Commercial Union Life Assurance Company Ltd

Commercial Union Life Assurance Company Ltd was incorporated on January 7 1904 as the British General Insurance Company and became part of the Commercial Union Assurance Company Ltd in 1926.

Company History

British general

British General Insurance Company Building

British general

British General Insurance Company logo

British General was initially created to undertake fire and accident insurance business in the UK and overseas. It wasn't long, however, before the company had broadened its operations. In 1910, a motor department was established and, by 1914, the company had also set up a life department.

By 1926, the company was offering fire, life, motor car, personal accident, fidelity, employers' liability, burglary, contract guarantee, plate glass, marine, householders and traders combined, third party liability and solvency insurance. The company further extended its operations in 1931 by establishing an engineering department.

On August 21 1975, the company changed its name to the Commercial Union Life Assurance Company Ltd.

Key dates

Year Event
1904 The company is established
1926 The company becomes part of the Commercial Union Assurance Company
1975 Name changes to the Commercial Union Life Assurance Company

Did you know...?

  • In 1910, the company turned down both a proposal of purchase from the General Accident Fire & Life Assurance Corporation and the opportunity to insure actress Sarah Bernhardt, who was appearing at the London Coliseum that year.
  • Company minutes from 1916 report a discussion about the impact the decision to allow women to drive trams will have on third-party risks on trams. The board decided that women drivers would only be covered if tram companies paid an extra premium.
  • In 1922, the company agreed to insure a wine and spirit trader in case prohibition was established in the UK.
  • In 1925, a cleaner/lift attendant, Mr W Norrie, fell from the ground floor to the basement through a manhole in front of the lift shaft and died later of a fractured skull. The company discussed liability and annuity for the widow and decided on £300.

Subsidiaries and constituents*

Year Company name
post 1890 - 1904 Northern Homes & General Insurance Company
1898 - 1910 British Clayworkers Mutual Insurance Corporation Ltd
1907 - 1914 Northern Equitable Insurance Company
1905 - 1915 Cosmopolitan Insurance Corporation Ltd (part of business)
1913 - 1917 London and Midland Insurance Company Ltd (all but the aircraft policies)
1908 - 1918 British and European Insurance Company Ltd
1883 - 1920 Scottish Temperance Life Assurance Company Ltd (allied but link dissolved 1924)
1897 - 1923 City Life Assurance Company Ltd
1905 - 1922 National Accident Compensation Company Ltd
1917 - 1922 National Benefit Assurance Company Ltd
1907 - 1922 Traders and General Insurance Association Ltd
1901 - 1925 Profits and Income Insurance Company Ltd (life and sickness business only)
1903 - 1926 Consolidated Assurance Company (part of business)
1924 - 1930 Mobile and General Insurance Company (part of business)

* 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

Year Address
- 1908 10 Queen Street, London
1908 - 1929 66 Cheapside, London
1929 - 1932 Bartlett House, 9 Basinghall Street, London (temporary premises during office rebuilding)
1932 - 1939 64-66 Cheapside, London (new offices designed by M E Collins)
1939 - 1945 Batts Hill House. Redhill, London (war time evacuation)
1945 - 1960 64-66 Cheapside, London (the company was registered at 36-44 Moorgate between 1946 and 1957 and at 40 Moorgate from 1957 to 1960)
1960 - 1969 24 Cornhill, London
1969 - St Helen's, 1 Undershaft, London

Staff and officials

Secretary

Year Name
1904 - 1904 J Burrows (and general manager)
1904 - 1931 Norman Marshall Walker (and managing director by 1922)
1931 - 1947 Thomas P Foster
1947 - 1950 J H Emmett
1950 - 1962 at least L N Wills

Managing director (manager after 1940)

Year Name
by 1922 - 1940 Norman M Walker
1940 - 1947 W Lambie Templeton (died in service)
1947 - 1961 A R Colwell
1961 - 1962 at least A B Kempton

Directors (1904)

  • Henry C Walker
  • Horace Bertram Nelson
  • Horace C Holmes
  • D W R Green

Home branches

  • West End, London (1904)
  • Manchester (1904)
  • Leeds (by 1908)
  • Liverpool (by 1908)
  • Cardiff (by 1908)
  • Birmingham (by 1908)
  • Edinburgh (by 1922)
  • Aberdeen (by 1925)
  • Belfast (by 1925)
  • Brighton (by 1925)
  • Croydon (by 1925)
  • Dundee (by 1925)
  • Exmouth (by 1925)
  • Glasgow (by 1925)
  • Hull (by 1925)
  • Ipswich (by 1925)
  • Leicester (by 1925)
  • Luton (by 1925)
  • Newcastle-upon-Tyne (by 1925)
  • Northampton (by 1925)
  • Nottingham (by 1925)
  • Portmadoc (by 1925)
  • Reading (by 1925)
  • Sheffield (by 1925)
  • Southampton (by 1925)

Overseas branches and agencies

  • United States of America (1908)
  • Australia (by 1914)
  • Holland (by 1914)
  • Egypt (by 1914)
  • Calcutta, India (1918 in conjunction with the Norwich Union Fire Insurance Society Ltd)
  • Wellington, New Zealand (1919)
  • Canada (by 1922)
  • Belgium (by 1922)
  • Dublin, Ireland (by 1922)
  • India (by 1922)
  • Turkey (by 1922)
  • Vietnam (by 1922)
  • Singapore (1927)

In the archives

The Aviva archive contains records relating to the running of the British General Insurance Company between 1920 and 2001. The collection includes board minutes (from 1941), committee minutes, share registers, investment registers, branded stationery, board of trade returns, summary accounts, agreements, correspondence, policies, proposals, journals and annual report and accounts.

Other resources

Records relating to British General can be found at the Guildhall Library

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