a beautiful business and partnership between our directors – Norfolk Farmer John Wootton and his partner, Claire Brutnall who gave up the plough and teamed up to form an exciting new venture in natural stone.
A vision for design sprang from their dynamic and creative minds and over a decade later, Foras has become an award-winning business that presents customers with an exclusive range of natural stone garden accessories and flooring and tiles to dress country homes, city terraces and courtyards…
1999 – The Date
Norfolk Farmer John Wootton met business consultant Claire Brutnall on a blind date. John wanted to diversify as he had always been creative with different projects over the years; from worm farming, St Johns Wart distilling, to a surf shop and surf school. This time he wanted to use his experience in agriculture on his farm, and creative nature, to do something different and diversify. Claire’s question was ‘what do you want to do?’. With no definitive answer, just a bunch of ideas, they just went on to the second date for now.
2002 – The Idea
Later, John met a container ships captain at a party and asked Sharat ‘What containers come into the UK from India?’. ‘We are very good at natural stone’ Sharat replied. John came back to Claire, who had international sourcing experience, and said ‘What can we do with stone?’. Part of Claire’s previous experience was sourcing products for retailers such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s and B&Q. Claire’s response was ‘let’s design some garden products for Garden centres’ and that was the start of their journey.
2003 – The Start
Foras was born and the name aptly chosen as it is the Latin for ‘outside’. With pen and paper, they designed their first natural stone artifacts, sculptures, and water features.
Claire and John did their first trade show at the NEC in Birmingham to display their wares. This bought in new stockists such as Blooms, Frosts and many more. The business grew, providing a real point of difference to a garden centre’s usual portfolio which did not consist of the standard resin animals, meerkat or owl water features.
2004 – The Journey.
John set out on his first Asian exploration to present his designs and ideas for new stone sculptures, water features and natural stone flooring.
2006 – The Showroom & Gardens
The farm’s former tulip barn was converted into the Foras Originals flooring showroom. Work also began on the creation of the gardens at Stowbridge.
Summer 2006 – The First Bliss Ball
The first Bliss sphere is placed in the garden and her name is Fedora. Foras have only just recently let Fedora go to a new home in 2018 to one of our favourite most long standing and loyal customers. There are so many pieces in his garden it is like a Foras Showroom!
2007 – The First Of Three of RHS Chelsea Flower Show
Outstanding Presentation Award in our first foray to the Chelsea Flower Show. Carol Thatcher loved the garden.
2012 – The First Show Garden
Our 1st show garden and a Foras gold medal!
2013 – 2nd Gold Medal in partnership with Horticolous
Foras win their second gold medal at Chelsea with Horticolous.
2015 – The Coaching Inn
We opened a new concept store based in a 16th century former coaching inn in Burnham Market, the new store featured an internal flooring studio and courtyard garden.
2015 – Sunken Stowbridge
Meanwhile, back in Stowbridge, the garden expands with the launch of the Foras sunken garden.
2015 — Foras Goes E-Commerce
Foras goes online with 2 bespoke e-commerce websites:www.foras.co.uk – Garden Accessories www.foraswallsandfloors.co.uk – Natural Stone, Porcelain Flooring and Tiles
2016 – The Layered Slate
In came the layered slate ball, modelled here beautifully by Daisy in the Dark for her album. This was our first water feature made out of individual layers of slate - very tactile.
2016 – Burnham Expands
Work began on a new showroom in Burnham – moving to our own studio space and developing another walled garden at the rear of the property.
2017 – New Offices & Warehouse
Construction of a new warehouse and offices, all based at our Stowbridge site.
2018 – Stowbridge Upgrade
The Stowbridge tiling showroom receives a face-lift to give some more space to display all our new lines of Foras Originals flooring and tiles. www.foraswallsandfloors.co.uk
2019 – Ideal Home Show
Launched our new Fusion Water Feature at the Ideal Home Show Exhibition. We now have a Fusion family of features that has been received very well within our range.
The most unforgettable year - despite the showrooms being closed for some of the time we have developed an amazing on-line community.
On a positive, a good year for gardening and home improvement as people were staying at home and enjoying their own spaces and time. We have some new amateur gardeners just having a go and that can’t be a bad thing.
A first - The launch of our NEW Foras Hamper, full of home and garden gifts that are perfect for special occasions including Christmas. These include a wide range of Foras products such as a herb planter, a natural slate vase, a bird feeder, a delicious scented candle and so much more.
Watch this space and we look forward to sharing some more Foras milestones with you in the coming months ahead.
Thank you for being part of our story and continuing to support us!