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Army and navy stores in england

clarinetplayer

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I love reading diaries of famous people. While reading the three volumes of Harold Nicholson's diaries which cover the first 2/3s of the 20th century, he often recorded that he came across some fabric which he would then take to the "army and navy store" to be made into suits. In the novel, "Any Human Heart", by William Boyd, an English author, the "hero" of the novel also has suits "made" at the army navy store--double breasted pinstripes, etc... What WERE these stores? Do they still exist?
 

Chilli padi

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There is an Army & Navy department store on Victoria Street in London. I think this is the only one. I have never been inside the store so can't tell you more than this.
 

bengal-stripe

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I believe at one time, prior to WW1, maybe WW2, the Army & Navy store was restricted to members of the services and their families. They provided high class merchandise and they also specialized to have it sent anywhere where the British Army happened to be stationed.

In these days all the top London department (Harrods, Debenhams & Freebody, Whiteley's, Derry & Tom's etc.) stores had departments to make men's and women's apparel (but also luggage or riding gear) to measure. They might have been somewhat cheaper then Savile Row, but probably not a great deal. Harold Nicholson might have had a good rapport with the people at A & N bespoke section. Other people would have used different stores or independent tradesmen.

Since their heydays in Edwardian London, department stores have been in a permanent decline. Some have gone for good; others survived although most of the space gets franchised out to shops within the shop. (Today people buy designer names and are not happy anymore with everything bearing the store's label.)

The Army & Navy store still exist, down in Victoria but is only a shadow of its former imperial glory. Part of the House of Fraser group of stores it is a non-descript middle of the road store, selling all the usual stuff you would expect. There is nothing as exotic as a bespoke department anymore (not in any London store).
 

TKDKid

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There's an Army & Navy Store in East London, nearish where I live. Haven't been in there though, sorry.

I'm also sure I saw another one somewhere else in London (not Victoria).
 

sleeper

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I think there are two things here, but I could be wrong. One is the Army and Navy store in Victoria, which is a well-established department store, in a respectable area of London, which is probably the one referred to in the book extracts. I think Nigel Nicholson used to live quite close. They were quite a big chain early in the 20th century, but then declined and were taken over by House of Fraser.

Then there is another, generic Army and Navy store, which sells military surplus, which is probably the one located in East London.

Bengal-stripe, there may be something in what you say about the Army and Navy being restricted to servicemen and their families. But I think that would have been pre-war. You are right about the role that department stores used to have - my father bought all his suits at Harrods during the 1950s, which someone like him would not dream of doing now.
 

sleeper

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I think there are two things here, but I could be wrong. One is the Army and Navy store in Victoria, which is a well-established department store, in a respectable area of London, which is probably the one referred to in the book extracts. I think Harold Nicholson used to live quite close. They were quite a big chain early in the 20th century, but then declined and were taken over by House of Fraser.

Then there is another, generic Army and Navy store, which sells military surplus, which is probably the one located in East London.

Bengal-stripe, there may be something in what you say about the Army and Navy being restricted to servicemen and their families. But I think that would have been pre-war. You are right about the role that department stores used to have - my father bought all his suits at Harrods during the 1950s, which someone like him would not dream of doing now.
 

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