Army and Navy Stores, Bombay (Mumbai). A Grade II heritage structure, originally designed by Frederick William Stevens (1847-1900) and David Gostling and completed in 1891, but rebuilt after a fire in 1896. Christopher London notes that "Stevens adopted a variety of styles in his final years, unsure of either the neo-Gothic or the Indo-Saracenic style as a guaranteed lure for clients" (112), so the original building here was neo-classical rather than "Bombay Gothic." Perhaps an Italianate confection, with marble columns and so forth, was deemed more suitable for commercial premises. But what we see now may not be what Stevens had intended: the building has rather a complicated history. Although there was already an Army and Navy depot in Mumbai, and the premises here were leased in 1892, the original establishment was not actually opened until late in 1894 (House of Fraser Archive), and then it was burned down in a fire which broke out on 11 March 1896. Its heritage information board credits it now to the firm of Gostling Chambers & Fritchley. It is not clear how much of the original design remains. The building stands on Esplanade Road, Mumbai, between the former Mechanics Institute (now David Sassoon Library), and the former Watson's Hotel.

The Army & Navy Co-operative Society Ltd, which was incorporated in London on 15 September 1871, "was formed by a group of army and navy officers for the supply of articles of domestic consumption and general use to its members at the lowest remunerative rates"; it was not without precedent, having been "based on the model of two earlier middle-class co-operatives, the Civil Service Supply Association and the Civil Service Co-operative Society" (House of Fraser Archive). It was very popular among the British colonials, who could get things the "tropical provisions" that they needed for their new lives here (Davies 167), and, equally important, things that they missed from their lives at home. An Army and Navy branch had already been opened in Karachi, and others followed, in Kolkata (1901), and then New Delhi, Shimla and Ranchi. This emporium did much more than provide groceries, clothes and other necessities; it also offered various services for expatriates, such as travel and even funeral arrangements. The Mumbai store was closed a few years after Indian Independence, in 1952, but, according to the information board, was "extensively restored in 1998," and "today houses several companies of the Tata Group."

Photographs (including a useful one of the heritage notice-board) by Tim Willasey-Wilsey, and text and formatting by Jacqueline Banerjee. You may use the images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one. [Click on the images to enlarge them.]

Related Material


"Company: Army & Navy Stores Ltd Army & Navy Co-operative Society Ltd." House of Fraser Archive (see also details of the insurance report). Web. 10 October 2016.

Davies, Philip. Splendours of the Raj: British Architecture in India, 1660-1947. London: Penguin, 1987.

Great Fire at Bombay." Liverpool Mercury. 13 March 1896. British Library Newspapers, Part I. Web. 10 October 2016.

London, Christopher. Bombay Gothic. Mumbai: India Book House, 2002.

Pindar, D. A. Visitor's Illustrated Guide to Bombay. Bombay: G. Claridge & Co., 1904. Internet Archive. From an unknown library. Web. 10 October 2016.

Created 10 October 2016