Following the flame: Sheffield - an offer from seven stenographers...
25 Jun 2012
Posted by: Anna Stone
Subjects: Interesting stories
Aviva has been operating in Sheffield since at least 1806 when Norwich Union Fire was represented there by J Townshend. In 1824 Luke Palfreyman, a solicitor with offices at 4 Bank Street, was appointed agent for the newly established Yorkshire Fire and Life Insurance Company. The proposal document below, on the life of local gentleman Andrew Allan Hardy, was taken out through his agency in 1826.
The company kept a continuous presence in the city and in 1904 two young men were sent off from York to establish a branch there. Before the journey the two intrepid insurers, Edwin Walker Milburn and John Bertram Hirst (known as Bertie), were photographed in the garden by Bertie's brother.
The new branch was established in Market Street and Milburn, on the left of the photograph above, later became manager for the company in Manchester and was photographed on the company's centenary in 1924.
By this time the manager for Sheffield was Mr Chatt...
...whose staff chose to celebrate the occasion with a trip to Cumber Park, which was recorded for posterity in the photograph below.
Several decades before Milburn and Hirst set out to conquer Sheffield other Aviva constituents were operating there. By 1871 North British & Mercantile had appointed Mr Clark as district agent and in 1874 Commercial Union appointed John Edgey to a similar position. In 1877 Scottish Accident appointed J H Parker as their first agent in Sheffield and the extract below from the company's scrap book for 1892 includes a reference to a fellow Aviva constituent, Accident Insurance Company , operating in the area.
The scrap book also includes examples of claims made by local accident victims which included a grocer who fell from his tricycle and a fellmonger (dealer in hides and skins) who "ruptured" the ligaments of his knee playing bowls. Also mentioned are an unfortunate Sheffield chemist who was accidentally hit in the nose while watching a fight and a hotel keeper who was awarded £36 compensation when a fox bit the end of his finger.
In 1897 General Accident opened a Sheffield branch in York Street and A Saville was appointed resident inspector. The following year Norwich Union appointed Mr W Fletcher as an agent in Sheffield, a role he was still undertaking nearly 50 years later. Mr Fletcher, a well known local vocalist who claimed to have sold many policies through his theatrical contacts, later recalled the manager coming to interview him dressed in "frock coat, silk hat, white gloves and spats." The photograph of Mr Fletcher, below, appeared in the staff magazine in 1946.
In 1900 Commercial Union opened a branch in Sheffield under Samuel Oldfield, the former manager of their new subsidiary Palatine Insurance. The branch was run from the former Palatine offices at 22 Pinstone Street which are referred to in this 1898 advertisement.
In 1904 General Accident's staff, who had briefly operated from 113 Rustlings Road and 16 York Road, moved in to the newly completed Bank Chambers in Fargate.
Initially the company rented two rooms in the building from owners National Provincial Bank but by the time they moved out in 1935 they had expanded into 12 rooms. The company's new home was 4 Exchange Street and the photograph below shows the main office shortly after the staff moved in.
By this date Commercial Union was at 2 East Parade, which they had acquired in 1909. The photograph below was taken outside the building in 1950 on the occasion of the annual Sheffield Insurance Institute flower day. Organised by the then manager, Mr Blackburn, the event raised £55 in 1950 through "young ladies" from the branch selling flowers and fruit donated by institute members.
By this date Norwich Union's Life Society staff were in the building at 22 High Street which had been acquired in 1946.
The next photograph, taken in 1947, suggests that conditions inside were fairly cramped and must have been even more so when the fire society staff moved in, in 1961.
Lack of space may have been the reason for the move, in 1965, to Westminster House on the corner of High Street and George Street.
This year also saw the retirement of W F (Freddie) Banks of General Accident after 50 years service with the company and 20 as manager in Sheffield. Banks had overseen the move, in 1958, to Stanfield House, 61 Manchester Road Broomhill. The drawing below of their new rural idyll, only five minutes from the city centre, was the work of staff member Mr Blackwell and appeared in the staff magazine in 1965.
In 1967 staff moved again to share Road Transport and General's impressive Sheffield branch offices at 1 Tapton Park Road.
By 1980 General Accident employed 150 staff in Sheffield and the company's Sheffield operations moved yet again, to offices at The Mount, Glossop Road, Broomhill. The building was unusual in having a listed front section, designed by Sheffield architect William Flockton in 1834...
...with a modern extension behind.
The following year, Norwich Union's staff moved 200 yards up the road to new offices at 1 Vicar Lane at which point the photographs below appeared in the staff magazine.
I'll end with a request put in to the Commercial Union staff magazine in 1950 by seven stenographers from their Sheffield branch...
...and the response they received.