All over the globe, there are people who love to fish and in the universal language of the sport, one name reigns supreme - that of Hardy. For well over a century, House of Hardy has been renowned as the manufacturer of the finest game fishing tackle in the world - the name is synonymous with quality and excellence. Such reputations are not acquired easily, but it has never faltered throughout the company's long history.
That history began in 1872, when William Hardy established himself as a gunsmith in his home town of Alnwick, Northumberland. A year later he was joined by his brother John James, and the Hardy Brothers Partnership came into being. The high quality guns sold ranged from shotguns to pistols. However, despite their success, the Hardy Brothers' passion for fishing soon dictated a change in direction. Their favourite hobby became their profession, and the reputation of Hardy rods and reels was born.
To begin with, lancewood, hickory and greenheart rods were produced, but by 1880, bamboo had been added to the range. The Company was the first manufacturer to invent a system for building rods in hexagonal form from bamboo. The Hardy Palakona bamboo rod won the Company's first exhibition gold medal in 1881. Hardy products only stopped winning when gold medals were no longer presented at such exhibitions.
In 1891, the first Hardy "Perfect" reel was patented. This design has stood the test of time, and although there have been one or two minor alterations, the same basic model is manufactured today. Throughout its history, the Company has been responsible for some of the most radical advances in tackle design. It was the first to market bridge rings, spiral lock-fast joints, stud-lock joints, split-end joints, and "W" and screw-grip fittings for Salmon and Trout rods. It developed ball bearing reels and was the first to feature the check mechanism housed within the reel arbor and introduced the first large arbour reel in 1911.
The Company's record of innovation is a testament to the wealth of expertise invested in it. Among the three generations of Hardys involved in the firm, there have been some great anglers, beginning with John James who became World Champion Fly Caster. His nephew "LRH" became the most celebrated fly fisherman of his day: his prowess in casting reached almost legendary proportions. James L Hardy (JLH), grandson of the founder William carried on the tradition in tournament casting. He held 25 British National Professional records, 10 British All-Comers Professional records and three times has been World Professional Champion Caster. Jim retired from the company in early 1992 and as a consultant assisted with product development; his long awaited history of the Hardy family was published in 1998.
Although for the majority of its history, House of Hardy has remained a family firm, its very success decreed that it would not remain a partnership for long. In 1907 it was incorporated as a Limited Company, and in 1928 it went public. In 1933, Hardy Brothers (Alnwick) Limited extended its operations to include golf club manufacture. However, although Hardy wooden golf clubs also reached a high level of acclaim, the venture was closed in 1935 with the advent of steel shafts onto the market. Instead, the Company established itself as the absolute specialist in fishing tackle. Notwithstanding a brief interlude during World War II when it produced munitions, the Company continued to expand its range.
Alnwick, England, became famous as the birthplace of this angling institution and the annual Hardy catalogue became the "bible" for all those who sought either knowledge of, or the best of fishing equipment itself - they have become very collectible items.
The list of Hardy devotees is as long as it is impressive. No less that 10 Royal Warrants of appointment, including those of the late King George V and the last three Princes of Wales have been awarded to Hardy during this last century.
In 1967 Hardy Brothers (Alnwick) Limited became a wholly owned subsidiary of the Harris & Sheldon Group Ltd.. A severe slump in the industry in the late 1970's eventually resulted in a three day week in 1983. This was the Company's nadir. In spite of the then difficult circumstances, the company survived, with its reputation intact and was the first to patent the graphite fly rod which surpassed fibreglass in performance.
A Hardy reel became the holder of the first American Kudos Award for Design Excellence; and in 1984, House of Hardy was the first non-Japanese manufacturer to receive a Japanese Industrial Design Award winning not one but five. In the same year, Hardy (USA) Inc, was established as a marketing subsidiary to handle the growing demand in the American angling market. In 1985, the company name was changed to "House of Hardy Limited" to encompass the new and extended activities. The following year, this exceptional record was rewarded when in April, 1986, the Company received the Queen's Award for Export Achievement.
To ensure that some of the fishing tackle memorabilia in the company's possession was preserved for posterity, House of Hardy then decided to build a museum at its Alnwick headquarters. This was opened by HRH The Princess Margaret in July, 1987, and is unique. Many of the exhibits have been lent by the company's many devotees round the world as well as by the Hardy family. The museum is half of an imposing complex which also houses the Hardy Country Store in which all current House of Hardy products are on permanent display and available to retail customers.
In September, 1988, House of Hardy acquired their manufacturer of quilted and waxed garments as part of Hardy's growing clothing division. Today, the CountryWear division produces a modern range of performance outerwear - including fleece jackets and shirts.
The third division of House of Hardy was the composite tubing business of Fibatube (and has since been sold). At the leading edge of composite tube technology, the division had established an enviable reputation for innovation, design, quality, service and manufacturing expertise over 25 years. Many of the technical attributes required to produce the finest fishing rods have been utilised to supply tubular components for Formula 1 racing cars, artificial limbs and the A320 Airbus.
In the Alnwick factory, the company manufactures over 90% of all parts used in the Hardy range of fishing tackle - from split bamboo, glass and carbon fibre rods to the world's most extensive range of fly reels - as well as a comprehensive family of fishing accessories. Opposite St James Palace in London's Pall Mall, House of Hardy's retail shop has been a mecca for the world's game fishing enthusiasts for over 100 years. Now that Harry Potter films use the Alnwick Castle as the prime movie set, even more tourism is expected to discover Alnwick situated in the N. E. Corner of Northumberland near the Scottish border.
**The prestigious and rigorous 2003 "Fly Fish America" Magazine's Tackle Review noted the "Editor's Choice" was the new Hardy GEM reel as the best saltwater fly reel made today.