Following the flame: Swansea - a Sixties film set
26 May 2012
Posted by: Anna Stone
Subjects: Interesting stories
Aviva companies have been operating in Swansea for nearly 200 years. Our earliest known agent, W Stroud, was representing Norwich Union Life by 1818 and the family link continued under G T Stroud who was listed as an agent in 1868.
By 1879 General Life had a branch in the town and in 1886 Railway Passengers recorded a payment of £30 to "Artist, Swansea, blown down by gale of wind".
In 1906 the General Accident Cardiff inspector was "Commissioned to go into South Wales and ascertain if the area would justify the opening of a sub-office". His report referred to the "tremendous industrial possibilities of the district" and premises were taken at 11 and 12 Wind Street. The staff consisted of district representative, W E Lock, and an unnamed typist.
Mr Lock was appointed manager in 1909 when the branch moved to 234 High Street where the female staff below, photographed in 1918, would have worked.
Mr Lock was still at the helm in 1929 when they moved again to General Buildings at 163 St Helen's Road.
By 1935, when this lovely staff photograph was taken, the General Accident Swansea branch area included four sub offices, nearly 60 staff, and over 1,000 agencies.
It is likely that these photographs were taken in the office garden and it is tempting to imagine staff practising in their lunch hours ready to take on teams of other insurers and local businesses. Swansea staff were certainly a sporting lot and by 1969 General Accident's branch staff included an international trampolinist, Janice Rogers.
Staff at our Swansea branches also enjoyed regular office outings such as this Road Transport and General staff outing to Western Super Mare in 1935...
...and this trip to the beach for Commercial Union staff in 1951.
During the second World War our Swansea branches were among those damaged by air raids and in the case of Yorkshire Insurance this happened twice. In September 1940 the building below, at 31 Fisher street, was partially destroyed by enemy action....
...and in February 1941 their new offices in Castle Buildings were gutted by fire.
Norwich Union took advantage of the rebuilding of Swansea to move to new offices at Park Buildings, Park Street in 1952. Photographs appeared in the staff magazine showing rows of neat "modern" desks...
...which contrasts with the cluttered offices of General Accident snapped nearly 30 years later during a visit by the chairman.
By this date the manager was Mr Emryn Jones, photographed below, and the offices were in a new building on the old 163 St Helen's Road site.
The building, completed in 1959, had an early taste of fame as a back drop for a scene in the film "Only Two Can Play". Starring Peter Sellars, Mai Zetterling, Richard Attenborough and Kenneth Griffith, the film was released in 1962. According to the staff magazine, the scene featuring the office was one in which "Miss Zettering's car runs over a poodle."
I'll end with another example of the cultural side of Swansea branch in this insurance-themed poem written by RJB of General Accident in 1953.