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One of the world’s largest tackle makers was the firm S. Allcock & Co. based in Redditch. The company was founded by Polycarp Allcock
and was originally engaged in the business of hook making.
industry started in the village of Sambourne by a Charles Tolly
sometime in the late eighteenth century. Richard Hemming whose
grandfather was one of Tolly’s apprentices moved to Redditch and
taught others the art of hook making. One of the people who he
taught was Polycarp Allcock who in turn set up his own business
Polycarp Allcock had a complicated life and on September 19th.
1829 a son Samuel was born, the youngest child from his third
marriage. I do not know what the problems were; the only reference
I have found was the fact that the family had to work in the
business due to the “reckless lives of the second family!”
An early Picture of Samuel Allcock from
a glass negative.
At the age of ten Samuel had to work at home for half a day and
attend school for the remainder of the day. At thirteen he was
accompanying his father on his selling trips. Polycarp would, with
a horse and gig, travel the country selling not only his hooks but
other fishing tackle.
At the age of fifteen he was thought responsible enough to
undertake the selling trips on his own. This industrious and
thoughtful side of his character was attributed to the Wesleyan
Methodist upbringing, having joined of his own choice.
At the age of nineteen his mother died and with his father aged
seventy seven thoughts about the succession of the business were
aired. Samuel took over the business with a stock valuation of
On August 22 1848 Samuel married the daughter of James Baylis
of Redditch, who also worked in the fishing tackle trade.
The trade that Samuel followed for his apprenticeship was that of
a float maker and he eventually had an assistant Mr. E Perks who
he had once taught.
In 1851 the company took a gamble when Samuel decided to take
part in the Great Exhibition. Not having that much money, about £5
was spent on a small exhibition case of tackle. Although he did
not win any prizes he did receive an honourable mention and
consequently helped to spread the name of the company. The London
press of the time described the exhibit as “Brummagem stuff”
In 1856 Allcock purchased a small hook making company from
George Andrews near Unicorn Hill in Redditch. In the course of
time many of the Andrews family came to join the company including
George’s son William. One exhibition piece that George made
consisted of 1000 hooks all of which were placed on a shilling
In 1860 rod making was introduced by Samuel with Mr. James
Tansley and his son being employed as the first rod makers.
Gradually more people were employed in rod making including Mr.
Allcock’s assistants, Albert Stratton and E. Perks.
Following the success of the 1851 exhibition further shows took
place in 1862 in Toronto and Bergen in 1865. This was a trend that
would continue in the future with the emphasis on overseas
As far as I know Allcock’s have always been a tackle
wholesaler, rather than a manufacturer with a retail outlet like
Hardy Bros. With this policy it is no surprise that they were
seldom seen exhibiting in this country.
The business was carried out on a site between Unicorn Hill and
Bates Hill but the expansion of the company meant that space was
getting tight. Some cottages and a shop were taken over and a
treadle lathe installed. During this time the rods were made of
ash, hickory and lancewood. The planks of wood were cut with a
hand saw and later worked with a hand plane to a near enough shape
In 1866 with a growing workforce, to meet the increase in
sales, space was a problem, to overcome this a site was purchased
in Clive Road and the company moved. The workforce numbered about
thirty with the rod making department consisting of seven rod
makers and four women rod finishers. At this time the company was
split into three departments, rod, float and hook making.
New staff were employed and the work force quickly doubled to
sixty with some out workers moving into the factory.
Mr. Sandilands was employed as the foreman of the rod making
section and he introduced a heavy type of rod for Scottish
fishing. There is no mention of anything else about this rod; I
can only assume that it was a worming rod or spinning rod. There
was another increase in employees as much unskilled work was
required to do tasks like rounding up butts. Skilled labour was
lacking to make rods and Samuel managed to recruit four rod makers
from London. This was not a great success and soon three of them
left, the one who remained was a split cane rod maker.
Further machinery was added including a butt turning and a
hollow fitting lathe. A saw mill was built and noticing that one
of the builders was adept at using the saws he was soon employed
by Allcock’s as their first sawyer. Obviously the right formula
had been struck as the company had trouble keeping up with the
demand for rods, the rod makers were working until ten or eleven
every night. Samuel lived close by in Clive House and was always
on hand to make sure that they were well looked after.
George Andrews was in charge of the hook making department that
was also responsible for baits. As we know many of Allcock’s baits
were in fact made by Gregory, but some were made in-house. Four
girls were employed in tying hooks to gut, flies were made by
The float turning shop was run by Mr. Cox who departed and was
for a short time replaced by Thomas Sealey, before handing it over
to William Meyneord. Once the floats had been turned they went to
a finishing shop located on the top floor of the building.
Float making was considered as a “season trade” with the slack
time being from August to December. During this time the float
makers were employed sorting and straightening porcupine quills
ready for the next season.
In 1868 the company took part in the Turin Exhibition, Italy
and followed this up with the 1870 Paris exhibition where it won a
gold medal. This was a great success for the company as the Shah
of Persia made a close inspection of their exhibit and purchased
Samuel Allcock travelled extensively throughout Europe and on
3rd August 1871 he went further. He sailed from Liverpool on the
White Star Liner Oceanic and arrived in New York ten days later.
He had taken the decision to expand the company into North
Some people claim that Allcock produced brass reels that were
offered in the 1871 catalogue. This is can not be true because it
was not until 1873 that the company started to make their own
reels when a Birmingham brass worker Mr. Hughes joined the firm
along with two youths.
An early Allcock multiplying reel marked
Sold in the 1871 catalogue but not made
In 1874 the company made great strides when James Young joined,
within three months he was head of the reel making department.
James Young was also employed as a tinsmith making tin boxes, cans
and the lining for packing crates.
In 1876 an additional floor was added to the building and to
celebrate Samuel Allcock held a dance in the building. Two people
joined the company who were to eventually become directors, G. E.
Leach in 1872 and Alfred Williams in 1874.
In 1878 Mr. Tay joined the firm and brought with him a complete
float making department, including George Tay and Luke Sealey.
Mr. Tay had prior to this enjoyed much success in North America
and this work was bought with him. This also had the effect of
expanding the range of floats that the company offered and put an
end to the “float season”.
An interesting employee at this time was Ernest Bartleet a
member of another famous Redditch tackle family.
Samuel Allcock’s first wife died and in 1878 he remarried. Not
surprisingly he chose someone from the tackle industry when he
married the widow of Charles Playfair the Scottish rod maker. He
had five daughters from his first marriage and one of them
Elizabeth married G. E. Leach in 1879.
Samuel took his civic responsibilities seriously and was
somewhat ahead of his time when it came to workers welfare. When
family festivities took place the whole of the workforce was
invited. Samuel was also from the age of twenty, superintendent of
the Wesleyan Sunday School.
A review in the magazine Land & Water in August 1879 claimed
that they were the largest manufacturer of tackle in the world
with a work force that now numbered over 400. Land & Water
recognised that there was a threat to the British tackle industry
from the emerging American market. They commented on a case of
tackle being prepared or the Australian Exhibition in Sydney and
felt sure that they would beat off the competition.
1879 was a monumental year in the history of the company.
Allcock Laight & Co. was established in Toronto Canada and the
company made their first Split Cane rod. The rod was made by Mr.
Alfred Willmore who had joined the rod making department in 1863.
This caused a great deal of excitement not only within the
company, but also within the British tackle trade.
At the same time Hardy’s were also investigating split cane rod
building. It is interesting to note the tools used, a hand saw,
tenon saw, jack plane, two smoothing planes, and treadle lathe to
bore out the butts, chisel and a pocket knife.
In 1880 the company exhibited in Melbourne, Toronto, Wurtzburg
and Berlin. Emperor William visited the stand in Berlin and Samuel
explained about the tackle on display. The local press were full
of praise for the company stating that they made all their own
tackle, something that can not be said of the German tackle
In 1881 more exhibitions took place with success in Norwich and
Adelaide. Samuel attended all the shows putting forward the case
for buying Allcock tackle.
In 1883 they even went to Calcutta to supply tackle to the
jewel in the British Empire, India.
The company showcase at the Paris 1895
In 1882 the Standard Work Sick and Dividend Society was formed
to ensure that workers would benefit when ill. All excess funds
were paid out to the workers as a Christmas bonus.
With the continual expansion in sales more space was required
and in 1882 the Saw Pit was removed and a two story building
erected in its place. This was occupied by William Meyneord and
his float making department. An additional building was erected to
house the Tin Shop and Forwarding Warehouses.
In July 1889 Redditch received a visit from the Shah of Persia.
When he arrived at the Railway Station he was met by two members
of the County Council, V. Milward and S. Allcock, both in the
tackle trade and both serving the community. The tackle presented
by Allcock consisted of a 10 foot split cane trout rod and a
silver bound ebonite reel with two silk lines enclosed in a blue
velvet lined mahogany case. There was also a Moroccon leather case
containing artificial minnows in silk, rubber and nickel, spoon
baits, grubs, insects, float, swivels and salmon flies. I wonder
what happened to those gifts?
In May 1891 there occurred an event which was to feature
regularly in the history of the company, a fire. It started in the
line shed near to the railway line and was discovered by Samuel’s
grandchildren who were living with him at the time. Mr. Leach
raised the alarm but before anything could be done the timber shed
was on fire. This contained all the wood for rod and reel
production, some which had been seasoned for twelve years. In a
very short time adjoining buildings were aflame and all the wood
stacks outside the building. The sound of bamboo cracking as it
caught fire was likened to rifle fire and could be heard for miles
Neighbouring fire brigades came to assist in trying to stop the
fire spreading, especially to the hardening shop where large
quantities of oil were kept. The heat was so intense that the
telegraph poles on the opposite side of the railway caught fire
along with some of the railway sleepers. It also caused the
railway to be closed as the track distorted with the heat. Many
people turned out to help, but many others turned out to watch and
see Mr. Leach’s garden turned into a wilderness. The cost of the
damage was put at £2000, but the biggest problem was the potential
shortage of wood. Buyers went out the next day to acquire wood.
By 1883 the company had become so large that the annual
Standard Works Dinner was now split into Departmental dinners. All
of them were attended by Samuel Allcock. The rod department was
suffering from decreased working hours for only the second time
since the company started. The warehouse was full and Samuel
continued in his endeavours to secure more business.
He went to America and travelled more than 14,000 miles
followed by 4,000 in Canada. At this time most goods entering the
U.S.A. were subject to import duty, consequently most British
companies were not interested in exhibiting at the Chicago Fair.
In 1893 the Model Perfect hooks were introduced into the US market
with great success. Samuel Allcock commented that the American
anglers “want good tackle” and that they were prepared to pay for
it. This was against the current trend which was for a reduction
in price with a consequent reduction in quality. The Model Perfect
Trout and Bass Hook was the best selling hook in America.
In this year the company issued a catalogue in three parts, in
honour of the visit to the factory of the British Association.
Part one was issue 16 of the price list, part two a fully
illustrated catalogue with coloured pictures and the third
contained photographs of the factory and a description of the gut
making factory at Murcia, Spain.
The company always welcomed the sporting press and they came
from all over the world to visit the factory. With good reports in
the various newspapers and continual exposure through exhibitions
the company continued to grow.
In 1896 the company went to Hesingfors and in 1897 to Brussels,
by which time Samuel’s son in law Alfred Williams was in charge.
Things did not always going to plan with the Brussels case
arriving broken, replacement glass was sent from England. In these
days of international travel it is hard to imagine that the case
left Redditch on March 21st. and it was not until June 21st. that
it was complete and ready to show. The effort was worth it because
they were awarded the highest possible prize, the Grand Prix.
On September 17th. 1899 the seventieth birthday of Samuel
Allcock was celebrated along with the sixtieth year in business.
He put up two great marquees at his residence “The Cedars” and
provided the Town Band to play music. There were refreshments, a
concert, games and a dance with all the company’s employees
welcomed. Mr. Stratton, still employed as Samuel’s assistant, made
the presentation on behalf of the workers. He recalled that when
the company started there were less than 500 people in the town
with about 20 of them employed in the fishing tackle business and
about 50 involved in hook making. W. Houghton made a short speech
recalling the days when all the rods were bought in from London
and other places. Now thanks to Mr. Allcock they were sending rods
from Redditch all over the world!
of Samuel Allcock in the Needle Museum Redditch
fully fitted out to go fishing it is believed he never fished
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