20 Nov 2013
Posted by: Anna Stone
Subjects: Policies and Polkas
This is Frank Noverre...
...son of Francis, and fellow director and dancing master of Norwich.
He first appears in the board minutes for 1835 where he is variously referred to as F Noverre Junior or Frank Noverre.
Unlike his father, he does not seem to have been a member of the 'inner circle', the Board Committee, and although he is listed as a director on policies such as the one below - he does not appear to have ever signed one.
A such, despite being a director for over 30 years, there are very few references to Frank in the board minutes. His name stops being listed as a director in around 1868 and newspapers of the period report that he lost a vote to be on the Society's board that year. Surprisingly, the minutes themselves do not pass any comment on his departure. Although board minutes are often frustrating for the very fact that they are full of references to the coming and going of board members rather than the business undertaken - this is not a criticism that can be made of the Norwich Union minutes in this period. Characteristically, the minutes record the payment on his life policy a decade later in a similarly business-like way with no expressions of regret at his loss despite the length of his tenure on the board and his family's, by then, nearly 80 year link to the society.
The reference to his death in the board minutes does, however, give us his policy number which unlocks the records of Frank as a customer. He took out two policies with the society, one when he was 27 and another aged 59. By all accounts his wife, Sophia, would have been very grateful to receive the insurance payment of £1221 7s 13d as Frank had lost a great deal of his fortune as a result of his liabilities as shareholder of the East of England Bank which failed in 1864. Records show that his entire estate was valued for probate purposes at less than £2,000.
In many ways my investigation into Frank is a lesson in the disappointments of archival research for, despite him taking out two policies nearly thirty years apart both coincide with gaps in our policy records. Without the proposal and referee letter books we can't see what his doctor said about his pulmonary condition or which friends he chose to support his application. To return to the analogy of unlocking his customer records; in this case we have the key but the doors no longer exist!
One of Frank's policies also falls in a gap in our surviving series of general registers but before you come to the conclusion that research into the second generation Noverre was just a series of disappointments for me...
...I did find his second policy, number 35560. The register entry for this policy informs us that it was taken out in March 1865 at an initial premium of £30 12s 6d and gives Frank's address as Theatre Square Norwich. Interestingly, like his father, Frank was referred to in official company documents as 'Gent.' but gave his occupation as 'Dancing Master' when he took out his policy. Funnily enough, he shares his policy register page with a teacher of dancing from Exeter, Herbert Mason, who took out policy number 35554.
I was also able to find Frank listed in various prospectuses and premium rate books produced by the society in the 1850s and 1860s.
This period saw an increase in promotion of this type by the life companies, and attractive little booklets were produced explaining the benefits of life assurance...
...with examples of payments made to the families of those who insured...
...and details of the premium rates charged.
As you can see, Frank, presumably by virtue of his long association with the society, takes a preeminent position in the list of directors. His name appears directly below the main committee of the board who undertook the day-to-day business of the society. As an aside, at the bottom of this list appears one WMR Haggard - father of H Rider Haggard, the author known for his adventure novels.
The 'wow' moment during my research into Frank is also linked to the developing promotional activity of the life society and I was delighted to find him listed as a director on this very attractive information leaflet which folded to form an envelope and could then be posted to policyholders or prospective policyholders.
All the information on the premium rates and security of the company is cleverly fitted in below an attractive engraving showing the society's offices at Bignold House in Surrey Street Norwich and when I turned it over I saw it was addressed to...
Having faced so many dead ends in my research into Frank, the unexpected discovery that this attractive example of company literature had been sent to him, and been in his hands, was a real thrill. It is also a fitting place to end this blog on the links between Frank Noverre and Norwich Union. While Frank may be a shadowy figure in the Norwich Union records his son Charles is the member of the family I have come to know the best and you can find out more about him tomorrow.