The Norwich Union Life Insurance Company Ltd

The Norwich Union Life Insurance Company was established in 1808 as a mutual life insurer. The company was originally known as the Norwich Union Society (or Union Office) for Insurances on Lives and Survivorships. It was incorporated on May 10 1893 when it changed its name to the Norwich Union Life Insurance Society.

Company History

Norwich Union header

Norwich Union Life Insurance Society policy header, 1880s

Norwich Union advert

Norwich Union advertisement, 1990s

Norwich Union prospectus

Norwich Union Life Insurance Society prospectus for India, depicting Surrey House

Norwich Union endowment advert

Norwich Union endowment policy advertisement, 1969

Samuel Bignold

Samuel Bignold, Secretary, 1852

Norwich Union conservative notice

Sir Samuel Bignold, Conservative nomination notice, 1894

Norwich Union rowing club

Norwich Union Rowing Club, 1928

Norwich Union Marble Hall

Marble Hall, Surrey House, 1920s

Norwich Union almanac

Norwich Union Almanac, 1866

On June 16 1997, the company was renamed the Norwich Union Life Insurance Company Ltd. On 21 February 2000, Norwich Union plc, the holding company, announced that it was merging with CGU plc to form CGNU plc, which was rebranded as Aviva plc in July 2002. Norwich Union Life was registered as dormant on December 23 2003.

Key dates

Year Event
1808 The company is established
1893 Name changes to the Norwich Union Life Insurance Society
1997 Name changes to the Norwich Union Life Insurance Company
2000 Norwich Union merges with CGU to form CGNU
2002 CGNU is rebranded as Aviva in July
2003 The company is registered as dormant

Did you know...?

  • In 1823, the company insured then well-known actor and comedian Robert William Elliston.
  • In 1842, a life policyholder who was sentenced to transportation to Australia drowned on the voyage out. The policyholder had his policy declared void on the grounds that he had not first secured the company's

    "licence to travel".
  • In 1848, company president Isaac Jermy was murdered on the doorstep of his house, Stanfield Hall, by one of his tenants, James Blomfield Rush. Rush was later hanged and company staff were given the day off to watch the hanging.
  • William Palmer, known as the Rugeley Poisoner and the first person in Britain to be tried for murder by strychnine, was insured by the company. Palmer was hanged in 1856.
  • 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.
  • Author H Rider Haggard is mentioned in the 1890 report of the directors. Haggard had been present at the annual general meeting of June 24 1891 where he

    "seconded the proposed vote of thanks with much pleasure, remarked that it was impossible to hear the report without realising that the whole of the affairs of this society were in the most satisfactory condition".
  • The company insured Queen Victoria in 1901. The Queen's life was insured by a theatre company which feared that when the country went into mourning following her death their business would suffer because people wouldn't go to the theatre.
  • The heating and air conditioning system in the society's head office at 8 Surrey Street, Surrey House, was famously complex. Air was brought in from the west side of the building and passed through a water screen in the basement to cleanse and purify it. In the winter time, the treated air was moved to the front of the building where it was heated and then passed to the marble hall via ducts. It entered the hall via the central font. The ornamental pendant suspended from the ceiling was designed to deflect the air around the hall. The whole process took just 20 minutes. The explanation of the system baffled a young man who joined the office as a junior in the 1930s. The new employee had quite some difficulty believing that the air circulated around the marble hall just because of the pendant. Convinced this couldn't be the case he went out one lunch time to find some dandelion seed heads. He brought back a bunch and thrust them into the up draught of the font. In his own words,

    "within minutes those seeds were everywhere".
  • In the 1950s, the company insured Agatha Christie under her married name Agatha Mallowen.
  • During the 1970s, an episode of "Tales of the Unexpected" starring Telly Savalas was filmed in the boardroom of 8 Surrey Street.
  • The company insured Freddie Mercury in the 1980s.

Subsidiaries (to 1985) and constituents*

Year Company name
1820 - 1827 Essex Life Insurance Society
1845 - 1848 Agriculturist Cattle Insurance Company (life business)
1706 - 1866 Amicable Insurance Society
1835 - 1869 Nottinghamshire & Derbyshire Fire and Life Assurance Company (life business)
1840 - 1893 Reliance Mutual Life Assurance Society
1865 - 1906 Scottish Imperial Insurance Company
1860 - 1909 Victoria Assurance Society Ltd.
1797 - 1925 Norwich Union Fire Insurance Society Ltd.
1964 Eastlease Ltd.
1964 Equipment Leasing
1966 Norcadia Investments (Proprietary) Ltd.
1966 Norwich, East Anglia and General Trust Ltd.
- 1967 Mashonaland Buildings and Investments Ltd.
1968 Norwich Irish Unit Trust Managers Ltd.
1969 Libra Investments (Proprietary) Ltd.
1969 Dawson Street Holding Company Ltd.
1969 Norwich Union Irish Trust Company Ltd.
by 1948 - 1970 O J Fourie and Company (Proprietary) Ltd
1972 Norwich Union Insurance Group (Pensions Management) Ltd.
by 1972 Norwich Irish Property Unit Trust
1973 Norwich Union Trust Company (Channel Islands) Ltd
1946 - 1973 Castle Finance Ltd.
1973 - 1973 Westlegate Properties Ltd
1973 Norwich Properties (Belgium) SA
1974 Norwich Union Insurance Group (Managed Funds) Ltd.
1919 - 1975 Anglo-Portuguese Bank Ltd.
1976 Norwich Union Insurance Group (Equipment Leasing) Ltd.
1980 Norwich Union (Hydrocarbons) Ltd.
- by 1980 Seventeen Baker Street (Pty) Ltd.
1966 - 1981 Fidelity Life Assurance Ltd. (transferred from Norwich Union Asset Management Ltd)
- by 1981 Elakal Beleggings (Eiendoms) Beperk
- by 1981 Stand 980 Ferndale (Pty) Ltd.
1981 Norwich Union Holdings Plc
1969 - 1982 Atholl Investments (Scotland) Ltd
1985 Norwich Union Asset Management Ltd.
1985 Norwich Unit Trust Managers Ltd.
- 1986 Calculus Finance Ltd.
1981 - 1987 Queensgate Management Services Ltd.
- 1989 General Practice Finance Corporation Ltd.
1989 CUSOP International Ltd.
1989 - 1990 Post Office Finance (No. 3) Ltd
1973 - 1973 Lovell Developments (Barnet) Ltd.
1987 - 1990 Giroleasing Holdings Ltd.
1991 Norwich Union Legal Services One Ltd.
1990 - 1992 Svin Holmen BV
1994 - 1995 SPIG 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
1808 - 1820 18 Market Place
1820 - 1905 9, Surrey Street
1905 - 2000 8, Surrey Street
1940 - 1945 Spa Plaza Hotel, Buxton (wartime evacuation)

London

Year Address
by 1818 - Bridge Street Blackfriars
by 1821 - 16 Walterloo Place
by 1824 - 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 Street

Registered office

Year Address
2000 - 2 Rougier Street, York

Staff and officials

Secretary

Year Name
1808 - 1815 Thomas Bignold
1815 - 1875 Samuel Bignold
1875 - 1887 T Muir Grant
1887 - 1901 J J W Deuchar (also actuary)
1903 - 1910 Davidson Walker
1910 - 1923 Mungo Mackenzie Lees
1923 - 1933 H G Wilton
1933 - 1937 W W Williamson (also joint actuary)
1937 - 1942 W R Hines (joint secretary from 1940)
1940 - 1946 D Weyer (joint secretary until 1942)
1946 - 1952 B Robarts (joint secretary)
1946 - 1955 B O Rolph (joint secretary until 1952)
1955 - 1966 C R Newing
1966 - 1969 P M Chase (as group secretary)
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

Position created in 1901

Year Name
1901 - 1910 J J W Deuchar (also actuary)
1910 - 1923 Davidson Walker (also actuary)
1923 - 1934 M Mackenzie Lees (also actuary)
1934 - 1937 H G Wilton (also joint actuary)
1937 - 1952 W W Williamson (also actuary)
1946 - 1950 D Weyer (joint general manager)
1952 - 1963 Basil Robarts (also actuary)
1963 - 1969 B O Rolph (also actuary)
1969 - 1975 P W Sharman (also actuary)
1975 - 1983 V W Hughff (as group general manager and actuary)
1983 - 1991 at least H H Scurfield (as group general manager and actuary)

Chief general manager

Position created in 1962

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 - Richard Harvey

Actuary

Year Name
1808 - 1837 Richard Morgan
1837 - F Noverre
by 1846 - 1850 at least Richard Morgan
by 1862 - 1887 Charles John Bunyon
1887 - 1910 J J W Deuchar (also secretary)
1910 - 1923 Davidson Walker (joint actuary also general manager)
1910 - 1921 W G Cooper (as joint actuary)
1923 - 1934 Mungo Mackenzie Lees (also general manager)
1934 - 1937 H G Wilton (as joint actuary and general manager)
1933 - 1937 W W Williamson (as joint actuary and secretary)
1937 - W W Williamson (as general manager and actuary)
1940 - 1946 C C Barrett (as joint actuary)
1949 - 1960 A E Doughty (as joint actuary)
1960 - 1969 R G Mallett (as joint actuary)
1969 - 1975 P W Sharman (also general manager)
1975 - 1983 V W Hughff (also general manager)
1983 - 1991 at least H H Scurfield (also general manager)

Directors (1808)

  • Starling Day (President)
  • John Patteson
  • Reverend C J Chapman
  • J Herring
  • T A Kerrison
  • Thomas Strickland
  • Richard Dewing
  • Thomas Cook
  • Thomas M Dennis
  • William Shanke
  • William Jackson
  • Francis Weft
  • P L Foster
  • James Green
  • Alexander Thwaites
  • R M Bacon
  • James Nolworthy
  • F Noverre
  • William Bacon
  • James Adams
  • Hammond Fisk
  • William Moore
  • James Roper

Home agencies (1808)

  • Bedfordshire
  • Berkshire
  • Cambridgeshire
  • Cheshire
  • Cumberland
  • Derbyshire
  • Devonshire
  • Durham
  • Essex
  • Gloucestershire
  • Hampshire
  • Bedfordshire
  • Huntingdonshire
  • Kent
  • Lancashire
  • Leicestershire
  • Lincolnshire
  • Monmouthshire
  • Norfolk
  • Northamptonshire
  • Northumberland
  • Nottinghamshire
  • Oxfordshire
  • Rutlandshire
  • Shropshire
  • Somersetshire
  • Staffordshire
  • Suffolk
  • Warwickshire
  • Westmoreland
  • Wiltshire
  • Yorkshire

Home branches

  • Aberdeen (by 1899)
  • Belfast (by 1899)
  • Birmingham (by 1899)
  • Bristol (by 1899)
  • Dundee (by 1899)
  • Edinburgh (by 1899)
  • Glasgow (by 1899)
  • Inverness (by 1899)
  • Liverpool (by 1899)
  • Manchester (by 1899)
  • Newcastle (by 1899)
  • Leicester (by 1900)
  • Leeds (by 1900)
  • Plymouth (by 1901)
  • Southampton (by 1902)
  • Sunderland (by 1905)
  • Reading (by 1905)
  • Cardiff (by 1905)
  • Cambridge (by 1905)
  • Hull (by 1905)
  • Northampton (by 1905)
  • Sunderland (by 1905)
  • Swansea (by 1905)
  • Worcester (by 1935)

Overseas agencies

  • Dublin, Ireland (1816)
  • Belgium (1859)
  • Sydney, Australia (1866)
  • Melbourne, Australia (1870)
  • Auckland, New Zealand (1870)
  • Christchurch, New Zealand (1872)
  • Milan, Italy (1889)
  • Gibraltar (1889)
  • Rome, Italy (1890) also Turin, Genoa, Naples, Venice, Spezzia
  • Argentina (1890)
  • Berne, Switzerland (1892)
  • Paris, France (1895)
  • Transvaal, South Africa (1895)
  • Copenhagen, Denmark (1896)
  • Amsterdam, Holland (by 1896)
  • Toronto, Canada (1899)
  • Lisbon, Portugal (1900)
  • Cairo, Egypt (1903)
  • Zimbabwe (1903)
  • Cork, Ireland (by 1905) also Galway
  • Bombay, India (1906) also Calcutta
  • Karachi, Pakistan (1907)
  • Rangoon, Myanmar (Burma) (1908)
  • Colombo, Ceylon (Sri Lanka) (1908)
  • Bulgaria (by 1908)
  • Greece (by 1908)
  • Istanbul, Turkey (by 1914)
  • Madrid, Spain (by 1914)
  • Nicosia, Cyprus (by 1920)
  • Malawi (1944)
  • Kenya (1947)
  • Bahrain (1950)
  • Jamaica (1952)
  • Chile (by 1954)
  • Lagos, Nigeria (1954)
  • Accra, Ghana (1954)
  • Valetta, Malta (by 1969)

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 the Norwich Union Life Insurance Company between 1808 and 1996. The collection includes annual reports and accounts, general ledgers, board minutes, general minutes, committee minutes, certificates of incorporation, memoranda and articles of association, acts of parliament, deed of settlement, policy registers, annuity registers, journals, referee letters, salary books, photographs, prospectuses, policies, branded promotional material and product literature.

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