And at the end………

As previously mentioned in 1963 Allcocks and  JW Young and later Lee Products joined together to form Top Tackle, but somehow ended up being owned by Shakespeare and getting closed down in 1969.

It was pointed out to me that the Top Tackle incarnation was under the auspices of the Cope Allman International group and from time to time I’ve done a bit of internet sleuthing to try and find out what was going on.

Now I still don’t know what Allcock’s and Young’s Board of Directors thought they were doing nor what possessed them to sign on the dotted line, but I have found out a bit about Cope Allman…….

It was a Birmingham tube making firm founded in 1914 as Cope Allman Company, but by 1931 they were in Court for bankruptcy. By the 50’s the company was almost defunct and then along came a failed film director, Leonard Matchan, who had worked with Max Factor in films and gone with him when he founded his ladies make-up empire. He bought the company in 1956 and in ’57 it was launched as a ‘public company’.

It then started acquiring other firms to diversify and in 1959 shares were offered. In 1961 it bought a company in France that made lipstick holders and a substantial interest in JW Youngs and its subsidiaries.

So J W Youngs was part-owned by Cope Allman several years before Top Tackle was formed then!

In early 1963 Cope Allman approached Youngs with a business proposition that they would support them as the main reel making firm in Redditch and Ted Young, the senior designer, suggested that if they also took over Allcocks they would have the top rod and reel makers under one company. Cope Allman approached Dick Orton of Allcocks with the idea.

The three Youngs brothers debated the plan exhaustively, but eventually decided to go ahead,  James and Howard would resign and Ted would represent the Youngs interest in the new company. Ted broke the news to the staff and told them their jobs were safe……


So Allcock and Youngs merged to form Allcock-Young on 21st.October 1963 and an inaugural lunch was held at the Welcombe Hotel in Stratford-upon-Avon. The sales theme of the merger was ” The Balanced Outfit, an Allcock’s rod with a Young’s reel. Working together for British Angling” Ted had re-designed his Ambidex reel just for the merger with new gears inside and a new swan-necked body..the Delmatic reel was born.


Ted Young was Company Director along with Peter Coe from Allcocks ( father of athlete Seb!) and W K Bradley of Cope Allman as Co-Directors.


In early 1964 Ken Lee of Lee & Sons approached Leonard Matchan and asked that he buy his firm too! He probably thought his firm would go out of business if the new company were successful……….  Lee were allowed to merge with the company and the name was changed to Top Tackle. Ken Lee was made Marketing Director.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, in 1964 Cope Allman had formed a US based subsidiary company to ….get this……to manufacture JW Youngs and Allcocks products!

In 1965 Cope Allman were themselves ‘acquired’ by Midland and Northern Counties Investments…..owned by Leonard Matchan. So he bought his own company then?… might say ‘again’. MNCI was only given that name in 1963, before that it was called Leeds Consumer Ice and Cold Storage Co

You can guess who owned that can’t you?

Also in 1965 the name was changed to Cope Allman International. There’s no mention of the American based subsidiary to sell Allcock and Young’s tackle, but at that time in late 1965 Shakespeare bought both the German Noris Fischerei Geräte and also the Top Tackle brand from Leonard Matchan and called themselves Noris Shakespeare in Europe. The owner of Noris later sold her other company,Witt & Führmann to Zebco in the USA.


In 1966 the new Noris Shakespeare company offered the new Match Aerial reel, designed by Peter Coe( as mentioned, father of Seb Coe, now Lord Coe of Olympics fame) who was now just Works Manager of the firm.

Ted Young took the decision to retire when Shakespeare closed down the Mayfield Works in 1966, moving the Youngs work-force…minus 30 redundancies…to the Allcocks factory in Clive Road.

The only remaining Young left was Jim Young, named after his Grandfather, the founder. He had started at the bottom and worked in every department as advised by his Uncle Ted. He worked a five and a half day week for £4.10/- ( £4:50 now) and managed to complete a Higher National Diploma course in Mechanical and Production Engineering in 1964. At Clive Road Jim designed a multiplying fly reel with an adjustable clutch. It was called the Fish Hawk reel and most folk don’t even know it was  Young’s reel with its American name.

As mentioned elsewhere Jim did in time, get given the permission he needed to make reels under his own ( and his Grandfather’s) name again.

In 1966 the Top Tackle company introduced the Mark Nine reel also utilising the new ‘swan-neck’ body shape, followed next year by the Ambidex Match, .. strangely using the old ‘slope-back’ body. But financial cuts were being forced on the firm and the Directors were constantly at loggerheads. Possibly this means that Ted Young, the designer for many years, but now departed, had nothing to do with the Match Ambidex?

In 1968 there was a serious fire at the Clive Road factory and Noris Shakespeare moved production to Brook Street. I’m uncertain when the last Youngs reel was assembled, but the Delmatic seems to have continued until 1969, presumably at the Brook Street factory. It seems Youngs were finally closed completely at that time and Jim Young went to Swift Engineering, later buying the firm.

1969 was also the last year of the Allcock’s name and the last Allcock’s Angler’s Guide was published that year. Shakespeare also published a catalogue for 1969 and in it they were selling off the last of the Allcock cane rods and Young’s reel parts cheap.

In 1979 Shakespeare moved to the Lakeside Industrial Estate and then  they too shut down production  and just became importers of foreign tackle.

allcocks clive road fire The burnt out Clive Road factory.


Eventually Shakespeare themselves were acquired by Pure Fishing, a subsidiary of the Jarden Corporation. Pure Fishing owns many other tackle brands but just kept a tiny office on the outskirts of Redditch with a half dozen employees…… abandoned, as they’ve moved to Alnwick and seem to have acquired Hardy Brothers too!

pure fishing

The empty Redditch offices of Pure Fishing.

hardy greys

The new Pure Fishing offices in the old Hardy Brothers building in Alnwick.



The Allcock name lives on….sort of:   Somehow Irish tackle makers Dennett got permission to use both the Allcock name and that of Top Tackle too, so presumably Shakespeare gave their permission, as they own both:


The above is a pre-war American lure called a Colorado Spoon. Made by an Irish firm, using British names with permission of an owning American company. Who says the Americans don’t understand irony….?






Why did Leonard Matchan sell them all off?  Perhaps he wanted some cash because he then bought himself an Channel Island, Brecqhou……and some yachts.



By now he owned over 200 companies and admitted that he had no idea of the name of many of them. He issued his own stamps for his island, as was his right, but he angered folk down there by creating his own flag which he wasn’t apparently allowed to do. He had a Coat of Arms by now as well and put that on his flag.

Folk who knew him laughed at the Island thing as it was so choppy there he never got to use his yachts and invariably had to rent a helicopter to get over there or back again.

He died in 1987 and a long legal battle with his own holding company was started by his son over who owned the island.

Here he is being interviewed by Alan Whicker for television.


And here is his flag, it’s simply the flag of nearby Sark with his Arms added on the bottom right. Yes, he’d even had the College of Arms create him a coat of arms……


Matchan issued some money once as well….the Knacker…I kid you not:


Matchan's Knackers


Matchan’s Knackers.

A kind coin collector read this blog and sent me two Knackers. Thank-you, Sir!


Matchan had bought the island off one John Thomas Donaldson………you couldn’t make this stuff up….


All those workers from Allcocks, JW Young and Lee…. thousands of them there in Redditch…all those families fed and homed, perhaps mortgages paid off in time. Generations of skilled labour, father and son…an inheritance, a legacy….and it all goes to feed the vanity and greed of one man.

It’s enough to make you weep!



It occurred to me that you might like to see what Mr. Matchan bought with all that money. Here it is, the island of Brecqhou:


It’s such a long way to the local pub that they built one on the island for the staff..the Dog and Duck   🙂

Click the picture above and have a zoom about this private island, now owned by the Barclay Brothers.


I once wandered through Redditch in recent times…’s a bit run down in places today. I looked up in one street and saw it was named Mayfield Road. I felt like I’d been punched in the chest!….the original J W Youngs factory was the Mayfield Works in this very street, built by J W Young’s sons on the site of an old apple orchard. All gone now.



Of course, it might all well have happened without Leonard Matchan. Shakespeare also acquired another British fishing tackle company, Grice and Young ( no relation to J W Young) who had first been involved in aircraft manufacture in Bedfordshire, but re-located to Christchurch, then in Dorset, at about the time of the second world war, seemingly taking over the local Agila reel company who made fly fishing reels.

Grice and Young designed and manufactured robust fishing reels including a range of sea-fishing models with detachable drums for rapid bait descents from a dedicated front facing spindle.


Now as far as I know Shakespeare never manufactured these reels, they simply shut the factory and flogged the design of the sea reels to a South African company.


If you’re struggling to like the Americans any more I probably shouldn’t point out they just did it again…Orvis bought out British Fly Reels in Cornwall, the remains of the old K P Morritts firm from Surrey and closed them down, after taking one of the designs and putting their name on it.