Following the flame: Salisbury - General Accident's staff in the cells
11 Jul 2012
Posted by: Anna Stone
Subjects: Interesting stories
Aviva's history in Salisbury can be traced back just over 200 years to the appointment of an agent for Norwich Union Fire in 1811. The agency fire loss expenses for 1819 were £30 12s 10d and by this date Norwich Union Life was operating in Salisbury through agent Thomas Lawrence.
By 1855 other Aviva constituents had begun to operate here such as General Life, West of England and Yorkshire. Northern Assurance and Provident Clerks' Mutual were also in Salisbury in 1855, both represented by Joachim James Lane of Exeter Street.
Our earliest Salisbury branch office appears to have been established by General Accident in 1909 when C O Bannister was appointed local inspector of agents.
By this date Norwich Union Life had appointed a resident inspector for Salisbury and Commercial Union, Northern, North British and Mercantile, and Ocean Accident were all operating in the city.
In 1932 General Accident's office was raised to full branch status and the resident secretary, A T Grammar, was appointed first branch manager. Under his leadership the staff moved to new premises at 27 Market Place which they still occupied in 1952 by which time T G Hart was running the branch. By this date the company's subsidiary, Road Transport and General, had moved into rooms in its old premises, New Sarum House, at 22 Minster Street.
Also this year Ocean Accident moved its parent company Commercial Union into new premises at Midland Bank Chambers Market Place where this photograph, of the staff at their desks, was taken.
In 1957 General Accident also moved to new premises, at 13 Endless Street. The building had been a former police headquarters complete with cell block. The staff magazine reported that the men's cells were to be used for filing and the women's cells were now occupied (as an office) by the claims superintendent, R G Huskin. The building also claimed to have the first automatic telephone exchange in Salisbury! Sadly there are no photographs of the converted cells but we do have this image of the combined board room and manager's office.
Four years after General Accident's move, staff at Norwich Union were celebrating staying in their building as the company had just purchased the property's freehold. The photograph below was taken that year and shows the offices at St Thomas Square which had once been the site of an inn known as the Vine.
I'll finish with a photograph of General Life's Salisbury branch staff and their manager E G Bell taken in 1947 on the occasion of them winning the blue riband branch quota competition.