Army & Navy Stores (United Kingdom)

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Army & Navy Stores was a department store group in the United Kingdom, which originated as a co-operative society for military officers and their families during the nineteenth century. The society became a limited liability company in the 1930s and purchased multiple independent department stores during the 1950s and 1960s. In 1973, the Army and Navy Stores group was acquired by House of Fraser. In 2005, the remaining Army & Navy stores (the flagship store located on Victoria Street in London and stores in Camberley, and Chichester) were refurbished and re-branded under the House of Fraser nameplate.[1] House of Fraser itself was acquired by Icelandic investment company, Baugur Group, in late 2006, and then by Sports Direct on the 10 August 2018.[2]

The Victoria Street department store, trading as House of Fraser in 2019, is situated in 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 but has since closed.


Army & Navy Co-operative society shareholder's ticket
Victoria Store as House of Fraser on the right
Victoria store as House of Fraser on the left

The Army & Navy Co-operative Society Ltd. was incorporated on 15 September 1871, being formed by a group of army and navy officers. The aim of the military 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 and the Civil Service Co-operative Society.[3] The society leased part of a distillery premises in Victoria Street, London which was owned by Vickers & Co, and by February 1872 a store for the sale of groceries was opened on the site. By 1873, the store offered stationery, drapery, fancy goods, tailoring, groceries, a chemist and even a guns department. The store proved too small for the growing business so the founding members rented a house next to their existing warehouse and acquired a further warehouse in Johnson Place.[3]

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 site as part of the lease deal at Victoria Street. This option was taken up in 1878, allowing for the purchase of part of the Victoria Street premises. A refreshments room was added to the store for its growing customer base. The store also expanded internationally by opening offices in Paris and Leipzig.[3]

The business continued to expand, and in 1881 the society purchased the remaining distillery and associated buildings. In the following months departments were opened covering the entire site. In addition, warehousing was moved to Tooley Street in Westminster, with the Pimlico site now operating as a manufacturing centre for tailoring and printing. Printing had been carried out in-house since 1877. Further workshop space was purchased in Johnson Street, and offices in Howick Place were converted into selling space. By this time the business had added furniture sales and an estate agency to its operations.[3]

The society continued to grow, so new locations were added. In 1890 stores were opened in Plymouth, and Bombay, India, while in 1891 a further store was opened in Karachi. This Indian adventure continued with stores opening in Calcutta in 1900, while stores in New Delhi, Shimla and Ranchi were opened in the 1930s.[3]

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.

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.[3]

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.[4][5] One of his sons was Donald Swain Lewis, senior officer, who died in the Royal Flying Corps in 1916.[6]

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.[7]

The business was hit hard during the Second World War with both its sites at Turnham Green and Portsmouth suffering serious bomb damage, while its Plymouth depot was completely destroyed. Trading difficulties were further accentuated after the war when India gained independence in 1947. The last colonial store closed in Bombay in 1952.[3]

With the closure of branches overseas, plans turned to the expansion of the domestic business. The purchase of the first of a number of provincial department stores was made in 1953 with the acquisition of Genge & Co of Dorchester. 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. Further purchases included Thomas Clarkson of Wolverhampton in 1960, Thomas White & Co of Aldershot in 1961, Burgis & Colbourne of Leamington Spa in 1963 and Parsons & Hart of Andover in 1965. The Bromley stores of Harrison Gibson were added to the group 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.[3]

Work on replacing the old Victoria Street store began in 1973. The new building was completed in 1977,[1] designed by London architects Elsom Pack & Roberts.[8]

In 1973, Army and Navy Stores was purchased by the House of Fraser. The John Barker & Co stores in Kensington and Eastbourne were integrated with Army & Navy. The group was later extended with the addition of the Chiesmans stores, among others, to its portfolio.[3]



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:[15]

  • William Harvey of Guildford Ltd.
  • Harveys of Camberley
  • Army & Navy Stores (Bromley) Ltd.
  • Genge & Company Ltd.
  • Thomas White & Company Ltd.
  • J. D. Morant Ltd.
  • Thomas Clarkson & Sons Ltd.
  • Burgis & Colbourne Ltd.
  • Artillery Mansions Ltd.


  1. ^ a b "Last post for Army & Navy store". London Evening Standard. 1 October 2004. Retrieved 30 December 2015.
  2. ^ "House of Fraser bought by Sports Direct for £90m". BBC News. 10 August 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Army & Navy Stores Ltd Army & Navy Co-operative Society Ltd". House of Fraser Archive (Record: c0512). Retrieved 30 December 2015.
  4. ^ The Times, Thursday 29 April 1926; pg. 25
  5. ^ Ward, Robert (2013). Wealth and Notoriety: the extraordinary families of William Levy and Charles Lewis of London. ISBN 9781291334777. Retrieved 30 December 2015.
  6. ^ Tyrrell-Lewis, D.H.G. (2012). Facta Non Verba. p. 26. ISBN 9781471607264. Retrieved 30 December 2015.
  7. ^ a b "Army & Navy Store (Bromley) Ltd". House of Fraser Archive (Record: c2708). Retrieved 30 December 2015.
  8. ^ The Times, Monday 17 April 1972; pg. 24; Issue 58454
  9. ^ "House of Fraser Archived:Thomas White & Co". University of Glasgow. Retrieved 30 April 2021.
  10. ^ "House of Fraser Archives:Taylors". University of Glasgow. Retrieved 30 April 2021.
  11. ^ "Chiesman/Cheeseman family Archive Kent". Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h "Company: Army & Navy Stores Ltd Army & Navy Co-operative Society Ltd". House of Fraser Archive @ University of Glagow. Retrieved 18 May 2021.
  13. ^ "Army & Navy, Hove". Pinterest. Retrieved 1 January 2022.
  14. ^ "Company:W S Green Ltd". House of Fraser Archive @ University of Glasgow. Retrieved 22 May 2021.
  15. ^ "Boots Company Ltd and House of Fraser". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). 13 November 1973. Retrieved 30 December 2015.

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