Following the flame: Hull - buildings, bravery and basements under water
18 Jun 2012
Posted by: Anna Stone
Subjects: Interesting stories
Our earliest agent in Hull was the gloriously named Aistroppe Stovin who was representing Norwich Union Fire in 1806.
Not to be outdone in the name stakes Norwich Union Life quickly appointed Quarton Levitt who was in place by 1818.
Thereafter the names of agents become less exciting and by the 1820s West of England was represented by William Ayre at 7 Parliament Street and Norwich Union by both T O Atkinson at Waterworks Office and J B Moxon at Nelson Street.
Another Moxon, Richard William, represented Yorkshire Insurance at 11 Bowlalley Lane and by 1838 that company was operating a fire engine in the town (as it was then) and was asked to support the employment of a "superintendent for fires".
By the 1860s Norwich Union was associated with the firm of William West and Son, who were still agents in the mid 1920s, and both Commercial Union and National Fire and Life Insurance Company of Scotland had appointed agents there.
Our first known branch at Hull belonged to Yorkshire Insurance which appointed Edward E Heselwood resident secretary there in around 1880.
Offices were acquired at Lowgate...
…and among the local policy holders was Sir William Shaw Wright, chairman of the Hull Dock Company after whom Wright's Dock was named. Also based in Lowgate by 1906 were General Accident , at Bank Chambers, and Ocean Accident in the magnificent Ocean Chambers at 54 Lowgate.
In 1908 Commercial Union opened a branch in Hull under manager Loftus W Martin and chief clerk Mr A Brown. By 1910 they had moved to new offices at the Avenue, High Street and a drawing of the building, reproduced below, appeared in the company's jubilee staff magazine.
By the mid 1920s Norwich Union was based at Scale Lane under the management of J A Barrett. In 1926 the wife of one of the company's fire inspectors, Mrs Alfred H Belding, received an award from the Royal Humane Society after she heroically rescued a swimmer in difficulty at Beccles.
In 1930 General Accident's Hull office was raised to the status of a full branch and the following year staff moved to these new offices at 22-23 Silver Street.
Mr A Scholey, who had been the company's resident secretary there since 1907, became the first manager. He was still at the helm in 1941 when the branch was damaged in a daylight raid which smashed all the windows.
The 1950s saw various office moves with General Accident transferring to a magnificent building on the corner of Bowlalley Lane in 1952. The building had been erected in 1866 by the Hull Exchange Company to be the home of the Exchange Club. In 1971 the club finally left the building, where they had been renting space in the basement. That year, much to the excitement of the branch staff, a documentary was made on the club and the building for local television.
In 1954 Commercial Union's staff, who had been noticeably thin on the ground during Hull City's cup tie replays in 1950, moved to join their Ocean Accident colleagues at 54 Lowgate. I wonder what they thought of the clear desk policy in operation in that building?
I also wonder if they might have been better off staying in their old building at 48 High Street as when the Humber and Hull rivers overflowed in 1954 the basement at Lowgate flooded to four feet and some of the records remained under water for two days!
Also unlucky with their new building were Norwich Union's staff who moved, in 1976, from Permanent House, South Street to Norwich Union House, Savile Street. Anyone wanting to get between floors in the first two weeks would have been well advised to take the stairs as the lift engineers were summoned eight times in that period. At one point 36 people were stuck when a lift stopped between floors.
Also moving in 1976 was General Accident whose new building at 165-173 Beverley Road had previously been a row of Victorian houses. Articles about the move in the staff magazine were particularly proud of the parking facilities at the new building which allowed them to offer "on the spot" vehicle examinations. The building also boasted a "GA motif carpet"!