Following the flame: Leeds - 'box of bacon fell on assurer'
24 Jun 2012
Posted by: Anna Stone
Subjects: Interesting stories
Our history in Leeds can be traced back to 1806 by which point Norwich Union Fire was being represented by J English. A decade later the company's agent was J H Ridsdale at Mill Hill while Newcastle Fire Office was represented by T Warham at Trinity Lane. By 1824 Yorkshire Insurance had appointed Mr T Dearlove as agent for Leeds while North British was represented by (the equally dear) Charles Wellbeloved junior.
That company opened a branch in 1867 at 20 Park Row under W D Johnston and by 1877 Scottish Union & National had also opened a Leeds branch, at 3 Park Row, under Alfred Williamson.
The following year Commercial Union appointed Henry Pocklington as their local representative. Pocklington later became the company's first manager at Leeds and was described in the insurance press as "wise in council and greatly admired for his attainments."
By this date Railway Passengers was also operating in Leeds and paid £44 to a local man who slipped on an orange peel.
Among the other local claims recorded by our accident companies we have several examples of people slipping on ice, a commercial traveller attacked by a dog and a grocer injured by a falling box of bacon.
By the mid 1880s Norwich Union Fire was represented in Leeds at 7 Cookridge Street by James and Joseph Watson...
and in 1888 Union Assurance opened a branch at 19 East Parade.
In 1895 Albert Oliver was appointed manager there..
... while the manager at North British and Mercantile's Leeds branch was J P Eddison.
His son, J H Eddison, also worked at the branch, starting there in 1907. He was an England rugby international and was awarded the Military Cross in the First World War.
By 1898 General Accident had a Leeds branch at 26-27 Bond Street under resident secretary James Kirkhope. By 1901 he had been replaced by A R Pickering who was appointed on a salary of £135 pa. At the other end of the salary scale the records of the branch include the appointment letter for Edwin Mason who was employed as a junior in the fire department on a starting salary of 5 shillings a week.
In 1900 Hand-in-Hand , which had first opened a Leeds branch in 1883, purchased the site below, at 14 Park Row, for their new premises.
The new offices, shown below, were completed the following year.
By 1907 Norwich Union had also moved, to new offices at City Square.
That year Joseph Watson junior who had been involved in the branch since 1883 retired and his brother, Leslie Thorpe Watson was appointed manager for Yorkshire based in Leeds.
The following year saw General Accident move into Commercial Union's old offices at 20 Park Row, Commercial Union having moved in to the Hand-in-Hand building at No. 14 on the acquisition of that company.
The photograph below shows General Accident's Leeds staff in 1912...
...and includes G F Blakeley branch manager and his successor Percy Miller who was still manager in 1946.
At the end of the First World War Norwich Union appointed Ernest Self, formerly Leeds accident manager, as manager for Yorkshire based in Leeds. He was by all accounts a real character having started in the Norwich head office in 1897 straight from Norwich School where he had been a soloist in the choir. The staff magazine for 1926 noted that during the General Strike Mr Self drove a tram.
It was under his management that the staff went on the outing which inspired this set of drawings...
...and the branch received the following claim letter from a man who had accidentally sat on a cinder.
The introduction of the Road Traffic Act in 1930 caused local motorists to put pen to paper. The branch received this letter from the owner of a Wolseley in 1931...
...and this, later the same year, from a man claiming to live in a very rural area!
In 1938 Mr Self retired after 50 years service and was replaced by Arthur Lord who had been with the branch since at least 1924.
The Employers' Liability staff magazine of 1954 also included news from Leeds but this time in relation to a member of staff. By this date the branch was employing a noted war photographer, J H B Radford. Radford, shown below with his trusty camera, joined the company at the end of the Second World War having achieved a couple of notable war-time scoops in relation to his photographs of Mussolini and of John Amery who was later executed for treason.
In 1960 Commercial Union's staff, and those of its subsidiaries Ocean Accident and North British & Mercantile, moved into new offices on their 14 Park Row site. Work on the new eight story building started in 1958 and on its completion the staff magazine proudly referred to the modern air conditioning and the telephone network with 105 extensions and 24 outside lines.
Three years later Norwich Union moved to temporary offices at Headrow House while new offices were built on the company's City Square site. The new building, completed in 1967, was 10 storeys high.
I'll finish with this little piece of paper which was signed by the General Accident staff at Leeds on 27 July 1968 to commemorate the last working Saturday at the branch.