Aviva Insurance UK Ltd

Aviva Insurance UK was established on 1 March 1797 as the Norwich Union Society for insuring of buildings, goods, merchandises & effects from Loss by Fire. On 16 June 1997, the company changed its name to Norwich Union Insurance. On 21 February 2000, Norwich Union plc, the holding company, merged with CGU plc to form CGNU plc, which was rebranded in July 2002 as Aviva. On 01 June 2009 Norwich Union Insurance Ltd was renamed Aviva Insurance UK Ltd.

Company History

Mail coach

Norwich Union mail coach

Norwich Union calender

Norwich Union Fire Insurance Society calendar

Norwich Union wine

Norwich Union Insurance advertisement, 1975

Little boy

Norwich Union Fire Insurance Society United States advertisement, 1901

Norwich Union fire engine

Worcester Fire King

Norwich Union illuminated tribute

Illuminated tribute to staff from the board of directors after WWI

Norwich Union female staff

Norwich Union female staff, 1940s

Norwich Union recruit

Norwich Union recruitment advertisement, 1969

Fire society prospectus

Norwich Union Fire Insurance Society prospectuses

Big old house

Bignold House

Norwich Union illuminated scroll

Illuminated scroll praising prompt payout of insurance claim

The company's earliest existing policy was issued to Seth Wallace, a blacksmith of New Buckenham, on Christmas day 1797 and covered his house and shop. In its early years, the company operated under a number of names, including the Union Fire Office, the Norwich Insurance Fire Office and the Norwich Union Society for Insuring against Loss by Fire, but was most regularly known as the Norwich Union Fire Office.

By 1821, the company had 25 fire brigades in cities across England, including Norwich, London, Liverpool, Leeds, Manchester, Exeter and Gloucester. In the same year, the company underwent a reorganisation and amalgamated with the Norwich General Assurance Company. On 6 August, a new deed of settlement was signed under the name the Norwich Union Fire Insurance Society.

The company continued to grow, as evidenced by an 1866 advertisement stating that

"insurances are granted by this Society on buildings, goods, merchandise, and effects, ships in port, harbour, or dock, from loss or damage by fire, in any part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland".

By 1884, the company had extended its business to include losses caused by lightening or gas explosion.

On 18 June 1908, a private act of parliament was passed allowing the registration of the society as a limited company. It was subsequently registered on August 6 of the same year as the Norwich Union Fire Insurance Society Ltd.

By 1909, the company was offering accident and sickness, third party indemnity, fidelity guarantee, property owners' liability, employers' liability, burglary and plate glass, hail storm and motor car insurance. In 1912, the company began to transact marine and livestock business and, in 1916, added engineering and boiler insurance.

In 1920, the company was purchased by the Phoenix Assurance Company Ltd and, in 1925, its entire share capital was purchased by the Norwich Union Life Insurance Society.

From 1963, the company's annual report and accounts were merged with the Norwich Union Life Insurance Society under an umbrella organisation known as the Norwich Union Group of Insurance Companies. This was a consequence of closer ties between the Life and Fire Societies at executive level, which also saw the establishment of a combined secretarial department.

In 1976, the company completed negotiations with the Winterthur Swiss Insurance Company and the Chiyoda Corporation of Japan for a joint venture to develop an international insurance and reinsurance network. A holding company, Norwich Winterthur Holdings Ltd, was established in Norwich, with the Fire Society holding a 45% share.

Key dates

Year Event
1797 The company is established
1908 The company is registered as a limited company, Norwich Union Fire Insurance Society Ltd
1920 The company is purchased by the Phoenix Assurance Company
1925 Norwich Union Life Insurance Society purchases the entire share capital
1976 Norwich Winterthur Holdings is established
1997 Name changes to Norwich Union Insurance
2000 Norwich Union merges with CGU to form CGNU
2002 CGNU is rebranded as Aviva
2009 Name changes to Aviva Insurance UK Ltd

Did you know...?

  • The society was established by Thomas Bignold with 27 backers who initially put in a pound but pledged £1,000. However, during the first seven years the company had no claim greater than £27.
  • The company insured the great exhibition building in 1862 for £450,000, then a record sum.
  • The company's offices at 9 Surrey Street, known as Bignold House, were built as a private house for the Patteson family. Rooms in the house were heated by fireplaces, some of which were designed by Sir John Soane, and clerks were expected to bring in a pound of coal for each day they worked during cold periods. If, during the course of the day, they felt chilly, despite having provided the fuel, they were not allowed to tend the fire, or indeed warm themselves. If they did so, they were fined. This draconian rule was later relaxed and employees were allowed to warm themselves, but only one at a time, and they still weren't allowed to tend the fire.
  • Norwich Cathedral first appeared as a company trade mark in 1877. It was used in various forms over the years, and the cathedral spire was an inspiration for part of the new corporate mark following the merger with CGU in 2000.
  • The company's fire brigade gathered on the first Tuesday of each month and got the engine up to a head of steam. If there was no fire to attend, they washed the front of Bignold House. Years later the front of the building had to be replaced having been weakened by the constant washing.
  • The company was one of the earliest to produce a staff magazine, the first issue of which was published in 1891. Through its pages it is possible to trace not only the development of the business but also changes in social attitudes such as the introduction of female workers.
  • In 1905, the Norwich Union fire brigade at Worcester took delivery of their new "Fire King" motorised engine. Unfortunately, on its way to its first fire sparks poured from the chimney destroying the blouse of a lady cyclist and a good portion of hedge. The brigade turned round before they did any further damage and returned the engine to Merryweather, the manufacturers. They attributed the cause to "clutch trouble" and returned the repaired engine to Worcester, where it served successfully for a number of years.
  • After the San Francisco disaster of 1906, the company eventually recorded its total liability as "not exceeding $500,000".

Subsidiaries (to 1985) and constituents*

Year Company name
1792 - 1821 Norwich General Assurance Company
1884 - 1894 Home Fire Insurance Company of Glasgow
1897 Indemnity Fire Insurance Company of New York
1896 - 1898 North of Scotland Fire Insurance Company Ltd of Inverness
- 1898 Indemnity Fire and Marine Insurance Company of Australasia Ltd
- 1898 South Australian Insurance Company Ltd
1856 - 1909 Norwich and London Accident Insurance Association
1919 Norwich Union Indemnity Company of New York
1920 Canada Security Assurance Company of Toronto
c1917 - 1921 La Nacion Insurance Company of Valparaiso Chile
1805 - 1923 Eagle Fire Company of New York
1900 - 1955 Norwich Mutual Plate Glass Insurance Association Ltd (allied from 1915)
1824 - 1959 Scottish Union and National Insurance Company
1923 - by 1960 American Union Insurance Company of New York (transferred from Scottish Union)
1885 - by 1960 Scottish National Key Registry and Assurance Association Ltd (transferred from Scottish Union)
c1919 - by 1960 Compania de Seguros "La Victoria Insurance Company", Chile (transferred from Scottish Union)
1864 - by 1960 Maritime Insurance Company Ltd (transferred from Scottish Union)
- 1960 St Helen's House (Norwich) Ltd
1903 - 1961 Parcels & General Assurance Association Ltd
1866 - 1967 Verzekering Maatschappiji Schiedam van 1866 N.V.
1967 Norwich Union Insurance Society of South Africa Ltd
1976 Heritage Insurance Company of Kenya Ltd (joint venture with Legal and General)
1976 Norwich Winterthur Holdings Ltd (joint venture with Winterthur Swiss Insurance Company and the Chiyoda Corporation of Japan)
1983 Heritage Insurance Company of Zimbabwe (Private) Ltd (joint venture with Legal and General)
c1974 - 1984 Illios Greek Insurance Company Ltd
1986 Haven Policies Ltd
1936 - 1989 Ajax Insurance Holdings Ltd
- 1989 R E Heathcock Ltd
- 1989 Finoa SRL
- 1989 Onello Apuzzo SpA Assicurazioni e Riassicurazioni
1991 Hill House Hammond Ltd
1992 - 1997 Hillmorton Financial Services Ltd

* 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

Norwich

Year Address
1797 - c1808 Gentleman's Walk, Market Place
c1808 - 1820 Corner of Briggs Land and the Market Place, Haymarket
1820 - 1962 9 Surrey Street
1940 - 1945 Spa Plaza Hotel, Buxton (wartime evacuation)
1962 - 1998 14 Surrey Street
1998 - 8 Surrey Street

London

Year Address
by 1846 - 1864 6 Crescent, New Bridge Street, Blackfriars
1864 - 1866 at least 29 Fleet Street
by 1868 - 1946 50 Fleet Street
1946 - 1955 32 Threadneedle Street
1955 - 2001 51-54 Fenchurch

Staff and officials

Secretary

Year Name
1797 - 1818 Thomas Bignold (joint secretary between 1815 and 1818)
1818 - 1875 Samuel Bignold (joint secretary between 1815 and 1818 and 1821 and 1853)
1821 - 1853 Adam Taylor (joint secretary)
1875 - 1895 Charles Edward Bignold
1895 - 1911 Charles Arthur Bathurst Bignold (also general manager from 1908)
1911 - 1918 John Large (also general manager)
1918 - 1923 C R Bignold
1924 - 1936 F C Botting
1936 - 1942 Charles Sidney Weston
1942 - 1959 Eric F Williamson
1959 - 1969 P M Chase (group secretary from 1966)
1969 - 1976 E J Holland (as group secretary)
1976 - 1983 H H Scurfield (as group secretary)
1983 - 1989 D P Lister (as group secretary)
1989 - 1992 H W Utting (as group secretary)
1992 - 1994 John D Stanforth (as group secretary)
1994 - Graham Jones

General manager

Year Name
1908 - 1911 C A B Bignold (also secretary)
1911 - 1918 John Large (also secretary)
1919 - 1925 Ralph Yeo Sketch
1925 - 1933 M Mackenzie Lees
1933 - 1941 Eric F Williamson
1941 - 1946 W J Rice
1946 - 1952 Wallace White Williamson
1952 - 1958 James Kirk
1958 - 1966 Ben L Misselbrook (joint general manager from 1963)
1963 - 1969 Ernest S A Mathie (joint general manager until 1966)
1969 - 1979 Charles H Moore
1979 - 1984 J Campbell
1984 - 1988 Allan Bridgewater
1989 - 1994 at least Albert G Mills (UK general business)

Chief general manager

Year Name
1962 - 1975 Basil Robarts
1975 - 1984 Peter W Sharman
1984 - 1989 V W Hughff
1989 - 1997 Allan Bridgewater (as group chief executive)
1998 - 2007 Richard Harvey

Directors (1821)

  • Jeremiah Ives
  • John Browne
  • Edward J Booth
  • Thomas S Day
  • Harrison Frisk
  • Joseph Gurney
  • John Harvey
  • W Herring
  • A Hudson
  • John S Patterson
  • Edward Rigby
  • J W Robberds
  • W Simpson
  • James Horn

Home agencies

  • Lynn - J Baker (by 1799)
  • Harlestone - R Carman (by 1799)
  • Holt - J Parslee (by 1799)
  • Ipswich - T Radley (by 1799)
  • North Walsham - R Baker (by 1799)
  • Cley - J Smith (by 1799)
  • Loddon - T Reynolds (by 1799)
  • Halvergate - B Wyand (by 1799)
  • Lowestoft - H Gill (by 1799)
  • Beccles - J Johnson (by 1799)
  • Litcham - S King (by 1799)
  • Burnham - J Kerrison (by 1799)
  • Long Stratton - G Bryant (by 1799)
  • Stowmarket - J Hunt (by 1799)
  • Bury - J Buss (by 1799)
  • Stanton - J Wham (by 1799)
  • Wells - J Lambert (by 1799)
  • Newcastle (by 1808)
  • Manchester (by 1809)
  • Leeds (by 1821)
  • Cambridge (by 1821)
  • Liverpool (by 1821)
  • London (by 1821)
  • Lyme Regis (by 1821)
  • Bristol (by 1821)
  • Cambourne (by 1821)
  • Birmingham (by 1821)
  • Edinburgh (by 1821)
  • Bath (by 1821)
  • Hull (by 1821)
  • Oxford (by 1821)
  • Bromsgrove (by 1821)
  • Exeter (by 1821)
  • Dorchester (by 1821)
  • Crediton (by 1821)
  • Sittingbourn (by 1821)
  • Canterbury (by 1821)
  • Dover (by 1821)
  • Richmond (by 1821)
  • Falmouth (by 1821)
  • Winchester (by 1821)
  • Kingsbridge (by 1821)
  • Blackburn (by 1821)
  • Arbroath (by 1821)
  • Hampstead (by 1821)
  • Croydon (by 1821)
  • Reigate (by 1821)
  • Halifax (by 1821)

Home branches

  • Liverpool (by 1883)
  • Manchester (by 1883)
  • Birmingham (by 1883)
  • Belfast (by 1883)
  • Leeds (by 1883)
  • Glasgow (by 1883)
  • Edinburgh (by 1886)
  • Sunderland (by 1886)
  • Dundee (by 1886)
  • Newcastle (by 1889)
  • Worcester (by 1890)
  • Exeter (by 1893)
  • Brighton (1894)
  • Bristol (by 1896)
  • Aberdeen (by 1898)
  • Jersey (by 1898)
  • Inverness (by 1898)
  • Leicester (by 1901)
  • Cambridge (by 1908)
  • Gloucester (by 1908)
  • Plymouth (by 1908)
  • Southampton (by 1908)
  • Cardiff (by 1908)
  • Hull (by 1908)
  • Nottingham (by 1908)
  • Reading (by 1908)
  • Reigate (by 1908)
  • Sheffield (by 1908)
  • Swansea (by 1912)

Overseas agencies

  • Dublin (by 1821)
  • Lisbon, Portugal (1824)
  • Bordeaux, France (1825)
  • Paris, France (1827)
  • Hamburg, Germany (1850)
  • Bremen, Germany (by 1865)
  • Auckland, New Zealand (by 1865)
  • Sydney, Australia (by 1865)
  • Calcutta, India (by 1865)
  • Bombay, India (by 1865)
  • Copenhagen, Denmark (by 1865)
  • Hong Kong (by 1865)
  • Shanghai, China (1865)
  • Malaya, Malaysia (1865)
  • Singapore (1865)
  • Schleswig & Holstein, Germany (1865)
  • Antwerp, Belgium (1865)
  • St Petersburg, Russia (by 1866)
  • Vienna, Austria (by 1866)
  • Rotterdam, Netherlands (by 1866)
  • Marseilles, France (by 1866)
  • Yokohama, Japan (by 1866)
  • Stockholm, Sweden (by 1866)
  • Amsterdam, Netherlands (1868)
  • Havana, Cuba (1867)
  • Brussels, Belgium (1867)
  • Havre, France (1867)
  • Melbourne, Australia (1867)
  • Madras, India (1868)
  • Alexandria and Cairo, Egypt (1871)
  • Gothenburg, Sweden (1871)
  • Berlin, Germany (by 1872)
  • Christchurch, Dunedin, Canterbury and Wellington, New Zealand (by 1872)
  • Buenos Aires, Argentina (1872)
  • Brisbane, Australia (1872)
  • Jamaica (1872)
  • Pernambuco, Santos and Rosario, Brazil (1872)
  • Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (1873)
  • Port Elizabeth, South Africa (1873)
  • Launceston and Hobart, Tasmania (1873)
  • Adelaide, Australia (1873)
  • Java, Indonesia (1873)
  • Colombo, Ceylon (Sri Lanka) (1876)
  • San Francisco, United States (1877)
  • New York, United States (1879)
  • Manila, Philippines (1879)
  • Toronto, Canada (1880)
  • Smyrna (Izmir), Turkey (1880)
  • Napier, Nelson and Invercargill, New Zealand (1882)
  • Perth, Australia (1882)
  • Kobe, Japan and Kiogo (by 1883)
  • Genoa, Italy (1887)
  • Trinidad (1888)
  • Cape Town, South Africa (1892)
  • Johannesburg, South Africa (1893)
  • Rangoon, Myanmar (1897)
  • Saigon, Vietnam (1897)
  • Gibraltar (1902)
  • Mexico City, Mexico (by 1910)
  • Madrid, Spain (by 1926)
  • Romania (by 1934)

Published History

Five Generations of the Bignold Family 1761 – 1947 and Their Connection with the Norwich Union by Sir Robert Bignold. B T Batsford Ltd. London, 1948.

Norwich Union: The First 200 Years by Jonathan Mantle. James & James Ltd. London, 1997.

In the archives

The Aviva archive contains records relating to the running of Norwich Union Insurance between 1797 and 2007. The collection includes annual reports and accounts, profit and loss accounts, local board minutes, agency minutes, deeds of settlement, certificates of incorporation, seal registers, policy registers, policies, registers of directors, board of trade returns, ledgers, journals, reports on overseas business, letter books, advertisements, fire brigade memorabilia, fire marks, agreements, acquisition papers, salary books, agents instructions, agents appointment files, agency signs, branded material, staff sports club material, staff magazines and board, general and committee minutes.

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