Posted by: kbenoy | August 31, 2011

Victorian Fire Insurance

As I mentioned in my previous post, Smith, Son & Wilkie were agents for Norwich Union and the records of the Fire Insurance policies they sold have survived in the Fire Order Book. This volume runs from 1863 – 1876 and includes the names, addresses and occupations of the people taking out the insurance and a detailed description of the property, either commercial or private and the materials used to build it.

Embossed mark of Benjamin Smith, Agent

Today, I am going to share the details of the insurance policy held by William Henry Lee & Co, rope and twine makers and dealers of Snow Hill Wolverhampton. This policy started on 20th July 1866 and ran until 29th September 1867 and the details go over three pages in the volume. The buildings being insured were described as “All brick or stone and tile or slate”. The policy was split into sections with a description of the items to be covered and the sums they were insured for individually listed.

William Henry Lee & Co Page 1

 To view the image full size please click on it

“On stock, fittings, fixtures & utensils in trade in their front shop – £250
On stock, fittings, fixtures & utensils in trade in their store-room over said shop & passage – £150
On stock, fittings, fixtures & utensils in trade in their cellars under said shop & under hall & sitting-room  £150
On stock, fittings, fixtures & utensils in trade in their warehouse and office adjoining & communicating situate at the back of but not adjoining the above and being under St George’s Hall (which Hall is used for Lectures Concerts) – £40
On stock, fittings, fixtures & utensils in trade in their arched building under St George’s Hall, used for storing oil, & having one furnace for making size therein, adjoining but not communicating with last mentioned – £20
The first and second stories of the following building are occupied by Joseph Gork, Printer, by hand only”

William Henry Lee & Co Page 2

 “On stock, fittings, fixtures & utensils in trade in their Weaving shop being the ground floor of last mentioned building – £20
On stock and fittings in trade in their  warehouse for manufactured goods on the ground floor adjoining last mentioned but not communicating – £170
On stock on Hemp & utensils in trade including fixtures for cocoa mat weaving. In their warehouse being the third story of the said buildings – £500
On stock and utensils in trade in their Heckling shop, being the fourth story (the floor of which is laid with quarries) of the said building – £50
N. B. No artificial light on the third & fourth stories of the last mentioned building – the other stories being lighted with Gas when necessary – No Stoves”
The total amount the business was insured for was £1350 for a premium of £3 7s 6d. The policy number was 593642. The last page relating to this policy shows the layout of the property in a diagram. It is likely that the business property descriptions once linked to a similar diagram but unfortunately this does not seem to have survived as it would have been separate to the volume. The third page relates to another policy held by William Henry Lee & Co occupied by a Workman named Matthew Warrington. The property is described as “adjoining the towing path of the Canal at Monmore Green, Wolverhampton” and was made of “brick and slate”.

William Henry Lee & Co Page 3

“On a dwelling house – (marked 1) – £50
On stock in trade & machinery in open store shed, being part of the under part of said house – £20
On a range of open sheds (marked 2) for rope spinning about 100 yards in length extending from said house (built from wood and felt roof)- £50
On stock in trade, tools and utensils therein – £20
On another open shed (marked 3) adjoining & communicating with the last mentioned having two metal tar boilers therein enclosed in brickwork on the earthen floor, with metal spouts to carry away any tar that may run over into tubs, iron lids to both boilers and sheet iron nailed to the inside of the roof – £20
On stock trade therein – £30
On the stitching or rope making shed (marked 4) adjoining the last mentioned (built from brick, timer and felt roof) – £40
On rope-making machinery tools and stock in trade therein – £100
N.B. No steam power employed nor heckling done therein”
The total amount these premises were insured for was £300 for a premium of £1 14s 8d.
The policies held by William Henry Lee & Co offer just a glimpse of the fascinating details held within this volume. The level of detail given in the descriptions of the properties really gives a sense of the working conditions and the type of work being carried out at this time.

Fire Order Book D-SSW/1/3/5

There are many other interesting entries in this book that I hope to be able to share. If you are interested in viewing the Fire Order Book it is available at Wolverhampton Archives and Local Studies with the reference is D-SSW/1/3/5.

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