Following the flame: Leicester - General Accident covers the world!
02 Jul 2012
Posted by: Anna Stone
Subjects: Interesting stories
Aviva's roots in Leicester go back to at least 1806 when Joseph Wallis was acting as agent for Norwich Union Fire. By 1877 the company's agents were Cort and Paul and two years later our earliest known branch in Leicester was opened by General Life.
In December 1890 Commercial Union opened a Leicester branch at Halford Chambers in Halford Street. The company insured many local homes and businesses including the Leicester Cooperative Boot and Shoe Manufacturing Society whose Western Road factory was the subject of a fire survey in 1895. The plan below was made at the survey along with three close written pages of notes to enable the surveyor to properly assess the risk.
Norwich Union opened a sub office in Leicester at 33 Bowling Green Street in 1901 but had moved to 10 Horsefair Street...
...by the time this intriguing proposal was received in 1908: "I send you cheque for £2, half for the Domestic Servant Insurance and the remaining £1 to go as far as it can for the burglary insurance - it is a country house, and there are dogs."
By 1910 the company's first resident Inspector, Walton Clarkson, pictured below, had been appointed district manager.
By this date Commercial Union was based at 1 and 3 Market Street and a photograph of the office interior, appeared in the company's staff magazine in 1911.
By the end of the First World War Scottish Union and National had established a branch at 1 Bowling Green Street under W E Stevens and General Accident had left their first offices at Post Office Court and moved to 4 Pocklington's Walk. The branch moved again in 1927 to these offices at 2 New Street...
...and again in 1932 to the imposing General Buildings on the corner of King Street and Wellington Street...
...under manager U G G Bennett.
By this date Norwich Union had purchased its 10 Horsefair Street premises...
...and in 1949 Commercial Union moved to these premises at 101-105 High Street.
It was here in 1952 that staff received the following request, "please send us a supply of proposal forms for loss of Prophets by fire."
The following year North British and Mercantile moved to new premises at 118 Charles Street which was apparently known locally as "million pound" street. The manager, Mr Flint, and his staff were photographed for the staff magazine for the occasion.
1955 saw Norwich Union's Leicester staff move to temporary offices at 6-12 Crank Street while a new building was erected on their 10 Horsefair Street site. The new building, below, opened in 1957 and was described as being "strikingly modern in appearance."
The following decades saw office moves for our remaining major constituent companies, General Accident and Commercial Union. In 1965, Commercial Union moved into another 'modern' office block with a circular staircase which "shows up imposingly at night", while General Accident moved to these buildings in Granville Road in 1980.
I'll end with two funny stories from General Accident's Leicester branch. In 1967 Leicester inspector J M Gwyther was put in the unfortunate position of having to put a claim in with his employers for damage to his car caused by a cricket ball. The situation was made worse by the fact that the said ball had been bowled by him and hit for six by the opposing batsman who was from the company's Birmingham branch.
Finally, in 1960 the company dealt with a claim for a broken world, as outlined below.