Edinburgh Assurance Company Ltd
The Edinburgh Life Assurance Company was established on August 28 1823 under a deed of co-partnership. In its early years, the company carved a niche as a life and endowment insurer but extended its portfolio during the 20th century.
Edinburgh Life promotional bookmark, c1905
The projector and founder of the company was writer to the signet James Thomas Murray and the company wrote its first policy on September 11 1823 for £1,000 on the life of John Donaldson WS. Initially, the directors limited themselves to insuring the lives of members of legal bodies, accountants, bankers, bank directors, mercantile and bank accountants in Scotland. By 1824, the company was insuring between 400 and 500 lives.
In June 1833, the company obtained an act of parliament to enable it to sue and be sued while further changes were made to company powers in 1845. By 1908, Edinburgh Life claimed it was the oldest office transacting only life annuity and endowment insurance in the UK. Despite being proud of its niche role, the company felt squeezed between the mutual life insurers and the composite offices offering all classes of insurance.
In December 1918, the company was acquired by the Commercial Union Assurance Company and, on May 3 1919, changed its name to the Edinburgh Assurance Company. In July that year, the company's powers were extended to allow the transaction of fire, accident and employers' liability insurance.
In August 1975, the name changed again to Commercial Union Assurance of United Kingdom Ltd and, in August 1980, changed once more to Commercial Union Pensions Management Ltd. On March 14 2000, the name changed back to the Edinburgh Assurance Company. The company went into liquidation on October 26 2006.
|1823||The company is established|
|1833||An act of parliament enables the company to sue and be sued|
|1918||The company is acquired by the Commercial Union Assurance Company|
|1919||Name changes to the Edinburgh Assurance Company|
|1975||Name changes to Commercial Union Assurance of United Kingdom|
|1980||Name changes to Commercial Union Pensions Management|
Did you know...?
- In December 1824 Sir Walter Scott, one of the original shareholders, was voted in as an extraordinary director of the company. He also took out a life assurance policy which is still in the Group archive. An extract from Scott's diary reads:
1825 December 13 - Went to the yearly court of the Edinburgh Assurance Company, to which I am one of those graceful and useless appendages, called Directors Extraordinary - an extraordinary director I should prove if they elected me an ordinary one. There were there moneyers and great oneyers, men of metal - discounters and counters - sharp, grave, prudential faces, eyes weak with ciphering by lamplight... off I came, my ears still ringing with the sounds of thousands and tens of thousands, and my eyes dazzled with the golden gleam offered by so many capitalists. - Sir Walter Scott
- In 1824, company secretary Mr Baillie and first clerk Mr McIntyre had both resigned due to the behaviour and temper of manager Mr Crosbie, who had been dismissed by the board.
- The board was well known for its "festive" meetings, the first of which was held on June 23 1836 at which 34 bottles of wine were consumed between 20 guests. The drinking bill came to £35 13s 6d. At the next meeting, in December 1836, the future Lord Neaves sang a song he had written for the occasion, which included the verse:
Then come good insurers attend to my call | Our bonus is handsome our tables are low | Come partners and spouses and creditors all | Who fear that your debts with your debtor would go. | Any man that would marry a moment don't tarry | But insure something straight for the children and wife | Lest you find for your sins you're the father of twins | E'er you've time to repair to our Edinburgh Life. - Lord Neaves
Subsidiaries and constituents*
|1845 - 1847||Glasgow Life Association|
* Please note the first date given is the date of the establishment of the company and the second date is the date the company was acquired or became a subsidiary. Where only one date is given the company was established as a subsidiary of the parent company. Where one date is preceded by a hyphen the date of the establishment of the company is not known.
Head office premises
|1823 - 1843||24 George Street (purchased February 1824 for Â£2,333 18s 10d)|
|1843 - 1908||22 George Street (new offices built)|
|1908 - 1959 at least||26 George Street (new building designed by J M Dick Peddie)|
|by 1848 - c1912||11 King William Street|
|c1911 - 1943||3 Birchin Lane|
|1943 - 1969||24 Cornhill|
Staff and officials
|1823 - 1824||George Crosbie|
|1824 - 1833||George Mylne|
|1833 - 1866||Gilbert Laurie Finlay|
|1866 - 1883||David Maclagan|
|1883 - 1900||George Macritchie Low|
|1900 - 1911||Archibald Hewat|
|1911 - 1924||Thomas Macleod Gardiner|
|1924 - 1927||Arthur Gorges|
|1927 - 1943||John Henderson (also secretary)|
|1943 - 1958||A J Makins (later Sir A J Makins)|
|1958 - 1959 at least||F E P Sandilands|
|1823 - 1824||Robert Baillie|
|1824 - 1834||James Dickson|
|1834 - 1867||William Dickson (son of James)|
|1867 - 1869||Alexander Whytt|
|1869 - 1874||John Craig|
|1874 - 1883||George M Low|
|1883 - 1900||Archibald Hewat|
|1900 - 1911||Thomas MacLeod Gardiner|
|by 1921 - 1927||Dr Alfred Ernest Sprague|
|1927 - 1943||John Henderson (also manager)|
|1943 - 1959 at least||R K Lochhead|
Branches and agencies
By 1823, the company had agencies in Aberdeen, Arbroath, Ayr, Cupar, Fife, Dumfries, Dundee, Inverness, Kelso, Melrose, Perth, and Stirling.
Edinburgh Assurance proposal for television insurance, 1959
- London (1826; branch from 1837)
- Newcastle (agency 1836)
- Belfast (agency 1846)
- London West End (1861)
- Manchester (1862)
- Belfast (1862)
- Newcastle (1873)
- Manchester (by 1885)
- Glasgow (by 1885)
- Birmingham (by 1885)
- Liverpool (by 1885)
- Dundee (by 1888)
- Bristol (by 1890)
- Cardiff (by 1902)
Overseas branches and agencies
(operating only in Dublin by 1902)
Edinburgh Assurance poster, c1920
- Dublin, Ireland (1846 agency, branch in 1864)
- Toronto, Canada (by 1857)
- Poland (1937)
In the archives
The Aviva archive contains records relating to the running of the Edinburgh Life Assurance Company between 1823 and 1997. The collection includes board minutes, board of trade returns, annual report and accounts, policy registers, policies, proposals, loan registers, stock registers, committee reports, registers of mortgages, promotional material, marine salvages register, staff book and photographs.
The Manuscripts Section of the London Metropolitan Archives holds records from the company's marine department.