The History of the Nottingham Wooden Winch, by Henry Coxon

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Rod Fisher
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The History of the Nottingham Wooden Winch, by Henry Coxon

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ANGLERS throughout the country are by this time familiar with the qualities of the Nottingham wooden winch, and a few facts in connection with its invention and production may prove acceptable to readers of the Fishing Gazette.

The old bobbin or bush reels were in use on the river Trent years before the admirable work, “The Angler’s Instructor,” was written by the late William Bailey, of Nottingham. They were of primitive patent, and were made for the most part in Radford and Sneinton, suburbs of Nottingham. The mechanic who first conceived the idea of a centre reel was one Joseph Turner, of Pomfret-street, Nottingham. He mad several, and one is now in the possession of Mr. Stephen Dale, whose grandson Mr. H Dale, carries on business as a fishing tackle and reel maker in St. John’s-street in the town named. Mr. Stephen Dale himself retired from the business so long conducted by him a season or two ago, and resides at Burton-on-Trent.

Scarcely had Mr. Turner placed his reel on the market than Mr. S. Lowkes, of Upper Parliament-street, Nottingham, produced one on an improved principle. This, however, possessed defects, not the least being that if the line by any means became entangled in the aperture surrounding the spindle, and on which, of course, the reel revolved, the angler was compelled to break off his line. Moreover, in order to clear the spindle of any line which might have accidentally fouled it, he was under the necessity of running off the whole in order to reach the seat of the fastening. This lay on the bobbin or revolving plate (wood) itself, and was unlocked by means of a key. The reel, however, was eagerly sought after, and was, without doubt, the best in the market up to that period – forty years or more ago. Scores of the reels are still in existence, and in a few isolated cases old Trent fishermen are accustomed to use them.

The late Mr. John Morley, fishing tackle dealer, of Carrington-street, Nottingham, used to take the centres, whilst those of the ordinary pattern were taken by Mr. S. Dale. A Mr. Steers, also of Nottingham, used to produce scores of first-class centres, and just previously to his death he was engaged on the production of reels working on two centres.

When George Holland, or “Nottingham George,” left the Trent for the Thames as a professional fisherman, he took with him reels on the centre principle, supplied b the late Mr. Walter Wells, of the Nottingham “Worm Farm.” Mr. Wells supplied Holland with reels and other tackle for years. Mr. Wells took most of the centres made by Mr. William Brailsford, of Hyson Green, Nottingham, and for a time the supply was kept a secret. The name of the maker, however, oozed out, and at the present period Mr. Brailsford makes for, amongst others, Mr. J. Theaker, fishing tackle dealer, &c., -of No. 6, Broad Marsh, Nottingham.

Theaker is one of the best all-round fishermen we have, and was frequently, in the late Wm. Bailey’s day, out fishing with him, especially on the Shardlow and Weston waters. Twenty-five years ago there was no railway communication with either Shardlow or Weston, and anglers anxious to reach and fish these noted fisheries were compelled to “foot it” from either Trent or Draycott.

Hardly had the Brailsford centres appeared that Mr. David Slater, of Newark, Nottinghamshire, brought out his famous centres; and now a grand centre (one of the latest design) is on the market by Mr. H. Dale. This, with others, is the production of Mr. Eaton, of Nottingham, who for a brief period was engaged, I believe, by Mr. Slater.

Twenty years ago, Mr Geo. Bates, of the Nottingham Wellington Angling Society, and whose late father was a distinguished mechanic in connection with our lace producing industry, conceived the idea of applying a silent check to Nottingham centre reels. Such reels, with the check in question, are now made in all sizes by Mr. E. West, fishing tackle dealer, of 28, Sussex-street, Nottingham. Mr. West’s uncle, who lived at Radford, used to manufacture the old steel bush reel; and excellent reels of ordinary pattern were made by Mr. Tom Taylor, Mr. Wm. Belshaw, Mr. Wm. Dann, and other – all of Nottingham.

Nottingham reels – centres I mean – have stood the test of upwards of forty years.

Hundreds of anglers throughout the country believe that the late Wm. Bailey was a native of our town. He was not; he was born in North Gate, Loughborough, in Leicestershire, and was buried at Cossall, in Notts.


Fishing Gazette, 7th September 1895.
"Allcocks' Model Perfect Hooks are the sharpest made. Try them on your Bottoms." - Allcocks advertisement 1912

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Re: The History of the Nottingham Wooden Winch, by Henry Coxon

Post by StefanDuma »

The article that started my research on Nottingham reels. I might not have written anything if I had not found so many mistakes.

I still remember the two hours in Cossall church looking for Bailey's grave, he's not there, but there are some wonderful graves for Waterloo veterans.

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