Army & Navy Co-Operative Society

Army & Navy Co-Operative Society


In 1871 a group of officers formed a Co-Operative Society to look after the needs of army and navy personnel. The Society intended to supply “articles of domestic consumption and general use to its members at the lowest numerative rates”.

On 15th February 1872, the Army & Navy Co-operative Society Ltd. Opened its first store at Victoria Street, London. As befits an organisation with a solid military background, the addition of a gun department soon followed, quickly followed by others for outdoor and sporting pursuits.

The fishing department was soon issuing its catalogue, and, in 1893, in conjunction with a Mr O. S. Ruddock, applied for and were granted patent 17863 for improving plate wind reels.

The catalogue and adverts in various fishing publications claimed that these reels were made in their workshop. However, I could not believe the workshop was proficient enough to manufacture these reels.

I did a little bit of digging, and I now believe that they more than likely assembled or finished components in the workshop. The gun department had an extensive workshop to meet the demands of the officers who purchased guns for recreational use.

I have an 1898 catalogue in my possession. They offer the Moscrop reel, the Malloch side caster, Slaters Pioneer and Combination reels, Reuben Heatons Sun reel, the Coxon Aerial, and a 4½ inch multiplying Tarpon reel in either gunmetal or ebonite with nickel plating. This reel is illustrated, but I have never seen it. They also offered various “plain” reels and winches.

The David Slater company made the alloyed revolving plate reel mentioned in the advert below. 

The company expanded and progressed very quickly with an extensive sporting catalogue being issued, telephone ordering by 1900 and reduced prices for mail orders.

In 1934 the company name changed to Army & Navy Stores Ltd, and in 1972, the House of Fraser took over the company.

I will return to this company and some of its retail products soon.   

Army & Navy Co-Operative Society Gun metal antique fishing reel made by David Slater

Army & Navy Co-Operative Society Gun metal antique fishing reel made by David Slater


Following the last issue, I have read a few more catalogues from this company, along with a report in a Sporting Goods magazine from the turn of the previous century.

The workshop was at 43 Johnson Street, just off Page Street, near Lambeth Bridge. Unfortunately, this is no longer there, but at the time, members of the Society could visit the work and see their rods being made. There was also the chance to have rods built to order and try out rods. 

The illustration of the Army & Navy Bronzed reel is very similar to reels made by Slater Malloch and Reuben Heaton. I suspect that one of these companies provided components for the reels assembled in the workshop.

If the angler wanted a cabinet for his rods, he could order one from the Gun Department on Howick Place, a few minutes walk from the workshops and the main store.

Generally, the quality and quantity of tackle offered by the company at the turn of the last century is underrated.

They sold the Slater combination reel and the Pioneer in ebonite brass and nickel silver. From Malloch, they offered the sidecaster in alloy and gunmetal. As late as 1915, they were also offering the original model of the reel first launched in 1884.

Allcock was a major supplier, and the Coxon Aerial, along with the improved model, was offered. Two models of the Schooling reel were sold, the Schooling in six sizes and the No I in three sizes.

The sea reels were magnificent with Reuben Heaton reels, especially the Ventilated in sizes up to 7 inches and the Slater Future in the same size.

However, it is the Furnroc that captured my imagination. I do not know who made it, but I suspect it was Smith & Wall in light of the comments made in the editorial.

Furnroc sea fishing reel Army & Navy Co-Operative Society
Army & Navy Co-Operative Society antique brass fishing reel made by David Slater

Illustrations From the 1909 Army & Navy Co-Operative Society Catalogue left Furnroc Patent Expanding Brake Reel. Right Revolving Plate Hercules Fly Reel