Following the flame: Reading - the hitch-hiking GA girls
10 Jul 2012
Posted by: Anna Stone
Subjects: Interesting stories
Our first Reading agent, James Rusher, was appointed 211 years ago. He appears to have been an innovative and enthusiastic agent and in 1815 he produced a leaflet on the principles of fire insurance which he sent out to prospective customers with the letter below.
Half a century later the company's agents were Edward John and Frederick Blackwell while Commercial Union was represented by Mr Ferguson who was still acting for them in 1912.
It was through Commercial Union's constituent company, Hand-in-Hand, that we obtained our most famous local policy holder, George Palmer. The man who put the 'Palmer' into Huntley and Palmer, 'The most famous biscuit company in the world', took out the policy below on his mill and associated buildings in 1885.
Our first Reading branch opened in 1905, the same year that Hand-in-Hand was acquired by Commercial Union. The branch was opened by Norwich Union Life at 15 Cross Street and J W Kimber was appointed first manager.
The branch moved in 1907 to 13 Friar Street the same year that Ocean Accident opened a branch in Reading. A few years later General Accident also opened a Reading branch, at 164 Friar Street, under N J Couldrey. The subject of the photograph below was one of the early branch customers.
In 1919 the General Accident branch moved to 40 Market Place while Norwich Union's fire and accident branch moved to 7 King Street on the corner of Buttermarket. The building was remembered later by staff member Olive Hunt for having dust and spiders in the attic filing room and mice in the basement.
A decade later General Accident moved to new offices at 15 Friar Street from where they produced this advertisement.
Within two years the branch was moving again, this time to 8-10 Station Road which, according to the staff magazine, was "regarded locally as the most up to date and imposing insurance office in town". The photograph of the office, below, appeared in the staff magazine in 1936...
...along with this photograph of all the branch staff.
The following year F G (Andy) Andersson was appointed Reading manager for Norwich Union Fire and in 1941 J J Boocock was appointed manager for the life business. The photograph below shows him with the rest of the Reading life staff in 1947.
Shortly after this the Fire and Life Societies moved in together in the Life Society's offices at 147 Friar Street. The new premises were above a furniture shop called Newbury's and there were no basements for mice to occupy and no attics for spiders to lie in wait for Olive Hunt. In 1959 Norwich Union's Reading staff moved again, to premises at 35 Station Road.
Yet again the staff magazine has come up trumps with this description of the building's exterior "it is of reinforced concrete faced with hazel brown brick, the window features to the front elevation being executed in white reconstructed stone with blue panels giving it a colourful yet dignified appearance".
General Accident also moved, in 1959, to these premises at 77 London Road...
...and by the following year staff members at its subsidiary, Road Transport and General, were occupying these desks at 103 London Road.
I'll end with a couple of nice motor-related stories for Reading which is apt because Reading was where General Accident issued its one millionth motor policy. The first story concerns the fantastic service offered by Miss Hoseason and Miss Jolley of General Accident's branch in 1955 and I will let you read it in the words of the staff magazine.
Also in 1955, Employers' Liability Reading branch staff received the following answer on a proposal form which they illustrated in a suitable manner and sent in to their staff magazine.