Miln Marsters

The village of Docking was associated with seed production for over a hundred years and it provided many locals with employment.

In 1898 the granary site by the railway line was occupied by Swaffham coal, seed and corn merchants Vynne and Everett but soon afterwards it was bought by Charles William Marsters who lived at Saddlebow.

Old granaries by the rail line

By 1904 he owned a tower mill at Saddlebow and had bought Docking Mill. He received samples of wheat seeds from a well known seedsman in France, Monsieur Vilmorin, and grew these in Norfolk to see how they would succeed. In France they ripened earlier than usual, and this was found to be the case in Britain too. In July 1908 C W Marsters won medals with them at two French agricultural shows, in Dieppe and near Paris. Later that month he took French agriculturalists on a tour of Norfolk, to show them the wheat in the fields.


The company C W Marsters Ltd flourished and in 1920 Charles Archer Debenham joined CW, his uncle, and became managing Director when CW died in Monte Carlo in 1922.

New granaries by the rail line

In the 1920s C W Marsters Ltd started producing Hilleshog sugar beet seed and also started a cereal breeding programme. The company expanded and built the Coronation Building in 1937, but in 1943 the Granary Building was destroyed by fire. The company was helped out by other local seed companies and eventually the granary was rebuilt. After the second World War extensions were made to the Coronation Building.

After the fire

In 1946 Hybrid 46 was developed. It was C W Marsters’ most successful wheat variety and established the company as a serious wheat breeding concern.

In the early 1950s C W Marsters Ltd joined up with Cannells Seeds and Hilleshog and a third floor was added to the Granary Building.

The firm bought North End Farm in Docking in 1954, for use as a plant breeding station, with trial plots, laboratories and offices.

In 1971 they joined up with Milns of Chester, and became known as Miln Marsters.

In the early 1970s Hilleshog bought a large part of Miln Marsters and by 1978 had acquired the entire share holding.

Wagg’s Bakeries closed down in 1975 and their building on Station Road became Miln Marsters’ plant breeding centre in 1979-1980.

In 1982 staff from North End Farm moved over to the Granary and were joined by the staff who worked in Kings Lynn.

In 1988 Miln Masters became MMG (United Kingdom) and shortly afterwards the cereal and sugar beet sides became separate entities. Hilleshog kept the sugar beet side and ICI bought the cereals.

Demolition of the granaries

400 hectares of sugar beet for seed were sown in 1988 but four years later, after disastrous harvests, beet seed production moved to south-west France and northern Italy.

In 2000 the granaries closed down and the site is now used for housing.

In 2005 the plant breeding business was taken over by Limagrain UK, a division of the fourth largest field and vegetable seed company in the world, but in 2018 the plant breeding site in Docking was closed down, ending over 100 years of seed production in Docking. That site too will now be used for housing.