Following the flame: Portsmouth - international footballers and record breaking chess players
15 Jul 2012
Posted by: Anna Stone
Subjects: Interesting stories
Aviva's earliest known agent in Portsmouth was J Kingsford of Portsea who was representing Norwich Union Life from 1818. By 1822 Norwich Union Fire was also operating in the (then) town and William Simmons of Portsea took out this fire policy with the company to cover offices at 4 Hanover Street.
Commercial Union appointed the grocer Edward Horner agent in 1863 and the 1890s saw City of London Fire open a Portsmouth office. By this date Railway Passengers was also operating in the area and the company's lists of claimants included a licensed victualler from Portsmouth who received £19 10s compensation after slipping on a orange peel in the street.
In 1894 the Plate Glass Insurance Company , later part of Commercial Union, acquired our only local constituent, Portsmouth and District Plate Glass.
The start of the twentieth century saw Northern open a Portsmouth branch under H I Lewis and Ocean Accident take office space at National Provincial Bank Buildings on Commercial Road. By this date General Accident was also listed on Commercial Road, at No. 15. It would seem that Commercial Road was the insurance centre for Portsmouth in this period and by 1912 the Northern Assurance branch was at No. 24.
Among Ocean Accident's staff at 130-132 Commercial Road was Lionel A Louch who played football for England Amateurs, Portsmouth and Leighton Orient. He is ranked 73 in the list of most effective goal scorers in a national shirt with four goals in five international games including a hat trick against Belgium in a friendly in 1914. The photograph shows Louch in the Ocean Accident staff football team for 1913/1914 season.
By the end of the First World War General Accident's Portsmouth office was at 78 Marmion Road Southsea where the company was still operating in 1931 under manager W E Jewell.
The following year the office was made a full branch and the 22 staff moved to new offices at 14 King's Terrace Southsea. The photograph shows company and local dignitaries at the official opening ceremony.
General Accident was obviously proud of the new premises and a series of photographs were taken of the exterior and interior.
My favourite is this one with framed photographs of the manager, general manager and Southampton branch manager hanging on the wall.
It is sad looking at the photographs to realise that they are all that remains of the building which was completely destroyed by incendiary bombs on the night of 10 January 1941. Note of the destruction was made by staff at head office who wrote "Portsmouth - building and contents were completely destroyed by fire. The area of King's Terrace has been razed to the ground and is one of the most badly bombed areas in Britain". One unidentified member of staff later wrote of his "vivid memory of walking past the branch while on leave [from the army] and noticing that practically nothing was left of the office apart from one wall with part of a gas fire hanging from it." We can get an idea of the destruction by looking at this photograph of Road Transport and General's offices which were at 4 - 6 Kings Road, just around the corner.
One unidentified member of staff later wrote of his "vivid memory of walking past the branch while on leave (from the army) and noticing that practically nothing was left of the office apart from one wall with part of a gas fire hanging from it." We can get an idea of the destruction by looking at this photograph of Road Transport and General's offices which were at 4-6 Kings Road, just around the corner.
After a temporary stay back at 15 Commercial Road, staff moved, in 1945, to 129 Elm Grove. The building was extended and given a new frontage over the next decade and being General Accident there were photographs taken as the work was carried out. The image below shows workmen contemplating the original front of the building while these show construction in progress.
The finished frontage, below, was officially “unveiled” on 22 July 1957.
By this date Road Transport and General had found new premises at 18 Hampshire Terrace, Commercial Union had moved to 3 Pearl Buildings, Commercial Road and Norwich Union was operating from the premises at 23 Osborne Road.
In 1972 General Accident's staff left 129 Elm Grove to move to new premises, at the junction of Grove Road South and Nelson Road.
The records kept by the premises department include this photograph (above) of the site just prior to construction and this artist's impression of the new building.
The official opening took place in June 1972 and the telegram below was sent to the manager, R B Beck, by General Accident's chairman who was unable to attend.
Staff were still in the premises at 16-18 Grove Road when one of their members, 17 year old Carey Groves, hit the record books. She became the youngest woman ever to draw with a male international chess player after a four hour battle against India's top international, Ravikumar, in 1980.
I'll end with this entry from Commercial Union's staff magazine of 1981 which speaks for itself.