Following the flame: Guildford - the view from the office window
20 Jul 2012
Posted by: Anna Stone
Subjects: Interesting stories
Our earliest agents in Guildford, Theophilus Smith and George Potter, were acting for Norwich Union Life by 1818. By the same year Norwich Union Fire was operating in Guildford and company accounts report that the agency expenses for the year were £3 3s 3d. After two years of making no payments at all for losses by fire the agency paid out the huge sum of £2,047 for losses in 1820!
The 1860s saw Commercial Union appoint the brewer, Frederick Augustine Crooke as agent and by 1886 Norwich Union Fire was represented by Henry Colenutt at 2 Bury Fields. Mr Colenutt was still representing the society in 1907.
By this time General Accident had opened an office in Cheseddene Road under R E M Geach whose headed notepaper from 1902 appears below.
The staff magazine of 1919 recorded the move to new offices at 51 High Street where the company was still operating, under H G Head, in 1931. By this date Commercial Union was operating from 17 High Street and Ocean Accident was at No 20 under E C Norton.
In 1934 General Accident's staff moved to new premises at 79 Portsmouth Road which the company purchased for £2,000. Also by this date Commercial Union was sharing its 17 High Street offices with Northern Assurance.
By 1952 Ocean Accident's branch had moved to 185-186 High Street and Road Transport and General's Guildford offices were in these premises at 13 North Street above a shop selling prams.
In 1958 Norwich Union's staff moved to new premises at 173-174 High Street which are shown in the artist's impression below.
The previous year the photograph below was taken from the window of the then branch offices at 26 High Street showing the Queen inspecting the Guard of Honour outside the Guildhall.
Photographs from office windows were obviously a Guildford speciality and I was thrilled find the one below which was taken from Ocean Accident's offices at 185-186 High Street in 1948. It shows a scene, which has become familiar to us this summer, of crowds watching an Olympic torch pass by. In this case the view is of Austin Playford running the flame through Guildford en route to the last London Olympic Games. It is interesting to see how much has changed in the intervening years, and how much has stayed the same.
I'll end with some advice on cherishing customers which was sent in to the staff magazine, by Mr Cockram of Ocean Accident's Guildford branch, in 1950.