Following the flame: Carlisle - office so cramped he had to sit on a radiator
20 Jun 2012
Posted by: Anna Stone
Subjects: Interesting stories
Our earliest known agent in Carlisle was J Painter who was representing Norwich Union Fire there by 1806.
Norwich Union Life had appointed an agent, W Peascod, in Carlisle by 1818 and by 1824 the company was represented by T H Young.
By 1828 Newcastle Fire Office had appointed Thomas and Joseph Rome of Scotch Gardens and the same year Scottish Union also had an agent in Carlisle.
By 1893 Scottish Accident was operating in Carlisle and two years later General Accident opened a branch at 38 Scotch Street under Charles L E Hall. The company moved a number of times, firstly to 51 Chiswick Street in 1900 and the following year to 11 Hart Street. In 1905 the branch moved again to Lowther Arcade as is shown in the headed notepaper below.
By 1912 both Norwich Union Fire and Norwich Union Life had opened sub branches in Carlisle under H F Rothwell and W E Wears respectively and by 1920 General Accident had moved again, to 7 Lowther Street under manager John Clark.
Mr Clarke was still in charge in 1927 when the branch moved yet again to new offices at 44 Warwick Road. By the time Mr Clark retired in 1955 the manager for General Accident's subsidiary, Road Transport and General was Mr H Cantwell. He later recalled that conditions in their offices, at 10 Lowther Street, were so cramped that Frank England, the chief fire clerk, "for many years had to sit on a radiator".
In an attempt to deal with this issue the company purchased 25 Portland Square, photographed below, which had formerly been a doctor's surgery and a private house.
Staff moved from 10 Lowther Street...
...into the new offices in May 1960 but the days of sitting on radiators were not necessarily completely behind them. The new furniture failed to arrive in time and all the old office furniture had been sold so for the first two weeks staff worked on borrowed card tables and had to bring their own chairs in from home.
In 1968 the General Accident and Road Transport and General staff were integrated at 25 Portland Square. The photograph below shows the last of the General Accident staff vacating their building in 1974.
Two years later they moved again to temporary premises in Broadacre House, Lowther Street while 24-26 Portland Square was demolished to make way for a new office building.
The completed building was occupied in 1978 and the photographs below show some of the staff on moving day.
Among the 89 staff was one who had the distinction of having lived and been to school on the site as well as working there. Margaret Bushby had lived at 24 Portland Square when it was the Girls' Friendly Society Lodge and attended school at 26 Portland Square when it was Gregg School. The photograph below shows Margaret and other staff at their desks in the new building.
The branch manager at the time of the move was Jim Dalton who was still in charge in 1979 when the branch received over 60 claims as a result of the Carlisle earthquake which hit over Christmas and measured 4.5 - 5 on the richter scale.
I'll end with another unusual claim reported by Scottish Accident in 1893. The company paid £33 to a Carlisle draper who fractured his arm having collided with railings while chasing his hat which had blown off.