Army and Navy Stores, Fossgate


During a wander down Fossgate recently I had a look through the closed doors of the now empty Army and Navy Stores. Not quite empty. Near the door a handwritten sign advertises ‘umbrella / walking stick stand £10′ with a phone number underneath. Alongside the stand also stand a pair of dislocated mannequin legs, wearing brown suede shoes and what appear to be black long johns, with another sign offering this ‘trouser / jeans display’ for £3.

Behind this, bins put neatly in a corner and the old wooden drawers with small brass label holders. For ‘work gloves’ and what looks like ‘LNER gloves’ or perhaps ‘liner gloves’. The drawer unit itself, beautifully aged and battered, is marked ‘not for sale’.


A very manly place, the Army and Navy Stores, as its name suggests. Round the corner, in its window facing onto Pavement, a label left behind on the window display records that it also sold aprons, perhaps not so manly. But I remember it as a man’s shop, and have been asking the man of the house if he remembers buying things from there. We think perhaps that the blue cotton jackets we both wore in the late 1980s came from here. He had two and gave me the smaller one. His apparently was a ‘railwayman’s jacket’. Was mine a railwayman’s jacket? I asked excitedly. Why didn’t you tell me? Like I would have cared back then.


The late 80s seems like long enough ago, but the shop had been here for decades before that. It closed last year after 93 years of trading. Soon to be another pub/eaterie, it seems.


The shop is well-known for having old fixtures and fittings, and we value this kind of thing now more than we used to, so I imagine the refit will probably preserve as much as possible, as Loch Fyne did with the old Stubbs building further down Fossgate.


Before moving on — I had to go and find these, packed away in an old suitcase. I wonder if other people keep old clothes for sentimental reasons. These are the jackets mentioned above which I think came from Army and Navy Stores, and it’s about 25 years since they were worn. My quick research suggests that the one on the left, grubby and faded, with rubber buttons, is a railway worker’s jacket. The one on the right, not so sure. Maybe someone reading had similar and can confirm that Army and Navy Stores in York sold these. Looking at them takes me right back to 1988, and brings thoughts of Sunday lunchtimes at the Spread Eagle, down the road on Walmgate. More on that another time perhaps.

Your thoughts and memories welcome, as always.

Elsewhere on the web

Army & Navy Stores up for sale after 93 years — includes information on the history of the shop
Bar and café plan for former Army & Navy Store premises in Fossgate

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  1. this was a lovely old shop sold proper hiking and camping gear not flowery festival tents ! York needs more eateries like General Custer needed a few more indians to turn up

  2. Elizabeth Hardcastle

    When I went to town as a child – probably in the 1950s – my mother usually had to take me to the Army and Navy Stores to see the man in the window. It was plaster, waist upwards, a workman in bib and braces, possibly wearing a cap and possibly with his thumb in his braces. No-one else seems to remember him, a few years ago asked in the shop about him but none of the staff remembered him. Does anyone else remember him?

    I also remember a pair of shoes in a shop window in Spurriergate opposite St Michael’s church, sometime in the 1950s. They were in a bowl of water to show how durable and waterproof they were. I’ve no idea for how long they were in this water but I was fascinated and paid the window many a visit! Was it Greenwoods perhaps?

  3. YorkStories

    I think I remember something similar in the Army and Navy Stores window – would be in fairly recent years though so maybe not the same one? … but does sound familiar.

    The shoes display on Spurriergate sounds great – can’t imagine the shops there having anything like that now. ‘Durable’ doesn’t seem to be as important to the modern-day shopper!

    • I think durable is becoming increasingly important for the environment…seems you need money for that though. 7 years since this article was posted, it seems like a year or two ago that the Army & Navy store closed. I think the bar that replaced it has changed hands a few times since? I went in a couple of times for breakfast but changed jobs and don’t go into York much now, though I went in yesterday hoping for a quiet walk in ‘lockdown 2′ and it was pretty busy, there is an amazing amount of coffee shops! What did we drink before coffee and was in necessary to always be holding a paper cup!?!

  4. Spurriergate one of the shops down there had a watch in a glass of water to prove it was water proof.

  5. Jane Roberts

    My son, who is in his twenties, was devastated when the Army and Navy stores closed down. I always got wellies and waterproofs for him and his sister there, and later on, as an impoverished student unconcerned with brand names, it was his ‘go to’ shop for almost everything! I don’t suppose either he or I will be able to afford the pub/eaterie!

  6. I well remember Fossgate, The Electric cinema or fleapit as some kids named it. the Army and Navy store at the pavement end
    The wallpaper shop a bit down on alley corner. A grocery store on the left too before the cinema.
    there was a big building on the foss bridge end, was it Bushells,sold builders materials.
    I remember a grocery store on the left before the cinema too, my mum shopped there.
    My dad got his overalls from the
    corner shop of Army and Navy store.
    There was a pub or two also I remember.
    Colliergate too had many stores.
    The big hardware store, a wallpaper shop, sweet and icecream store. so many small businesses.
    Small businesses abounded then.
    The toy stores, there was a presbytery I believe.
    I loved Youngs Restaurant up there near the Minster too,
    or sitting in the cafes in Stonegate looking down on the street. Drs.Wilfrid&Harry Goslings long entrance way in stonegate with it gated end.
    the entrance to the pub, with its sign across the road, well frequented and popular.
    I loved the shop that sold crockery and ornaments too.
    there was a bookstore or two I remember and a jewelers also at the Minster end .
    what a place it was to wander down when we were young

  7. Ian Ramsden

    The figure in the Army and Navy window was, I think, a chef with a chefs hat. I could be wrong though.
    Anyone remember the pet shop in Colliergate? THE most wonderful smell of oats, millet etc as you walked in. Always bought my budgie seed there.

    • Andy Tuckwell

      I think there may have been quite a few plaster figures in the Army and Navy windows – but I’m pretty sure some of them were modelling “Invicta” underwear.

  8. Judy Powell

    I only came across these posts and this site today.I no longer live in York, but bought stuff from the Army and Navy Stores when I did, and later on for my Dad, who died 8 years ago. I visited the place last week, to buy a butcher stripe apron to replace the one bought from there donkey’s years ago, and was sad to see it had gone, apparently some time since. I too remember the man in the overalls, I think the brand was Bolenium, my Dad had some for gardening and DIY. Yes I remember the whole stretch from Fossgate to Walmgate – my Dad worked at Cussins and Light in the repair department until 1985. As well as the pet shop in Colliergate (Rieveley’s), I remember Mawson’s in Walmgate, where we bought food pellets for my rabbit and flour for my Mum’s home baked bread. They also sold white mice. My Dad was in there one Friday, and a lady was buying 4 mice. The assistant warned her she’d need to put them in a proper cage and the waxed cardboard carton was just for taking them home. “That’s ok” replied the customer. “That will fit in my office drawer. I got the sack today and the rest of them will get such a surprise on Monday morning.” (Some of what she said may originally have contained more robust Yorkshire phrases!)

  9. I was taken there as a child with my parents for my Dad to buy his annual work boots (called Niagara and made in Czechoslovakia I think), which then spent months absorbing dubbin before there were let loose on the farm.

    My first wellies were purchased from there (Dunlop) and then many things since, Harrington Jackets, Donkey Jackets and also the same boots as my father which lasted year before the sole went through.

    Shame it’s gone and there is no obvious replacement in York.

  10. I first visited York in 1994, as an 18 year old. Fibbers was open at lunchtime, they had coffee ‘Friends’ style, before coffee was such a big thing. I didn’t visit Fossgate but I recall ‘And Albert’ where the Evil Eye now is on Stonegate, there was also a fossil shop further up. There was a big candle shop, in the Terry’s store on St Helens Square.

  11. Grew up in york …went tog Mill Mount Grammar School from 1956 till 1961. New Annette Wren would love to be in touch

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