Following the flame: Lands End - forfeit policies, furry friends and furniture inventories
19 May 2012
Posted by: Anna Stone
Subjects: Interesting stories
Our journey following the Olympic Flame starts in Cornwall where Aviva group companies have been operating for over 200 years. The earliest reference in the archive is to an agency held by Norwich Union Fire Insurance Society in Penzance in 1808 although it is likely that the West of England Fire Insurance Company "including Devonshire, Somersetshire, Cornwall and Dorsetshire" may have appointed agents when it was established in 1807. Certainly subscription books for potential shareholders in the new venture were open at the Cornish banking firms of Kelly, Eastcott & Co. at Launceston, Banfield & Co. of Falmouth and Praed, Rogers and Co. of Truro.
By 1814 Norwich Union Fire was also represented in Falmouth, by William Glasson, and by 1818 Norwich Union Life Insurance Society had appointed John Cornish as agent in Penzance. The board minutes for Norwich Union Life for 1823 record that a policy taken out under the Liskeard agency for £200 was rendered void when the insured was drowned in a storm off France whilst engaged in smuggling.
Research in the archive reveals that the smuggler was William Dewstow of St Germans whose life was insured in 1817 by John Smith of Looe.
An Auctioneer from St Austell was, however, covered for injuries resulting from a fall caused when a rat ran up his trousers. He received £30 compensation under his Personal Accident policy with Scottish Accident in 1889.
Agents appointed by the insurance companies ranged from solicitors and bank managers to grocers and in 1863 Commercial Union appointed a manure merchant, John B James, to be their agent in Truro. The following image includes agents operating in Cornwall for Norwich Union Life in 1868.
Sadly, few records remain relating to the sub branch offices in Cornwall although Market Place in Penzance would appear to have been the home of insurance branches with both Norwich Union and General Accident having offices there from the 1930s. Although we have no photographs of these offices we can get a mental picture of them through the inventories of furniture (including cleaning products and light bulbs) which General Accident deposited at local banks in the early 1940s.
Produced in case the offices were damaged in bombing raids, their importance became evident when, on 26 September 1942, a high explosive bomb landed at the rear of the Penzance premises. the bomb damaged the cloakrooms and the inspector's room which later had to be demolished.
This 1941 inventory was produced by the resident inspector, N Boulden, for Truro sub office at 73 Lemon Street along which the Olympic flame will pass today.