Army & Navy Stores (United Kingdom)

For the Canadian department store of this name, see Army & Navy Stores (Canada).

Army & Navy Stores was a department store group in the United Kingdom, which originated as a co-operative society for military officers in the nineteenth century. The society became a limited company in the 1930s and purchased a number of independent stores during the 1950s and 1960s. In 1976 the Army and Navy Stores group was acquired by House of Fraser. From 2005 onwards the remaining Army & Navy stores (the flagship store located on Victoria Street in London and the three others in Maidstone, Camberley, and Chichester) were refurbished and re-branded as House of Fraser stores.[1] House of Fraser itself was acquired by Icelandic investment company, Baugur Group, in late 2006.

The Victoria Street department store now trades as House of Fraser Victoria. Situated within the City of Westminster, to the south of St. James's Park, it is the only department store to trade in the locality. Each of its four selling-floors holds a broad range of merchandise including clothing, accessories and cosmetics, furnishing, household and electrical goods. 'World of Food', a new food hall concept in House of Fraser stores (introduced at Birmingham in 2003), was opened on the Ground Floor to coincide with the store's relaunch under the 'House of Fraser' name.


Army & Navy Co-operative society shareholder's ticket

The Army & Navy Co-operative Society Ltd was incorporated on 15 September 1871, being formed a group of army and navy officers. The aim of the co-operative was to supply goods to its members at the lowest remunerative rates, and was based on two earlier models - the Civil Service Supply Association & the Civil Service Co-operative Society.[2] The society leased part of a distillery premises in Victoria Street, London which was owned by Vickers & Co, and by February 1872 the store was opened for the sale of groceries. By 1873, the store offered stationery, a drapery, fancy goods, tailoring, groceries, a chemist and even a gun department. The store was too small for the business so they rented a house next to their warehouse and acquired a further warehouse in Johnson Place.[2]

By 1876, the business had again outgrown its premises. They leased more of the distillery from Vickers, closed their warehouse in Johnson Place moving to a new location at Ranelagh Road in Pimlico. The business was now offering a banking department to its members, and had negotiated an option on the Victoria Road site as part of the lease deal at Victoria Street. This option was taken up in 1878, and they purchased their Victoria Road store, adding a refreshments room for its growing customer base. The store also expanded internationally by opening stores in Paris & Leipzig.[2]

The business continued to grow, and in 1881 the society purchased the remaining site of the distillery and by 1882 had opened the whole site. In addition its warehousing was moved to Tooley Street in Westminster, with the Pimilico site now operating as a manufacturing centre for tailoring and printing, which it had started in 1877. This site was still not big enough and in 1884 new workshop space was purchased in Johnson Street, and office space in Howick Place were converted into retail space. By this time the business had added furniture sales and an estate agents to its business.[2]

The society continued to grow, so new locations were added. In 1890 stores were opened in Plymouth, and Mumbai, India, while in 1891 a further store was opened in Karachi. This Indian adventure continued with stores opening in Calcutta (now renamed Kolkota) in 1900, while stores in New Dehli, Shimla & Ranchi were opened in the 1930s.[2]

The society still continued to expand in London, erecting a new preserved provisions factory in Coburg Road, and purchasing more property along Victoria Street. The society offered an enormous illustrated price list which could be ordered by phone.

However the advent of the First World War saw trade suffer badly, but this was supplanted in part by a contract from the War Office. After the war, the society was hit by strikes by its staff, but it continued to develop its Victoria Street site and by 1922 a new frontage had been added.[2]

The last surviving member of the original board, Captain Ernest Lewis, died on 3 April 1926. He was joint managing director and treasurer until he retired in July 1914 after 43 years with the society.[3][4] One of his sons was Donald Swain Lewis, senior officer who died in the Royal Flying Corps in 1916.[5]

In 1934 the society was incorporated into a limited company - Army & Navy Stores Ltd. The Army and Navy Stores Limited 'General Price list 1935-36' listed showrooms and offices at 105 Victoria Street, Francis Street and Howick Place, Westminster SW1. Depots were listed in Union Street, Plymouth, Devon and in India at Esplanade Road, Bombay and Chowringhee, Calcutta. There was also a furniture depository and strong room at Turnham Green and an auction room at Greencoat Place SW1, as well as a department store known as P Martin Ltd trading from Andover & Bromley.[6]

The business was hit hard during the Second World War with both its sites at Turnham Green and Portsmouth stores suffered serious bomb damage, while its Plymouth depot was completely destroyed. This was further extenuated after the war when India gained independence in 1947. The last colonial store closed in Mumbai in 1952.[2]

With this closure the business planned an expansion of its UK business and in 1953 started with its first purchase of Genge & Co in Dorchester, Dorset. This was swiftly followed by the purchase of William Harvey of Guildford in the same year. In 1955, the company added J D Morant of Chichester, Thomas Clarkson of Wolverhampton in 1960, Thomas White & Co of Aldershot in 1961, Burgis Colbourne of Leamington Spa in 1963 and Harrison Gibson's Bromley store in 1968. It was not only acquisitions that money was being spent on - a new store was built in Camberley in 1964 and branded under the William Harvey name, while the stores in Guildford, Chichester, Dorchester and Wolverhampton were given new extensions.[2]

In 1973, work was started on replacing the old Victoria Street site. The building was completed in 1977,[1] designed by London architects Elsom Pack & Roberts.[7]

In 1975, Army and Navy group was purchased by House of Fraser, who merged the Chiesmans group into Army & Navy, as well as adding the John Barker & Co stores in Kensington & Eastbourne to its portfolio. Army & Navy Stores Ltd stayed as a separate division of House of Fraser until 1981, when the business was returned into the House of Fraser Group.[2]



On 13 November 1973, the proposed merger between Boots and House of Fraser companies was subject of a written question in the House of Commons and the following companies were listed as subsidiaries of Army & Navy:[9]


  1. 1 2 "Last post for Army & Navy store". London Evening Standard. 1 October 2004. Retrieved 30 December 2015.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 "Army & Navy Stores Ltd Army & Navy Co-operative Society Ltd". House of Fraser Archive (Record: c0512). Retrieved 30 December 2015.
  3. The Times, Thursday 29 April 1926; pg. 25
  4. Ward, Robert (2013). Wealth and Notoriety: the extraordinary families of William Levy and Charles Lewis of London. ISBN 9781291334777. Retrieved 30 December 2015.
  5. Tyrrell-Lewis, D.H.G. (2012). Facta Non Verba. p. 26. ISBN 9781471607264. Retrieved 30 December 2015.
  6. 1 2 "Army & Navy Store (Bromley) Ltd". House of Fraser Archive (Record: c2708). Retrieved 30 December 2015.
  7. The Times, Monday 17 April 1972; pg. 24; Issue 58454
  8. "Chiesman/Cheeseman family Archive Kent". Retrieved 24 Nov 2014.
  9. "Boots Company Ltd and House of Fraser". Hansard. 13 November 1973. Retrieved 30 December 2015.

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