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Extract from the original " Proposal Forms " issued by the 
Sun Fire Office in 1710. 

"jFor tbc farther Encouragement of all persons 
tbere are actually employee in tbe Service of tbe 
ffice Ubirtv. lust? able=bot>v.'o firemen wbo are 
cloatb'J> in blue liveries ant> having Silver 3Baoges 
witb tbe Sun flDarh upon their arms, ano Uwentv. 
able porters likewise, wbo are always reabv. to 
assist in quenching fires anj> removing goo&s, having 
given JSonos for their ffioelitv.." 

These Firemen were ordinarily occupied as Water- 
men on the River, and by virtue of their employment 
as Firemen enjoyed immunity from the powers of the 
" Press Gang." In the proceedings of the Committee 
of 2nd February, 1726, appears an entry : 

" The Treasurer haVing procured a Qeneral Pro- 
tection from the Admiralty Office for the Watermen 
belonging ti y 1 Office" 

and it was ordered that Thirty protections should 
be prepared "with particular descriptions" to be signed 
by the Secretary, " and one to be given to each man." 







Facsimile of Heading of Policy dated 1726, being the Original Plate uitd fy 
the Sun Fire Office. 




(Late Manager and Secretary) 



T is probably safe to affirm that 
a study of the antique in any 
form possesses a charm for most 
people. There are, of course, 
certain exceptions. Some regard 
the glamour which generally sur- 
rounds the characters and events of " old times " 
as mainly an outcome of sentiment, and con- 
sequently not to be admired or encouraged. 
But these are comparatively few. 
hurry and bustle of present day 
conducive to the development of a 
research, a latent appreciation of it is often 
begotten by the opportunity for its indulgence, 

"As if increase of appetite had grown 
By what it fed on." 

An unbroken link with the past of 200 years 
ago can hardly fail to be attractive, especially 
when its subject is one which belongs not 
exclusively to that past, but is of at least as 

Whilst the 
life are not 
spirit of 

much importance at the present time as it 
was then. The SUN FIRE OFFICE happily 
possesses such a link, inasmuch as it has 
preserved the original Minute Books containing 
the record of its "Grand Courts" and " General 
Meetings " from the date of its inception in 
April, 1710. A perusal of these ancient records, 
not always easy to decipher, furnishes a strange 
insight into the manners and customs of the 
period in the conduct of business, and it is 
hoped that a short account of the proceedings 
of the progenitors and promoters of the Company, 
based on their own actual writings, will not 
be without interest. 

Prior to this time, Fire insurance business 
had always either been the personal venture 
of one or two individuals, or was conducted 
on a plan of mutual contribution, by which, 
when a loss occurred, the shares of all subscribers 
were collected. The following advertisement of 
the " Friendly Society," a scheme on these 
lines originated in 1683, extracted from a copy 
of the London Gazette of Monday, 28th 
November, 1698, is suggestive of the trouble- 
some process involved in that method : 

" The Members of the Friendly -Society a,re to 
take notice. That on the Fifth of October laft 

hath hereby agreed to pay, at caufc to be paid, to the Company of the &* 
F^-0^<r in iMden, the Sum of /,.- / - Shillings . 

Within fifteen i Dap after every Qfrau-D^ for the Infucmce 

' ^ 

fliall duly pay, or caufc to be paid, the Sum of ' v 'Shillin 

a Quarter, at the Times and Phcc aforefaid, the Company of The 
Su* l,rt-0ifut do, in Confideration thereof, bind themfelvcs, their Heirs, Executors 
and ; Affigns, by thefc Prcfenb, to pay and fitisfy to the 

'^ y^* ~ y/s*' ___ --. 


Heirs, Eseciuors, Adminiftratois, and Affigm, within fifteen Days after every 
Quarter-Day, in,..which .. ^ .ftall fuff er by Fire, % Uf, aot esxedm 
the Sum of .'W.'Wx-W Pounds, according to the cxait Tenor of 

. r f ^' 7 ' l ? 2 * 3 OTitntfe whereof, 

r the fkid OjmpAf, have hereunto let our Hands, and affix'd 
the Seal of the Si; A', the -^A , . ,< ,. D of - 

in the Year of our Lotd \-iiC>-r 

S'tgn'd and SeaFd (being 
jitmpt according to AH 
of Parliament ) in tbe 

a Fire happened in Long-Acre, and burnt down 
one Houfe, which with feveral others Damnified, 
the whole Lots amount to 418^ 195. gd. And 
the Rate payable for 100^ injured on Bricl^ 
houfes, is Sd. $f. and i Fourth of a Farthing, 
and Double for Timber ; which is to be paid 
before the 2<\th of 'December inftant at the 
Place of Infurance in Paulfgrave Court without 
Temple-Bar, under the Penalty cf forfeiting a 
Fourth Part of the Contribution due respectively." 

A promise of "Prompt Settlements" was not 
then the attraction placed in the forefront of all 
prospectuses, it being in accordance with existing 
practice to agree the amount of claims as they 
arose, but to postpone the discharge of them until 
after the ensuing quarter-day. Having regard to 
the complication of calculating, and collecting from 
the Contributors, the sum of ^418 195. 9d. on 
the fractions named, it would be hard to say that 
a month was too long to allow for the process. 

It may be claimed that the partnership 
principle on which the SUN started, with its 
"twenty-four members" pledged to pay claims 
" share and share alike," was a distinct advance on 
the foregoing. It was evolved from the scheme 
of one Charles Povey, of whom we shall have 
something to say later on. He carried on pursuits 

of multifarious descriptions at the " Traders' 
Exchange House " in Hatton Garden, and in 
1706 established an Office which he named the 
" Exchange House Fire Office," for insurance 
of " Goods and Merchandizes in London and 
Westminster." It is not absolutely certain that 
the scheme was actually so restricted as regards 
the nature of property covered, but there is 
evidence which appears to support the statement. 
In one of Povey's later writings he asserts that 
at the time he undertook it "the insurance of 
Merchandizes, Household Goods etc. etc. was ever 
looked on as impracticable." At that time three 
Offices were in existence, the " Phoenix " 
(previously known as " The Fire Office," and 
unconnected with the present Office of that name), 
the " Friendly," and the " Hand-in-Hand," which 
last named started under the comprehensive but 
somewhat cumbersome title of " Contributors for 
insuring Houses, Chambers, or Rooms from 
Loss by Fire by Amicable Contribution within 
the Cities of London and Westminster and 
the Liberties thereof, and the places thereunto 
adjoining." As it is recorded that these 
Companies had upwards of 40,000 " Subscribers " 
for insurance on Buildings, it may reasonably 
have been assumed that a field for another 
Office on that class of property was hardly open. 

Be this as it may, Povey shortly afterwards 
decided to expand his operations, and extend his 
protection to places beyond the original area. 
We assume that the venture for London and 
Westminster, conducted at his own cost and 
charges, was successful, judging from an advertise- 
ment in a Paper published by him in 1708, in 
connection with his various businesses, and 
entitled the "General Remark on Trade": 

" And theje are further to give Notice : 'That there 
has hitherto happened no Fire amongft any of the 
Subfcribers to the propojah for the injuring of 
Goods etc.) Jo that all the moneys ever yet paid in 
and put into the Chejt remain entire as a Stock for 
the relief of the firft Sufferers" 

In 1708 he announced that he was about to 
do business " in 100 Cities and Towns in Great 
Britain," but soon dropped this limitation and 
proposed to effect insurances " all over Great 
Britain." To realize the difficulty attending such 
an undertaking one has to consider the time and 
trouble involved in travelling in those days. The 
terms of a Minute of the Committee of Manage- 
ment of the SUN FIRE OFFICE of the i8th February, 
1730, more than twenty years later, are suggestive 
of this. It was thereby 

tojend Mr. Dare a Jhort journey into Bark-flare, 

there having recently happen d a Fire at Wejt Iffley, 
in that County as above, from which 'tis imagined 
many may be engagd to injure" 

At a subsequent date another resolution, 
presumably based on the success of the visit 
of this pioneer of canvassers, orders 

" that Mr. Dare he instructed to prepare for 
a journey into the Country" 

No mention being made of his destination, 

or the object of the journey, it may be inferred 

that this was merely giving him timely warning 

of the undertaking shortly to be required of him. 

It would appear that either the expansions 

of the business referred to above were not 

marked by a continuance of the good fortune 

reported in the advertisement quoted, or that 

Povey began to feel that his responsibility was 

too onerous. In December, 1708, another 

advertisement announced that the "Inventor" 

a title which he had assumed had associated 

with himself ten Governors and ten Directors 

"for the better management of Mr. Povey s 

undertaking for injuring Moveables, Goods, 

Merchandize and Wares from loss by Fire. 11 

It is probable that these were selected from 
amongst the Insured, and formed an advisory 
Committee to assist and supervise in the 
management. There is no evidence that they 


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H H 

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were pecuniarily interested as Contributors. 
The details of development at this period are 
somewhat obscure, and are not made clearer 
by Povey's own statements, which differ con- 
siderably. It is to be feared that in this 
matter he was influenced from time to time by 
varying circumstances. We have his assertion, 
made when he deemed it expedient to reduce 
his liability, that he had "entered into Articles 
with twenty-four gentlemen to come in as 
Part-sharers with himself," and there is reason 
to believe that they were his own nominees. Sub- 
sequently he surrendered his rights and interest 
in consideration of certain immediate allowances 
and an annuity which was punctually remitted 
to him for the remainder of his life. But many 
years after this agreement was made, when the 
shoals and quicksands which undoubtedly troubled 
the SUN at the commencement of its career were 
passed, and it was progressing in comparatively 
smooth waters, he wrote that as soon as the 
Office was on a sure foundation, " twenty-four 
cunning men " came in and got possession of the 
SUN to his prejudice. 

It is clear, however, that early in 1709 Povey 
determined to set up the " Company of London 
Insurers/' to whom he intended to transfer the 
Country business, and the members of which were 

to raise a certain amount of Capital, and that he 
had it in his mind to arrange for the sale 
of his London Office to them. The final 
formal record of this arrangement is contained 
in the earliest entries of Minute Book No. I 
in the following terms : 

" The Book of Resolutions 

of the Committee of the Company of 

London Insurers. 

On Thurfday May i gth 1 709 was a General 
Meeting of the Exchange Houfe Fire Office in 
Hatton Garden of the faid Company where by 
a Majority of Votes the 24 Gentlemen underwritten 
were chofe to be of the Committee when it was 
alfo refolvd that Seven of them Jhould be a 

The Meeting was adjourned to the 26th 
May, on which day the attendance of only 
twelve of the chosen twenty-four would appear 
to indicate a lack of enthusiasm in the matter, 
if not a disinclination to pursue it. After 
Povey had laid his proposals before those 

[* Three pages from this book are reproduced, the first showing 
the twenty-four names referred to, and the others recording the 
execution of Deeds quoted on pages 12 and 13. It is interesting to 
note that the " Management Committee," elected quarterly from 
that date up to the year 1890, was always limited to seven members.] 


present and it had been duly discussed, it was 
" Ordered 

That a Cafe be drawn up to lay before Council 
Learned in Law to have their Opinion whether 
the Scheme for the Carriage of fmall Parcels of 
Goods into the Country comes within the Tenor of 
the Act of Parliament for maintaining the General 

Then it was considered of whom the said 
Council should consist, and it was 

" agreed and Ordered likewife That Sir Edward 

Northey, Sir Simon Harcourt and Serjeant Chef hire 

fhould be the Council to he confulted, and the 

Question being put who might be thought the moft 

fitting Perfon to draw it up It was agreed Nemine 

Contradicente that Whitlock Bulftrode Efq. and 

John Bennett Efq. both of the Committee fhould 

draw up thefaid Cafe." 

At a Committee of June 2oth, 1709, it was 

" Ordered that Writings be forthwith reciprocally 
drawn and executed with all pofsible expedition 
between Mr. Povey and the Company of London 

* Povey was at this time endeavouring to establish a scheme 
for transmitting small parcels and packages by the regular 
country coach service at a charge of one halfpenny for each 
" posting " distance, contending that he was not thereby infringing 
the privilege of the Government with regard to the letter post. 
He had the courage to contest the point with the authorities in a 
lawsuit, which he lost. 

Ordered likewije that every Suhfcriber pay in 
the frjt fourth part of his Subfcription Money to the 
Exchange Houfe on or before Wednejday the 6th of 
July next enjueing. 

Ordered alfo that the Jaid 6th of July be 
appointed for the next Court of the Committee. 

Ordered likewije That every Perfon who is chofe 
by the Company to be of the Committee be attended 
upon to know their Pleafure whether they willftand 
purfuant to their Election." 

And the result of the enquiry proposed in the 
last paragraph is to be gathered from the action 
of the " General Court " of the i ith August, 1709, 
at which it was 

" agreed that the Perfons underwritten be chofe Co- 
mittee Men for the Company inftead of the former 
24 that were elected, by reafon fome of them have 
declined. Further agreed ' that feven of them be 
a quorum. 1 ' 

It is, perhaps, not strange that many con- 
ferences and discussions were found necessary 
after the " writings " were prepared, and that 
some months elapsed before a complete under- 
standing was arrived at. Meanwhile we may 
presumably say, in stereotyped phrase, that 
" business was carried on as usual " during the 
transition, as is evidenced by extracts from the 
Minutes of three meetings in the early part of the 


year 1710 in connection with the discharge of 
the first claim mentioned in the books. The 
process appears to have been somewhat " drawn 

^ M 


tyh January ^ 17??. 

" At a General Court : 

'T/j agreed that a General Meeting be on 
Monday next ye 1 6th of this inft to Confult about 
the payment of Mr. Stephens his Claim. 

i6th January ', 17^. 

" At a Generall Qourt : 

' Tis Refolded that the Claim be paid 
Ordered that a General Meeting be on Monday 
the 30^ of this Inftant January at three of the 
Clock in the afternoon. 

$oth January, 17^. 

" At a General Court : 

Hen : Vane Efq, Major Spencer and James 
(Bomber Efq. were here and went away before 
the above Qomittee came. 

'The above fymittee ordered Mr. Povey to pay 
the laim which was ordered to be paid this day 
by the fymittee of i6th of Jany. but Mr. Povey 
alledged that he could not pay by reafon of the 
absence of the above three Mefsrs. Fane, Spencer 
and (Bomber. 


// was further ordered that fince all the keys 
of the ffi e f f being here Except one It was agreed 
nem : con : that Mr. Povey fhould file of the Lock 
of the Key which is in Mr. Vane's C u f tQ dy but 
Mr. Povey would not follow the agreement of the 

After feverall debates Mr. Povey f aid he would 
fend for a Smith and break it open. Accordingly 
one of the Locks was broke and the Claim paid to 
Mr. Robt. Morley for the uje of Mr. Stevens." 

It was at the end of the following March and 
the commencement of April that the decisive 
steps for the foundation of the Office were 
arranged. The two following entries record the 
completion of the deed under which the under- 
taking was surrendered by Mr. Povey to the 
Company of London Insurers under its name of 
the " Sun Fire Office," and the execution of the 
Deed of Partnership amongst the several Members 
of that Company. We give facsimile repro- 
duction of these entries. The original Deeds 
are, of course, carefully preserved with the 
treasured archives of the Office. 

The 24th March, 17^. 
" 'This day in a General Court : 

Was Executed between Charles Povey of one 
part and the Company of London Injurers on the 
other ^ a Deed by which the faid Povey furrended 
to the Company all his Rights and Intereft in the 


Sun Fire Office in Confederation of feveral fums of 
money before by him received of fever all members 
of the Company and likewife of an Annuity of Ten 
per cent for his and his wife's life out of the Clear 
Profits that Jhall arife from the Company's under- 
taking^ not to exceed 'Two Hundred Pounds per 
Annum, and likewife of all the money payable upon 
Policies of Infurance from Fire or for the delivery of 
the general Remarks* next lady day, and the fame 
day the faid Povey deliverea to the Company the 
books of the faid Fire Office with Fifteen Pounds in 
money referved for the claims and fever al promifsory 
notes of the members , the whole left under the 
cuftody and direction of John Bennett and Thomas 
Carthew Efquires. And the fame day the Company 
did agree with George Caufey for one room in his 
houfe called the Paul 's Coffee-houfe for one year at 
Fifteen Pounds per Annum with the uje of the 
forward room for the General Meetings upon due 
notice, with a Clofet for Coals ; his servant to clean 
ye room and light the fire" 

jth April) 1710. 
" At a General Court : 

The deed of the Company s Copartner/hip was 
executed and the feveral receitts of the moneys paid 
to Charles Povey in the members hands were 
delivered by thofe prefent who Signed the deed, and 
were left under the direction and Cuftody of John 
Bennett Efq" 

[* See page 52.] 

13 B 

ITH these transactions the SUN was 
Iduly launched. Very shortly after- 
j wards, however, in 1711 , a proposal 
'which probably occasioned some 
disturbing flutter in the minds of the Managers 
was submitted to the House of Commons 
suggesting the " Setting up and appointing 
a National Insurance Office " to answer all 
Casualties and Damnage by Fire," it being 
provided that insurance of all property be 
compulsory, and that "a Stop be put to all further 
insurances by private Societies " existing busi- 
ness to be transferred as Policies expired. We 
are able to give a reproduction of this Proposal, 
but as no subsequent result thereof has been 
traced we may assume that it never arrived at 

No very elaborate preparation in the way 
of outfit for the SUN seems to have been 
considered necessary. No record of accounts is 
discoverable. The " Book of Resolutions " re- 
ferred to at page 8, and the " Daybook of the 
Delivery of the Policies " were apparently deemed 
sufficient for the purposes of the business at the 
start. The two pages of the latter reproduced 
indicate that delivery by the new Company 
commenced on the nth April, 1710, and 
presumably that policies were prepared as 

* The " Mr. George Osmand " referred to was not a Member of 



To the Honourable the Houfe of Commons, for raifing great 
Sums of Money all over Great Britain, for the ule of 
the Government, to the Benefit and Security of all thofe, 
that are any ways concerned. 

' H E R. E A S there are four, or more Infitrance Offices let up by private Society of 
Men, for Infming Honfcs and publick Buildings Honlhold Goods, and Stocks 
from Fire, and that grot numbers of Houfes, and publick Buildings are Infurcd, 
wiihin the Citys of /Wo* and Weflminfter, and Borough of Sou borork, and places adjacent ; 
and great profit huh been made by the faid Societies, and great Nuaiberi of Houfes that are 
not Infored, rnay be Infured, which will inoreale their profit. 

T H E Friendlv Society is lookt upon is the bcft Infurance-Office, Inlures one Hnndred 
Pounds for fevtn Yeats, for twent? Shillings on Brick Houfes t and Horty Shillings for Timber - 
Houfes, for the fame Sum and Time; as nuy appear by the Ptopofals, and nothing but a 
general conflagration of thefe Citys as aforefcid, cmdifable th:m from Paying the Policys, 
which are for ievei years. 

VVHER.EFOHE, ii Confiderztion of the. great Advantage that will arifc to the Govern- 
ment. It is humbly offered to theconfideratioi and Wifdom of the Honoar.ible the Houfe of 
Commons thai a General Infurance-Office be fct up. and appointed by Aft of Parliament : For 
Infuring ail Hocfe* and publick Buildings from Fire in Gmt Kriun, tint are not Infured $ 
( -OK.. All Noblemen's arid Gentlemen's Seats, and all Hocfes in the Citvs, Market Town*, 
Boroughs, Villages Farm-Hofes aid out Houfes, and publirk buildings,: is Churches, Chapr>el: s 
Colleges, Halls, Schools, and Market Houfes; and that all tnd every the Proprietors, be obliged 
to Inlure their Boufes and publick Buildings, by a limiutd lime. Ad Houfe according to fife" 
Yearlv Rent, (fc..) for every Brick Houfe of tea Pounds a year, fifty Pounds be Infured on it, 
for i en Years , for ten Shillings, if a Timber Houfe of the fame R?nt, twenty Shillings, 
for the fame Sum and Term ; and fo proportionally for greater or IdlYr years R.-nt : And 
that a Sons upon all PubUck Buildings may be infured, not exceeding balf the 5nai that will 
Rebuild them, if thty are Burnt Down 

I T is further propofcd, that a Stop be put to all further Infurancesby the faid private 
Societies, that when the Term in the Policies expires (p'ovided they are nnt above feven 
yens) all Homfcs, pabliek Buildings and (ingle App5rrmcn r ,s, mav be infureJ by the National 
Infurance Office, This will nly hinder the future profit and advantage, the private Scxrieries 
might expeft, Ibould they be continued ; they have had confideraWe.idvintace by them, as may 
appear by their Propofals: And when their Policies are expired, then their Setlcmems and 
agreements will be Void. 

THAT the publick good of ihe Nation ought at all ti net, ( efpeciaQ/ this under aa ex- 
penfive War ) to be prefercd, before the private.Interelt of all Societies. 

THAT of all City*, Market Towns Boroughs and Village!, may be 
'obliged to provide Engins, and all Materials to cxtinguilh Fire, and for pulling down Houfes, 
for preventing Fire : And that they may appoint a certain Number of ,ible Men, for the piir- 
pofe, and that they be protected from Preffing in time of War ; and that they may have fume 
Inconragement in time of Peace, as may conduce to the pabliek Safety . 

THAT all Honfei and Buhdings that (hall be Burnt down, f exc-pt Cottages ) may be 
Rebuilt with. Brick or Stone; ac.ordirg to the Appointment of a late Ait of Parliament, for 
Building Houfes to prevent fire. 

THAT th.-re be a fufScicnt Sam of Money arifin?, by the National Infurance fet a-part, 
and referred ; to anfwerall Cifualities, and Wimnageby Fire, in a resfomh'.e time ifier the 
Damnagefuftain'd, as may be to the fatisfaftion of the Proprietors of the laid Houfes, that 
thty may not be Delaied in Building their Houfe?, and making good the Damnage done by File : 
Or that fome fubftantial Fund may be provided, to anfwer all Cafnalities. 

THAT the Proprietors being obliged, to lofure their Houfcs and Buildings, as aforefaid ; 
can not be look'd upon as a hardlmpofi'.ioni (inct many Thoufund?, have by their own Volun- 
tary choice Infured their Houfes, for preventing the great lots they otberwifc fuftain by 
Fire v and thereby their Houfes have been a years parcnafe more in the Value. 

I T ic nay b computed there are Fifteen Thoufand PariQjn in Crtat Srittin, and if tnerc 
be allowed to be one hundred and fifty Hooks, in each Paritb, one wiili the other arr.ounts t<: 
cwo Millions two hundred and fixty five thoufaad Houfes ; bclides publick Kuildingt, and if but 
one hundred pound be Iniurcd for fcvcn years apon every houfc, one with the other, for twenty 
Shillings-, it will raifc cwo Millions two hundred and fixty five thoufand Pounds, forthtufe of 
the Government. 

If one tenth part of the faid two Millions two hundred Oxty and five thoufand Poundi, be 
fee a- part, and referred, to anfwerallCafiulliucs and Damn^ge by Fire-, it msy in ali pro- 
bability be fuffkient to anfwcr the fame, according to the It may be considered what 
advantage the private society have made, and may mike, if continued by Petting up Offices of 
Infurances in other Citys, and greac Towns, to the hindriag the Governlheat of the Advan- 
tage afore f.iid. 

THAT there be a perfon in every City, in every County, or Shire of Great Britain, to 
deliver tbe Policies, and keep the Entries, and to return the Monty to the General National 
Infurance Office. 

THIS beingfetltd, there will not be occafion for fo many Charity biiefs, for Collecting 
Money for fo many LoiTcs by Fire, as has frequently happened. 
^ r. 

Propofed by Mr. Giargt Ofiaand, and Printed jlnnt 

ordered, but entered in the book and handed 
out as applied for ; thus No. 60 was the first 
actually issued, and No. i, not having been 
taken up until the i6th April, does not appear 
until page 7, its terms being : 

"Mrs. Mary Height, at the Blackmoors head in 
Exeter f tree t in the Pari/h of St. Pauls, fyvent 
Garden, (Bounty of Middx, Victualler, for her 

The manner in which some of the entries 
are ruled out as "relinquished," and removals 
or other alterations noted by interlineations, 
confirms the impression that, for a time at 
least, this book was regarded as meeting all 
requirements. No sum insured is mentioned, 
the " Proposals " which formed the conditions of 
insurance stating that each policy covered a loss 
not exceeding ^500, and originally no higher 
amount was taken on a single risk. After a few 
years two such policies were allowed to one client, 
and in 1721 we find that the restriction as to sum 
insured was eliminated from the " Proposals," 
the amount being defined against each item in 
the policies. 

A certain amount of trouble appears very 
promptly to have been experienced in con- 
nection with the provision of means for meeting 
current expenses. The Deed of Partnership 


enacted, inter alia, that 

"for the better maintaining and carrying on and 
ejtablishing the Office upon a lasting and sure 

a sum of 20 should be paid by each Member. 
At a General Meeting of the i4th April, 1710, 
it was agreed that every Member pay down 
20, and further, should "if required" pay in 
405. to the Treasurer the following Wednesday, 
and that "those that cannot attend send their money" 
The Minutes of the iQth April, after recording 
that thirteen paid the 403., went on to order 
that the Gentlemen 

" who could not be prejent^ or being prefent did not 
pay" do pay it next Court day, "and 
that the Clerk give ''em Notice" 

Several similar reminders were subsequently made, 
and on the I7th May it was required that 

"all persons who design d to be concern* d as a 
Member of the Company do declare their positive 
intention and actually sign the writings and pay 
their money , or, transfer , by this day three weeks" 
under penalty of being "absolutely excluded 
from all benefitts w (soever." 

This strong action seems to have had the desired 
effect, and further sums of 405. each were 
called up on August i6th, October nth and 
November 8th, but it was the cause of one 


or two transfers by Members whose faith was 
not equal to the strain of the repeated demands. 
It is to be regretted that, as mentioned above, 
no Books of Accounts for these early days can be 
found, as the character of the book-keeping 
then practised would be an interesting study. For 
a considerable time it was the system to call 
up money as required to meet losses and 
current expenses, and to place it in " the 
Chest," in which were also periodically deposited 
the premiums collected, and whenever that 
Chest contained an amount in excess of what 
was regarded as sufficient to meet probable 
outgoings, a dividend was declared. It was 
not until the year 1726 that the formation of 
a Capital fund was taken in hand. A few 
extracts from the Minutes will illustrate the 
vagueness of financial methods which obtained 
in the meanwhile. An enactment dated I3th 
December, 1710 

" That it be a Jtanding order to the Qlerk to lay 
before the Committee Eordthe names of the Members 
that does not pay their contribution money towards 
the Charges of the Office &V." 

was apparently necessary in connection with the 
comparatively light calls for those charges, but 
a few years later more serious demands had to 
be met. 

" 2 Jan 1716. 7%* Court obferving that the late 
lofs in Hungerford Market is likely to exceed the 
Qajh and that a fall 'will be necefsary in order to 
Jupport the Credit of the Office : 

" a Queftion was put whether the Sufferers Jhould 
be paid their full Qlaim" 

" and it was carried in the affirmative , nemine 

" Order d also nemine contradicente that each 
Member doe pay into the Office to the Treafurer 
next Monday at nine of the Qlock twelve pounds in 
order to pay the f aid Claims, and that each of the 
Members Jo paying Jhall be repaid the fame out of 
the Proftts before any Dividend be made" 

Two Members present immediately paid the 
amount suggested, but clearly the necessities of 
the case had been over-estimated, as a Minute of 
the Meeting on the 9th of the same month reads : 

" The General ourt obferving no Occafionfor twehe 
pounds from each Member, as by Order of loft 


Order d Five pounds inftead of twelve be accepted 
from each per/on, whereupon [here follow the 

names of twenty-two Members] paid each 
five pounds" 

At this latter Committee claims amounting to 
^1,086 35. 6d. in connection with the fire at 


Hungerford Market were discharged, but sub- 
sequently, there not being sufficient to meet a 
separate claim of ,23 IDS. 4d., we read : 

" Mr. Fitzgerald lent ye fympa. towards this claim 
Term pounds^ Mr. R. Filer lent Five guineas, Mr. 
Keep lent four guineas more, Mr. Barnes three 

At a Grand Committee, i6th January, 1716 
the Accountant having reported to the Committee 
that he had "a Note of Attwill's for sixty 
five pounds," it was "put into the Closet "and 
"Mr. Treasurer sent a Note drawn on At will and 
Compa. for thirty six pounds," which was devoted 
to refunding seven pounds to each of the Members 
who had so promptly met the call of twelve 
pounds on the 2nd and repaying the amounts 
"lent" on the 9th. 

From a suggestive note at the end of the 
Minutes of this meeting, the relief experienced at 
the escape from a " tight corner " would appear to 
have been promptly " celebrated." 

" The forfeitures appearing to he incurred loft Quarter 
amounting to forty four Jhillings, / was paid to 
Secretary andjpent" 

Unfortunately, the troubles of the year were 

not over with these efforts, as the following 
extracts show : 

Jth December, 1716. 

" Order d that Advertifements be published of the 
next General Quarterly Meeting in the Papers 
(seven) following : 

Refolv d All Claimes to be made for Loss or 
Damage at any of the late Dreadfull Fires be paid 
on Wednejday the <)th January. 

[The chief fire was at Limehouse.] 

Refolv d and Agreed that every Member of this 
Company Jhall and will deposit the fum of $o 
each towards making good C/aimes, on Wednefday 
the znd January next. 

Refolv'd and Agreed that every Member making 
Default in the Refolution above Jhall forfeit and pay 
tbe deducted out of the next Dividend" 

On the 9th January seven " claimes," amount- 
ing t ;i>O98, were paid, and it was 

" Refolv d and Agreed that noe Dividend he paid till 
Michs next. 

Refolv'd and Agreed that the Debts of the Office be 
forthwith Difcharged and that the Compa. be 
reimhurfed as Moneys come in." 

On this occasion also it seems that the 
Managers, although doubtless chastened by their 


N 838, DATED 13T H JANUARY 1711, 



misfortunes, were not utterly cast down, the last 
item of the day's proceedings being thus re- 
corded : 

" 'The Treajr took 5 out of the Cheft for ye Dinner." 

Digressing for a moment from the chrono- 
logical order of events, we may mention that 
it had been the custom from the start of the 
Company for the twenty- four Members to dine 
together every quarter. There is an entry on 
the Minutes of July, 1711 "Ordered that the 
Cost of the Company's dinner shall not exceed 
^3." At the close of the Minutes of the same 
day is the following : 

" No twithf landing it is f aid in the Order above writt 

for the Company diner that the coftjhall not exceed 

Three Pounds, after the producing of Mr. Spenf ley's 

Bill whose amount four pounds fixteen f hillings and 

eleven pence ; agreed that the faid order Jhall 

extend to four pounds^ & the particular members 

Jhall pay the remain offuch bill," 

It may be presumed that the banquet had 
taken place in the interval between the two 
entries as the usual hour of dining was two o'clock, 
although differences of opinion as to the correct 
dinner hour were from time to time recorded. 
Thus on the 8 Jan., 1714, it was ordered "that no 


Generall Court Dinner be dressed till four 

After the above incident, when the Members 
possibly recognised a growing tendency to 
extravagance, which it was expedient to check, 
a spirit of economy was evinced. This, however, 
was not maintained. 

May, 1712. 

" Ordered that 30*. be allowed for the members 
dinner this day." 

Auguft, 1712. 

" Ordered to dine together^ and the expenfe not 
' exceeding 40*.' ' 

April, 1714. 

" A Debate arijing about ye Charge of ye Dinner at 
a Generall Meeting, Ordered, ye Expenfe do not 
exceed Eight Pounds at each time." 

June, 1715. 

" Ordered, The Company Dine on Monday next at 
Mr. Erocklejbys, and that they expend Six Pounds, 
and no more." 

Apparently, after the " late Dreadfull Fires " 
in 1716, it was thought that an expenditure even 
of 6 was not justified. 

We may gather from the records that in other 
ways the fact was recognized that a certain amount 
of conviviality smoothed the working of the 


human machinery by which the enterprise was 
being developed. At the first meeting of the 
Members they agreed that " half-a-piece " (value 
sixpence) " be allowed to the Watermen to drink 
our healths," these were doubtless the two or 
three who distributed the Proposals, and from 
time to time gratuities to the Clerks, " to dine," 
" to eat and drink," and even " to drink," without 
the eating, are sanctioned, whilst each half-year 
the Firemen are granted " 30 shillings for dinner, 
with tenn shillings for Musick, as usual." 

In December, 1713, was passed an Order with 
respect to the transfer of Shares to the effect that 
" every Member selling, spend not less than a 
guinea, and each purchaser not less than two 
Guineas, and half a crown to each Clerk." We 
find also several resolutions that the amounts of 
fines for late or non-attendance shall be " expended 
at next Generall Court Day." With regard to 
none of these instances is the subject of the 
expenditure specified, but there is an outspoken 
decision, coupled with a pleasant latitude as to 
quantity and quality, in the Order of the 7th June, 
1710, " that what is drunk in the Court Room be 
payd for out of the public stock." 

The Managers' Dinners, reduced to two in the 
year, were maintained without a break until the 
year 1869, when it was resolved that thence 


forward there should be only one dinner annually, 
to take place on the General Meeting day in 
April. This continued until 1873, after which 
date the practice was, by general consent, 

It was not long after 1716 that the Members 
began to realize that their growing business 
required to be placed on a more substantial 
footing. In 1719 the rage for company pro- 
moting, partly engendered by the example of the 
South Sea Company, caused them considerable 
uneasiness, and they were exercised as to the 
means of averting threatened competition. 
The impending risk could not be ignored, and 
at a General Court on the 24th February, 
1720, it was 

" Order d That Mr. Clarke, Mr. Gojling, Mr. 
Holloway, Mr. Pelham and Mr. Meere be 
appointed to take care of the affairs and intereft of 
this Office, in oppojition to the many Offices now 
erecting for Infurance, and if necefsary to afk 
advice by Councell, and to employ fuch Per/on or 
Terfons as they \think proper for the Service of 
the f aid Office" 

and the Committee of the 29th June of the same 
year ordered 

" The Treafurer, Sir Robert Clarke, Mr. Gofling, 
and Mr. Waljh employ Mr. 'Dowje, Attorney to 


enter a Caveat at the Attorney Generals againjt 
any Charter that may be intended to Injure Houfes 
and Goods from Lofs by Fire" 

The following advertisement which appeared 
in several London newspapers in June, 1720, 
furnishes evidence that their alarm was not 
without justification : 

"A member of the Sun Fire Office , for good reafons y 
gives notice of a new office of injurance for goods 
and houfes in all parts of Great Britain by the 
name of the Hand-and-Sun Fire Office ; upon much 
eafier terms, and upon a folid foundation. That a 
hundred perfons will be Jharers with him in the 
faid injurance which will be Jet on foot with the 
utmoftfpeed, and wherein all perfons concerned will 
ha")>e a jujt accompt of profit and lojs. N.B. e// 
fait work will in afhort time be built at or near the 
mouth of the river y tofupply the fijhery, and furnijh 
the town with the fineft of bay fait." 

To this the SUN replied as follows : 

" Whereas afcandalous advertifement was inferted in 
the ' St. James's Evening Poft ' of Thurfsday /aft, 
and in the ' St. James's Poft ' of yefterday, in the 
name of a member of this office, pretending to Jet up 
an office of injurance after a new method. The 
Company thinks fit to inform the publick that they 
are utter Jtrangers to the projector, and abominate 
fuch Ivile practices ; the defign of which (without 


doubt) is only to impofe upon, and bubble, the 
credulous part of mankind out of their money. 
N.B. Whatever projection this may be, it is very 
certain that it cant exift, becaufe it is directly within 
the claufe of the new Act of Parliament againft the 

No further circumstances connected with this 
proposition are traceable. It can only be hoped 
that there was no "traitor in the camp"; but 
that the efforts of the Managers to stem the 
tide of competition were not entirely successful, 
the London and Royal Exchange offices, both 
dating from 1720, still exist to testify. 

A prompt step taken by the SUN Members 
to widen and protect their own borders was to 
subdivide each of the original twenty-four shares 
into 100 parts, and to enact that the owners might 
transfer the whole or part of their respective 
holdings as they saw fit. The argument on 
which this action was based, and the quaint 
language of the Minute of Meeting of 2nd 
September, 1720, giving effect to the decision, are 
worthy of verbatim quotation. 

ind September, 1720. 
" At a General Meeting : 

Several of the Members of the Company having 
Attended (during the late Intervals of the Comittee) 
the bufinefs of the Office, and having Acted Accord- 


ing to the Minutes of the 24 and 31 of Augujt last 
Order d that the Minutes by them Made, be, and 
they are hereby Approved and Confirmed. 
Upon Examination into the State of the Affairs 
of the Office It Appeared 

1 . That Several Complaints have been made at the 
Office of the Smalnefs of their Policy*, as not 
Injuring larger Sums EJpecialy On Goods, which 
has Given difcontent to many of the Injured, and 
prevented divers from Injuring in this Office, and 

Given Occafion as is Apprehended to Other Perjons 
to Attempt the Erecting Other Societys On Pretence 
atleajt for the Purpojes dejigned by the EJtablishers 
of this Office. 

2. That this Office has near 20,000 Policy s by 
which they Injure near Ten Millions Sterling 
whereby it Appears that the Succefs of this Under- 
taking has hitherto fully Anjwered the Expectation 
oj the Injured and Infurers, and as the Credit of the 
Office is now Jo large it is Very Juft, and reajonable 
that the Numerous Perjons who rely On the Same 
for Jo Great Sums Jhould have the mojt Ample 
Security that can be provided for them, and many 
Infinuations Obviated which have been Suggefted 
touching the Societys inability to make good conftder- 
able Lofses, and that the Provifion or Fund, for 
Security was Scarce Jo good as thoje Offices whoje 
Injurance is limited to places within the Bills of 
Mortality which Arguments have been made uje of 
in prejudice to this Office and for Erecting new 
Societys for Injurance ofHoufes and Goods from Fire. 


3. That this Office has the beft Claim of Right to 
the Infurance of Goods and to the Infurance of 
Houfes and Goods all Over England being the firft 
(now in being) that undertook the former and the 
Only One that Ever Extended to the latter. And 
tho the Caution of the firft Undertakers was prudent 
and commendable in Injuring no more than 500 
On Goods or Houfes till they Jliould Experience how 
the Succefs would prove, yet now as that has 
Anfwerdforfo many Tears, it is highly reafonable 
to Increafe the Sums to be Injured as Much as is 
Conftftent with the Safety of the Society, and the 
reafonable Expectation of the Publick. 

4. That indeed the rifque at prefent befides what is 
Necefsary to be farther Attempted is too Great for 
twenty four perfons to Adventure, Efpecialy whilft 
the Policy s are daily Increafing from all Parts of 
the 'Town and Kingdom. 

5. That this Office was Originally of a Greater 
Number than at Prefent and Confifted of above One 
hundred Proprietors, and a Much Greater Number 
of Shares, and that in Truth, they have always 
been above Twenty four, tho by their lajt Articles 
they limited themfelves to twenty four Acting 
Members Apprehending there needed no more, 
Efpecialy whilft the undertaking was in its Infancy 

6. 'That the Society have frequently Come to 
refolutions of Augmenting their Stock, and particu- 
larly about four Tears Ago, did Actualy Increafe 


the Same, thd not Enough to Anfwer the purpofes 
of the Office, as it now Stands. 

7. That this Company or Society being Jo UJefull 
and Several Tears Since EftablifHd and Settled, it 
is humbly Apprehended and learned Councill have 
Advifed, that the Same is not Meant, or in Any 
Wife Comprehended in but plainly Excep ted from 
the Cenjures and Penalties in the late Act of 
Parliament Entitled An Act for better Securing 
certain powers and priviledges to be granted by his 
Majefty, by two Charters for AJsurance of Ships 
and Merchandizes at Sea, and for lending Money 
upon Bottomree &<?. . . . but may proceed 
in their bufinejs as if the faid Act had never 
pafsed, and increafe their Security for the Insured, 
and part or divide their Shares as fhall be Con- 
venient for that purpofe, for all which reafons and 
many Others that might be juftly Alledged, it is 
Refolvd That Each of the four and Twenty 
Shares be Divided into One hundred Parts, 

ResoHd That Each Member Give a Letter of 
Attorney to the Secretary to Empower him to 
Trans/err as Many of thofe Parts as they are 
Willing to Dispofe of to Such perfons as they fhall 

Order d That the Comittee do prepare a proper 
Scheme or Schemes for Inlarging the Infurances and 
Confider what will be necefsary to Encreaje the 
Fund of the Office, and report the Same the next 
Generall Meeting" 


The Resolutions adopted at this meeting were 
immediately carried out, but considerable time 
was occupied in the preparation of the "proper 
Scheme " for increasing the Funds of the Office 
referred to in the last paragraph. It was not 
until June, 1726, that a Report was submitted to 
the General Court in these terms : 

June yth y 1726. 
"At a General Meeting : 

The Committee of Management having made their 
Report of the State of the Office and the fame being 
now Read and Confiderd, this General Court has 
thereupon come to the Resolutions following, viz. : 

1 . That the Division of the Shares in the Tear 
1720 has been attended with all the good Effects 
then defigned manifefted by the great increafe of the 
Number of Policy s fince that time and now realy in 
pay and which has been almoft trebled. 

2 . That by the many good Regulations and Improve- 
ments made Since that time the Rifque of the Office 
has been greatly lejsend and the Insurances for the 
most part on a much 'more advantageous foot in the 
advance of the Annual Premiums than heretofore 
the fame have been. 

3. That notwithjtanding the defigns of raifing a 
Secure Fund for the benefit of the Infured could not 
be effected in the year 1720, when the Shares were 
divided and as ^as then intended by reafon of the 


Calamities of that time, and notwithftanding the 
many and Severe Lofses that has Jince happen d 
the Office CheJ't is at prefent in a better Jituation 
than it was at the time of the f aid Division of the 

4. That itjeems not only juft but very much to the 
advantage of this undertaking that a Fundjhould 
be raifd to continue and be a Standing Security at 
all Events for the Injured whereby all manner of 
objections to this Office muft be entirely removed, its 
Enemies be utterly difpofeft of all manner of Cavill 
and the Reputation of the Office fixt on a Solid 
Foundation and that this fhould be raif'd by a 
General Contribution of its Proprietors. 

5. That the Fund or Stock be raif'd by a general 
Contribution of the Proprietors of this Office and 
that it be Forty Eight Thoufand Pounds or Twenty 
Pounds on each Share as now divided" 

[Item 6 relates to the revision of the " Proposals" form 
then in use.] 

" 7. That towards making good the faid ^th Article 
(of the Propofals) as now fettled and raifing fuch 
Fund as has been refolved upon Every 'Perfon 
holding Shares in this Office fhall pay into the 
Office five Pounds for every Share he or fhe Jo 
holds as fuch Shares ftand now Divided, on the 
times and in the Troportions following, that is to 
Jay Three Pounds per Share thereof on or before the 
\Qth day of Augujt next, and Two Tounds per 
Share refidue thereof on or before the l$th of 

3 1 

October then next after and that the Calls hereafter 
to be made on the Proprietors fhall not altogether 
ever exceed ^15 more for every Share any Pro- 
prietor has or fhall have in this Office as fuch 
Shares are now Divided. 

8. That the Proprietors have due notice of the faid 
Call according to the Conditions provided in the 
Original Deed that is 20 Days before fuch Payment 
becomes due' 1 

[Item 9 omitted, probably accidentally.] 

" 10. That it be referrd to the Committee of Manage- 
ment to confider of a Proper Scheme for encreafing 
the Premiums and Lefsening the Hazards of' 

1 1 . That it be referrd to the faid Committee to 
consider of a proper manner of Increasing the 
Infurance s of this Office. 

12. That 'tis the Opinion of this Court that the 
Sollicitors have a Salary Tearly which Salary is to 
be in the Stead of all Profefsional Attendances in 
Suits or other Affairs of the Office. 

13. That the faid Salary be Fifty Quineas per 
annum to commence from Lady *Day /aft." 

The whole of this arrangement, however, was 
not carried through in the manner proposed. 
The first payment of ^5 per share was collected, 
but in 1728 the Company, instead of making 
a further call on the then existing shares, 


decided to increase the Capital to ^"48,000 by 
creating 2,400 new shares of 20 each, on which 
the sum of ^15 each should be paid up by 
instalments. A Minute of the General Meeting 
of 24 May, 1728, contains the following clauses 
in reference to the suggestions of a small Com- 
mittee which had been instructed to consider 
the matter, and who reported 

1. That 'twas there opinion that it is necejsary for 
the Credit and Security of this Office & of the 
Perfons therein Injured, that the Sum 0/36,000^ 
being the remaining pt. of the ^.Sooojffor the Stock 
or Fund of this Office be forthwith raifed. 

2. That the Jd. Committee had confider d of a Draft 
of a Scheme for that Purpofe, laid before them by 
the Secretary, and alfo of the State of the Office with 
refpect thereto, & a Draft of a Letter prop of ed to be 

fent to the Proprietors concerning the fame wh. the 
Committee had approvd of & wh. Papers are now 
Deliver d in & Read. 

The General Meeting thereupon 

Order d That the Draft of the Scheme be engrofsed 
on Parchment in order for Signing and the Letters 
be Printed in order to be Sent to the Several 

with the result that at their Meeting of July the 
engrossment was produced bearing the signatures 


of subscribers for 2107 shares on which the first 
instalment had been paid up, evidence that the 
position which the Office had then attained 
justified the course adopted. No difficulty was 
experienced in disposing of the remainder, the 
Committee being able to exercise their discretion 
as to placing them advantageously for the Com- 
pany. The last were so allotted at a Meeting 
of 13 March, 1729, at which 

" The Treajurer acquainted the Committee that Mr. 
Craig, of Qraigs Court, was defirous to Purchaje. 
100 of the Shares remaining unfubfcrib'd at i$ 
p. Share y and that it would be of Service to the 
Office to admit him a Purchajer for ye Jame in 
confideration of his great Eftate and Houfes and 
Interejt at that end of the Town ; 

" Order d that Mr. Craig have Liberty to become a 
Purchaser of \oojhares as the Treajurer defires" 

The " Westminster Branch " of the SUN was 
established in Craigs Court, Charing Cross, in 1 726, 
and remained there for 141 years, removing in 
1867 to its present site at Charing Cross. 

At the same meeting it was 

Refolvd That from and after the i^th June 1729 
Every Mittee or acting Member of this Office fhall 
be pofsefsed of Fifty Shares of the Stock and Fund of 
this Office^ in his own right^ and not be capable of 


acting unlefsfo Qualify d s? and that no Per/on he 
Elected to he a Mittee or acting Member in ye mean 
time, but who is pofsefsed of $ofuch Shares. 

This qualification remained unaltered, although 
the value increased considerably, until the revision 
of the Constitution of the Company in 1891, 
each "Mittee" up to that date holding not less 
than 50 shares. 

In 1741 the Managers, considering that a 
further increase of the Reserve, or "Fund for 
Security," was desirable, decided at a General 
Quarterly Meeting, Qth July, 1/41, to add the 
sum of ,24,000 as under : 

" The Committee appointed at a General Quarterly 
Meeting of 9 January 1741 Reported that they 
had Confidered the Several Matters Referrd to 
them & are of 'opinion , That as thro the Several 
Regulations, that have been made from Time to 
Time, particularly, the raifing the Stock & Fund, 
The good Management s? Indujtry of the 
Managers, the Eufinejs, Income & Stock of this 
Office have greatly Increafed, Infomuch that from 
Chriftmas 1728 there has been paid to the Pro- 
prietors upwards of 50000^" in Dividends, & 
over 5? above the defraying all charges and 
expences, there is now in Bank (besides the Stock & 
Fund 0/48000 secured by the Prop of a Is for making 
good Lofses) the Sum 0/54176 : 1 1 : 6. There- 


fore we think this a proper Time to make Jome 
farther Increafe of the Dividend to the Proprietors ; 
Likewije to make an Addition to the Stock & Fund 
of the Office, for the Benefit of the Injurd and alfo 
to make Jome Increafe to the Salaries of the 
Managers , fcf of Several of the Officers fc? Clerks ; 
all which we propofe to be done in manner 

1. That the half years Dividend now to be 
declared be I2S. 6d. p. Share, which if 'tis con- 
tintCd will Amount to 6000^ p. Ann : a Sum the 
Office will eaftly pay, if Lofses are not more then 
ujual, and the Buifnefs continue as it is. 

2. That as the Number of Shares are 4800, 6? 
the Subfcription price when the Stock of 4 8ooOj 
was raifd was i$ p. Share, & as the Buifnefs 
is much Increafd, & the Sum in hand Jo Large, we 
are of opinion that the Stock & Fund of the 
Office for the Security of the Injured he 72000^ 
which is 1 $ p. Share on the 4800 Shares. 

3. That as what has enabled the Office to do Jo 
much for the Proprietors fcf the Injured, is greatly 
owing to the Prudent & Dilligent Application of the 
Managers, therefore we are of opinion that 2o 
p. Ann : may he added to each Managers Salary, 
which will amount to 480^ p. Ann : this Additional 
Salary to continue no longer than the Increased 
Dividend of is. 6d. p. Share to the Proprietors 
shall be continu d ; half yearly. 


Refolded that 24,000^ be Added to the prefent 
Fund of 48,000^ for the farther Security of the 
Injured to make the whole 72,000^ and that 
the Propofals be altered accordingly" 

The further raising of the Reserve to over 
,100,000 in 1752 may fairly be regarded as 
the crowning point in the "early days" of the 
SUN. It was effected by the transfer of ,28,800 
out of accumulated profits, that sum being 
doubtless adopted in order to bring the total 
Capital to a multiple of the number of shares, 
i.e., 4,800 at 21 each. 

It is true this was forty years after the founda- 
tion of the Company, but " youth " and " age " 
are terms of comparison according to their 
application, and one may reasonably be per- 
mitted to regard a period of forty years as an 
'early stage ' in reference to the career of an 
undertaking which is just embarking, with hope- 
ful confidence, on its third century of useful 


N perusing the old writings from which 
these notes are gathered, one is likely 
to experience feelings of surprise, in 
the first place that under the circum- 
stances existing at the commencement of the i8th 
century, Povey should have believed, and have 
been able to instil his belief into others, that 
such an undertaking as the founding of a 
Company to transact fire-insurance business " in 
all parts of Great Britain " was not only possible 
but likely to become profitable, and secondly, that 
his faith was so quickly justified by events. The 
difficulties of locomotion previously referred to, 
and the length of time involved in communication 
with those at a distance, were serious obstacles to 
be contended with, and the insight into the 
methods and manners of the men concerned 
derived from their own account of their pro- 
ceedings, fails to convince one that they possessed 
the acumen and energy requisite to overcome such 
difficulties. That they had a talent for taking 
pains over minor details is proved by some of the 
subjects brought before the Committee to decide, 
as witness an order 

"/to Mr. McDowell" [the Clerk] "provide a 
Handfome Standish for Ink etc. a Penknife and 
Files for the Ufe of the Secretary, and alfo 
Stationarys for ye Office" or another, " that the 


o u 




Treasr be reimbursed 22s. by him laid out for a 
Carpet for the Table and expences in getting the 
same scour d and brought to the Office" or yet 
another, " The Maid-servant of the House, 
attending the Committee, and desiring to drink the 
Compa's Health. Ordered that the Treasr give her 
five shillings" 

At the same time there is a strange absence 
of indication of any particular action or effort 
in connection with the especial business of fire 
insurance for which the Company was established. 
Recognizing this feature, and also the facts that 
rates were low and that claims were ordinarily 
passed on the certificate of the Minister and 
Churchwardens, professional aid in adjusting 
them being only occasionally invoked, it is some- 
what remarkable that insurances should have 
increased so rapidly in number, and shares in 
value, for many years. With regard to the 
former, in 1720 the sum insured was ^"10,000,000, 
and as to the latter, records of transfers show 
that the price of the " original shares " of the 
twenty-four Members was approximately 

in 1713 - ; 60 

I7H - 175 
1715 - 500 

whilst in 1720 offers of 1,000 guineas for a share 
met with " no sellers." 


Absence of competition doubtless made the 
acquisition of business easier, but to have accumu- 
lated funds out of a premium of IDS. per 
annum for ^500 on " Houses, Goods, Wares 
and Merchandizes and Furniture" at a time 
when extinguishing appliances were of a most 
primitive character indicates that fires were then 
of much rarer occurrence than they are now. 

Before leaving this period of the early days 
of the SUN we may select at random a few 
" Minutes " in the hope that their wording and 
spirit will conjure up in the minds of our 
imaginative readers a picture of the committee 
room in which these pioneers of insurance carried 
on their labours, and of its occupants. Most of 
them were men engaged in affairs of their own, 
but their calm and placid temperaments stand out 
in marked contrast with those of business men 
of the present day, as can be judged by an order 
that the General Court 

"for the future meet exactly at ten o'clock, and each 
member to forfeit half his allowance who dont 
come before 1 1 o'clock, and the whole if he dont come 
before 12, to be determined by an Hour-Glafs Jet by 
the Royal Exchange Clock," and further, with 
respect to the ordinary weekly committee 
meeting at two o'clock, that " The Committee 
taking notice of many inconveniences ariftng by 

4 o 

reafon of late attendances . . . Ordered that 
each of the Committee who Jhall not appear in the 
Office before three o clock JJiall forfeit sixpence for 
the use of the Committee" 

The following relate to the functions and 
responsibilities of the Members : 

i$th December, 1710. 
" c/f/ a General Court : 

Ordered that each Member Jhall have a copy of 
the Articles of Settlement, that they may prepare in 
writing Juch by-laws as they think jitt for the well- 
managing of the Company's bufinejs, to be examined 
in the next General Court" 

Jan. 1711. 

A Committee decided " that all Members Jhould 
to the bejt of their Skill and Judgment act 
and do all things relating to the Company for 
the most advantage of the Company as in them 
lies and in cafe defaut thereof that they fhall 
forfeit their Shares and Intereft therein 
and that each Member Jhall taJ^e his oath 
before a Majter in Chancery to the true intent 
and meaning hereof without Equivocation or mental 

It is, perhaps, needless to mention that 
although the rescinding of this " Order " has not 
been traced, the requirement is not now enforced. 


Nor is the observance of the following still 
maintained : 

$th January, 172*. 

" At a General Meeting : 
Ordered that Copy of the Managers Names and 
Places of abode be given to every Fire-man and 
Porter belonging to this Office with Inftructions that 
on any Fire they immediately give notice to the 
Managers living neareft thereto" 

In spite of the foregoing and other resolutions 
designed to secure punctuality and due interest 
in the business, it would appear that considerable 
laxness prevailed later on at the meetings and 
that repeated appeals were required to bring 
about seemly and decorous behaviour. 

yh April, 1713. 

" At a General Court : 

Order d that no Order made by a Committee be 
countermanded by any one particular Member" 

April, 1715. 

" // being obfervd that Irregularities of motions and 
interruptions in debate are frequently had for want 
of a due method, Ordered, that no perfonfhall make 
a motion that does not addrefs hitnfelf to the Chair, 
that no perfon do interrupt the motions, and that no 
two perfons Speak at one and the fame time. 


Ordered^ that no perfon make any motion for 
the future in any General Court to the Chair other- 
wife than Jtanding and that theje Orders, made this 
day be read at every General Court asjoon as a 
Sufficient number appears" 

May, 1715. 

" Ordered, The Secretary make a collection of all 

Orders relating to Order and Regularity in Com- 

mittees or General Courts^ and that the fame be 

fair written and hung up in a Frame in the Office" 

nth July 1715. 
" A t a General Court: 

Ordered Mr. Hajelar have the two Books of 
Orders home with him to collect Orders therein made 
relating to Order and Regularity at General Courts 
and Committees. 

Ordered that all former Orders be confirmed' 1 

Even after these measures it was necessary to 
" bring home " to the Members individually a 
sense of the duties expected of them, as we 
have an entry : 

i^th Oct. 1715. 

" Ord'd, Te Clerk make Copy of ye Severall Orders 
Jet up in ye Committee room relating to ye Members, 
and alfo of all Juch as Jhall hereafter be made and 
y at ye fame be delivered to each Member" 

yrd April 1712. 

" Refolded that a Good accountant who can give a 
good Security s? Writt a good hand be appointed 
lark in the Office in the roome of William Drink- 
water Salary not exceeding thirty pounds p. an." 

Dec. 1714. 

" Whereas it has been thought Convenient (for the 
prevention of Feuds and Quarrells which may 
happen or arije by the drinking of healths or talking 
of any party matter at any Dinner on General 
Court Days or other Days, or at any other {Meeting 
or {Meetings ) y it is therefore thought Jit and ordered 
that no health or healths be drank at any such 
Dinner or {Meeting (other than Trofperity to the 
Office and our/elves) nor any party matter Argued." 

It will be remembered that at the date of this 
Minute, Queen Anne had recently died, George 
the First having occupied the Throne for about 
six months. That the forbidden health-drinking and 
party discussion might, in the then state of public 
feeling, give rise to "Feuds and Quarrells" is 
testified by the fact that His Majesty thought it 
expedient to issue a Proclamation, dated January, 
1715, offering ^200 reward for the "discovery 
and apprehending of the Persons who barbarously 
wounded and maimed John Mac Allen, an Officer of 
Excise in Scotland, for refusing to drink some 


Jacobite or Tory Health," the preamble running 
thus : 

to* hate meiteb intonation 
that upon the 30th ban of Jlotember last, bettoeen 
the hours of II anb fin th* morning, at Crieff in 
Perthshire, in that part of our flingbom rall'b 
grotlanb, seteral Arsons in pghlanb Sjabtts, 
toith their Jfaces bisroiour'b, anb artntb toith 
toorb, gurfe anb pistol, brok* into the ^obgings 
of John 4HacJUte, one of our (Dflfars of 
(Excise, anb barbarously anb inhumanly b^at, 
bruis'b anb toounbeb th* saib John glac^llen in 
sttoal parts of his $obg, anb tut off fart of his 

It is satisfactory to recognize that a better and 
more loyal spirit prevailed at the commencement 
of 1717, as on the i7th April of that year the 
Managers resolved that 

" The Order relating to the Drinking of Public Healths 
be Repeal *d Jo far only as relates to the Drinking 
the King's Health." 


. Bankes was dejired to collect ye next Quarter, 
and acquaint ye Cuftomers they mujt hereafter pay 
byfome friend in London, which he promijed, and 
ye Compa. invited him to drink a Glajs of Wine 
at Compa! s charge" 


June 1716. 

" The Committee on examining (Mr. Bankes account 

find he has difpojed of 132 Policy's and deferves a 

Gratuity. Ord'd Four Guineas be paid to him 

which was paid accordingly by Secretary out of ye 

mony laid in his Closet" 

loth June 1716. 

" (Mr. Brocklefby defired ye Two Guineas by him 
advanced on ye tyh April laft, which was paid by 
Secretary out of money laid up in his Clofet. There 
remained in ye Clofet ,17 155. 6d. and no more.' 1 

"In July 1716 a Minute was passed Ord. Any 
Member revealing the Secretts of the Office on any 
account w c ^ y e Com. for the time being shall judge 
to be to ye prejudice of the Compa. such Member 
shall forfeit and pay out of his next Dividend the 
sum of IOJ." 

No clue is given to the circumstances which 
led to this evidently serious warning, given at 
a time when there was only one competing Office. 
Possibly it was due to apprehension that know- 
ledge of the means by which the SUN was winning 
success would call others into existence. 

From the following Minutes connected with 
losses, it is evident that questions of liability which 
are still known to us arose in these quite early 


Oct. 1714. 
A claim of about 145 was settled for 135. 

"the remaining Sume of io $s. being charged 
in the Inventory for Qutfide Shutters and other fuch 
like things being in difpute, and agreed to be left to 
the judgment of Serjt Richardfon." 

No decision is recorded, but no entry appears 
of payment of the balance so it may be assumed 
that the non-liability of the Office was confirmed. 

April 1716. 

" W. J. Drimmer " (a Member) "fent CounceUs 
opinion about Mr. Hopkins a Barber, by which it 
appears ye Comp are not obliged to pay for ye Wigg 
as demanded, it being a Wigg another left to he 
Ord'd ye Clerk fend Mr. Hopkins a copy of it." 

Gen. Meeting, 9 July 1722. 

Referring to the lofs of Mrs. Hannah Wallis, who 
had allowed her policy to lapje : " Agreed that on 
her dif sifting from making a claim and making a 
propper application for charitable confideration ; 
by reafon of her very great poverty, Committee 
impowered to give her afum of money not exceeding 

At subsequent Committees the " Humble 
Petition" of Hannah Wallis was read and she 
was awarded 150. 


Dec. 1726. 

" Received a letter from an unknown Hand with a 
Bank Note of Twenty Seven Pounds, twelve 
shillings, the Writer of which having received a 
Claim, and having by miftake overcharged the fame 
of that Sum." 

A Minute of nth November, 1719, on the 
subject of the Land Tax, originally framed to 
include personalty as well as realty, implies a jus- 
tifiable desire to keep down the expense ratio, but 
the candid critic will perhaps have a suspicion that 
its arguments are rather ingenious than ingenuous. 
Whether they had a partial effect on the Com- 
missioners it would be difficult to say, but it 
is clear that the Assessment was not wholly 
taken off. 

1 1 th November 1719. 

" At a Committee : 

Mr. Pelham, Mr. Burgefs, Mr. Lloyd, Mr. 
Holloway, Mr. Brooke, Mr. PFalfh and Mr. 
Gofling, being defird to Attend the Commifs rs of the 
Land Tax relating to the AJsefsment made upon 
the Sun Fire Office, Mr. Pelham and Mr. 
Holloway reported that they had been at Guildhall 
together with Mr. Burgefs, and that they had 
Drawn up reafons against the faid AJseJsment and 
Deliver d them to the Town Clerk, and are as 
follow s 


The Company of the Sun Fire Office offers the 
following Confederations to your Honours : 

1 . That their Stock is precarious, That they may be 
worth one Hundred Pounds to day, and in Debt 
'Two Hundred Pounds to morrow. 

2. That they are under difficulties to anfwer to the 
Value of their Stock, for it may prove to their 
dif advantage, as much as a Shopkeeper to tell what 
he is worth haveing paid very great Sumes to Lofses. 

3. That the lajt quarter they Expended more than 
their Income, and cannot afshure theyfhant Expend 
more the next. 

For theje reafons they hope your Honours will take 
off the Afsefsment if not wholly that it may he with 
the utmoft moderation. 

Fry day the 6th November 1719. 
The Affair could not be decided then. But would 
give the Company Notice when. 

In April, 1720, the Office was invited to attend 
in support of the appeal, and in May the 

" Ordered payment of Land Tax, 60 for the year 


A factor which may partially account for 
" Irregularities in Debate " and similar troubles 
alluded to in several of the foregoing Minutes was 
probably the want of continuity in supreme control 


in the affairs of the Company. No presiding 
official was for some years appointed permanently. 
The Chief Officer, one of the Members, was 
elected annually as " Secretary to the Board," 
and the Treasurership was held on the same tenure. 
It was not until 1720 that a " master-mind "joined 
the Society in the person of one Thomas Watts, 
a member of a good Somersetshire family, Clerk 
in the Signet Office, and M.P. He was well 
connected with City interests, his wife being sister 
of Sir Crisp Gascoyne, the first Lord Mayor of 
London to occupy the present Mansion House, 
then recently erected. His appointment as 
Secretary in 1723, at which time, although the 
expediency of raising the Fund for Security had 
been agreed upon, nothing in that direction had 
been done, and his re-election annually until 
1 734, marked the high opinion which the Board 
entertained of the value of his services to the 
Office. The successive appointments of his 
brother and his two sons to the same position 
maintained the family connection and influence 
until the year 1806. On Mr. Watts's resignation 
of the Secretaryship in 1734, he continued to act 
as "Cashire" until 1741, the year in which the 
Fund was raised to .72,000, and on his 
retirement his colleagues passed the following 
resolution : 

gth July 1741. 

" At a General Meeting : 

'That as many of the good Regulations made in 
this Office and more particularly the Scheme and 
Succefs of the Subfcription Stock (from which Era 
we may Date the Eftablifhment and good Fortune 
of the Office) were owing in a great meafure to the 
Contrivances and good Services of {Mr. Thomas 
Watts. And as Mr. Povey, the Inventor of this 
Office , had 2Oo per Annum fettled on him for his 
and his Wife s Life, It is agreed that the fame 
annuity of 200 per Annum on fMr. Povey s 
Deceafe, is hereby granted, and fhall he fettled in 
like manner on ^Mr. Thomas Watts for his Life, 
and after his Death upon his Wife for her Life, if 
fhefurvive him, as a reward for his Services" 

Mr. Watts predeceased Povey, dying in 1741. 
On Povey 's death in 1743 (Mrs. Povey being 
also dead) the pension was duly paid to Watts's 
widow, and afterwards extended to his two sons. 
One John Gascoyne, a member of the wife's 
family, became a Manager in 1725, and continued 
so until his death in 1750, serving as Secretary 
for a short term during the interval. Sir Crisp 
Gascoyne was himself a Manager from 1749 to 

"British fIDercun?" anfc tbe 
"Ibistorical IRegister/' 

T the time of the inception of Povey's 
insurance ventures, it was not uncom- 
mon for Traders to publish a news- 
paper or pamphlet as a method of 

advertising with a view to attract business. A 
relic of this custom is still existing in the 
well-known " Lloyd's List," which was first pub- 
lished as "Lloyd's News" in 1696 by the 
proprietor of Lloyd's Coffee House, an estab- 
lishment largely supported by persons concerned 
in maritime affairs, the contents of the paper 
consisting mainly of shipping intelligence. 

Povey, being the promoter of many schemes 
and businesses, originated in 1705 a periodical 
which he named the " General Remark on 
Trade," superseding it in 1710 by the c< BRITISH 
MERCURY," published by the Company of 
London Insurers, then in process of development 
into the SUN FIRE OFFICE, who arranged that it 
should be delivered three days a week at the 
house of every insurer willing to pay for it, the 
notification in the imprint of early numbers being 
that it was printed for the SUN FIRE OFFICE, 
where " Policies to the value of ^500 each are 
delivered out .... to any person who shall 


take them, paying the Stamp Duty, and the 
first Quarterly 23. if they desire no Mercury, 
or 2/6 if they will have it." At the commence- 
ment nearly all the subscribers took the paper, 
but after a time the number fell off, and 
the " HISTORICAL REGISTER " took its place in 
1716. This was a quarterly issue, and it was 
announced, would contain " an Impartial Relation 
of all Transactions, Foreign and Domestick." 
The grounds assigned for the change of pub- 
lication are given in the early numbers of the 
new periodical, and embrace the following 
considerations : 

" This Quarterly Book Jhall not, like the common 
newfpapers, be crammed with the hopes or fears or 
Jurmifes of parties, etc. 

We pretend no longer to give our Subjcrihers a 
paper of news (falfe news for newfpapers and lies 
are Jynonymous terms). 

It remains to give fome reafon why the Com- 
pany has refohed to take Jo long a time as from 
3 months to 3 months for the publication of each 
Book. They took this refolution, being convinced 
by experience from Books of this nature that come 
out monthly, whofe fubfequent accounts frequently 
contradict the preceding, that a lefs time would not 
befufficient to give an authentic account of affairs" 

We quote from the Minute Books some 
interesting glimpses of the rewards of authorship 
in those days. 


Under date I4th Aprill, 1710, we find 

" Ordered that Forty shillings be paid to Mr. 
Aaron Hill for writing three Mercurys." 

Jth June 1710. 

" Qeneral Court : 

Ordered that Mr. David Jones do write the 
Paper for the time to come, and that he be agreed 
with as reafonably as can be." 

2ist June 1710. 

" Qeneral Court : 

Rejohed that David Jones do for the future 
writ our Paper, and that he be allowed IQJ. per 
paper. Note, he begun to write it, the i^th June, 
at that rate." 

In August, 1710, one Alexander Justice 
succeeded to the Editorship at a pay of 205. per 
week. Receiving an appointment in 1711 "to 
accompany a Foreign Ambassador beyond the 
Sea to a Congress," he was replaced by Charles 
Gildon, at a salary of Eighty pounds a year. 
The circumstances of his selection and appoint- 
ment are thus recorded : 

" The Committee having think fitt to goe in an 
appointed place to examine a perfon propojed to be 
our Author and Clark, and Mr. Charles Gildon 


having proffered to ferue us in both, after Examina- 
tion of his qualifications Wee have agreed 'with him 
to pay him for the Jaid fervice Eighty pounds per 
annum, the Company to find Foreign and Domejtick 
News, and he to be ready for the printer and correct 
the Proves by nine o'clock at night at furtheft and 
alfo to give Two Hunared Pounds Jecurity to the 
Company. Upon conftderation that Mr. Gildon 
did not underftand the french tongue Jo much as to 
make a perfect traduction of our Mercury, which 
Wee refolve to continue for fome time longer, he has 
been defired to provide a traductor, and to give an 
anfwer next Committee" 

This last paragraph refers to the fact that the 
Office published a translation of the Mercury for 
the benefit of its French connection. 

Both Hill and Gildon attained a certain 
amount of literary fame, and it is strange to find 
such men prepared to undertake the writing and 
editing of the Paper for the very moderate 
remuneration offered. That some weight attached 
to their comments may be gathered from the 
following : 

2 April, 1712. 
" At a Committee : 

" A letter from his Excellency the {Moroccan 
AmbaJJador of this day complaining of ill-ufage 
by our Author in two of our Mercurys, Refolved, 


to give fatisf action to his Excellency in the next of the 

Jaid Mercury as the General Court of to-morrow 

fhall direct^ and Ordered Mr. Gildon to never 

intermeddle with any Puhlick Minifters affaires, and 

Specially not to make any reflexions, Anfwers 

or Vindication in our paper without the Committee 

confent, under penalty to be difmijjed immediately" 

In the MERCURY of 14 February, 1713, was 
commenced a " History of the World." Seeing 
that this important subject occupied only a portion 
of a very small four-paged newspaper, bi-weekly at 
that time, and that it was completed in 1715, the 
details of events must have been of a somewhat 
attenuated character. In the number for 16 Sep- 
tember 1713, in the possession of the SUN, is the 
following advertisement : 

" Whereas the Hiftory of the World has been carry d 
on for a confiderable Time in the Britifh Mercury, 
and is now brought down to the Death of Chrift, 
being the firft Book, and there being many Perfons 
who may defire to have thefaid Hiftory by it f elf 
without the News, or to make it entire, as not 
having whole Sets of the Mercury fince it was 
begun, this is to give Notice, That the faid Hiftory 
is printed by it felf as far as has hitherto been 
publifKd, that is, the firft Book of it, and may be 
had of H. Meere, The Printer of this Paper, Price 
is. 6d." 

The HISTORICAL REGISTER above referred to 
is a work known to Antiquarians and is well 
regarded as a reliable authority for the history 
of the times. It would seem, however, to have 
outlived the demand for it after about twenty 
years, the last volume traceable being that for 1 738. 

iron Cbest 

HERE is a reference in Mr. Povey's 
advertisement of 1708 to the funds in 
"the Chest," a piece of furniture 
which appears to have been regarded 
as combining the virtues of a strong-room and a 
Banker, so far as the deposit of valuables was 
concerned. Indeed, its superiority over the 
principle of investment was not without sup- 
porters, as Povey, in enumerating his complaints 
against the SUN after differences previously 
referred to had arisen, alleged as one of their 
misdeeds that the Managers had " put their 
money out to interest, instead of keeping it in 
the Chest." That it was an important feature in 
the "outfit" of a Company may be gathered from 
the fact that in the " Articles " for establishing 
the " Hereditary," a Life Insurance Company 
originated in 1712, it was stipulated 

" That a Jtrong and Juhftantial Iron Cheft with a 
Jlanting till in the middle of it Jhall be bought^ 
having five different locks and keys with different 

wards, which Jhall be fixed to the floor with f crews 
from the infide of it, in the Office of the Company, 
to he abfolutely immoveable. Keys to be delivered 
to different Truftees" 

And in the Deed of Settlement of the Union 
Fire Office, established in 1714, it was a Condition 
that the Treasurer and two Assistants should 
have charge of a chest with three keys. 

The SUN still possesses the original chest of 
Mr. Povey, which has two padlocks, and a spring 
lock in the lid. 

In 1713 an order was made for the purchase 
of a second, "to be fastened to the Beam and 
having three Keys." This Chest has two holes 
in the bottom of it, and two very substantial ring- 
screws for fixing it down. They are interesting 
specimens of metal work, and may be seen in the 
Board Room of the Company. We annex a 
reproduction from photographs of them. 

For some time it was the practice at certain 
Committees to record on the Minutes a list 
of the contents of the Chest, which was the 
receptacle occasionally for securities other than 
cash. In the years between 1720 and 1730 are 
found entries of Lottery tickets purchased and 
placed there, and many Bonds of the South Sea 
Company and of the Sword Blade Company, an 




association intimately connected with the former 
and involved in its collapse. In February, 1728, 
a Committee ordered 

" That j 2 5 be lent on a security of Diamonds 
at 5 per cent, the Value being warranted by the 
Treasurer and the Secretary" 

No mention is made of the circumstances 
under which this loan was granted, but on the 
Minutes of meetings in 1731, "a Bulse of 
Diamonds " is still periodically recorded as being 
in the Chest. 

location of tbe fffce. 

URING the first fifty or sixty years 
of the career of the SUN, the Com- 
pany appears to have experienced 
some trouble in finding suitable 
accommodation, even assuming that some of the 
addresses given in advertisement and elsewhere 
referred to the same premises under a varied 
description quite possible at a time when " at 
the back of the Royal Exchange " or "next door 
to the Amsterdam Coffee House," was considered 
sufficient for identification. No charge of extrava- 
gance in this respect can be brought against the 
Office. Whilst the transfer from Mr. Povey was 
pending it was located, with his permission, in the 
Traders' Exchange House. It opened out on its 
own account, as we have seen, in a modest way, in 


March, 1710, by taking one room in Paul's Coffee 
House at a rental of ^15 per annum, for which 
apparently a sign was necessary, as the Committee 
of I4th April ordered "that i6s. be paid to ye 
Carver for making ye ' Sun.' ' 

Its subsequent changes were diligently traced, 
as far as practicable, by Mr. F. B. Relton, a former 
Secretary, and are mentioned, with many con- 
jectures on doubtful points, in his work on "Fire 
Insurance Companies." In March, 1711, it 
removed to premises belonging to a Mrs. Garraway 
" near the Royal Exchange," starting with two 
rooms on the first floor at a rent of ^18 per 
annum, but subsequently taking a third, "two pair 
stair forward" on which occasion the Committee 
acquainted the Clerk that " they did expect that 
he should lye constantly in the Office" and for that 
purpose offered him and his wife a lodging 
gratis. Several changes seem to have been made, 
all in the same neighbourhood, between this date 
and 1721, when the Company negotiated for and 
took a House in " Stock's Market," a meat and 
fish market at the N.E. corner of Walbrook, in 
the centre of which stood, in the I3th and i4th 
centuries, the parochial stocks. This House was 
vacated in 1725 and one or two other moves 
intervened, until, in the year 1766, the Company 


became tenants under the Bank of England in a 
new street, Bank Street. The Bank offered to 
build an Office 

"with one front the whole length of the said new 
street, one End front to Cornhill and another End 
front to Threadneedle Street " 

and reliable tradition reports that after a time the 
entrance from Threadneedle Street was closed in 
consideration of the unenviable reputation attained 
by the building amongst the drivers of Hackney 
Coaches whose enquiries for " Fares " who had 
alighted at one "End front," with directions to 
" wait," too often revealed the fact that they had 
disappeared through the other. On the destruc- 
tion of the Royal Exchange by fire in 1838, the 
block of which Bank buildings formed part was, 
in accordance with an Act of Parliament, pulled 
down in order to widen the thoroughfares in the 
vicinity of the Bank. The SUN FIRE OFFICE then 
bought St. Bartholomew's Church and several 
houses in Threadneedle Street, which were 
scheduled in the Act for demolition, but the 
Church was carefully taken down block by 
block and re-erected as " St. Bartholomew's, 

* Under the Communion Table in the Church were found the 
remains of Miles Coverdale, translator of the Bible, said to have 
been in perfect condition. They were removed to Exeter for 
re-interment, he having been Bishop of that place. 

61 E 

Upon the site thus acquired the present Office 
was built on the plans of Professor Cockerell, R. A., 
for many years the appointed Architect and 
Superintendent of St. Paul's Cathedral, and 
Architect to the Bank of England. The present 
Private Drawing Office of that establishment, 
previously the office for payment of dividend 
warrants, was designed by him. He was a 
student and strong admirer of the classical 
architecture of ancient Greece, on which he was 
regarded as a recognised authority, and his work 
in later days generally bore traces of his predilec- 
tion for that school. Ample testimony exists to 
justify the assertion that the SUN FIRE OFFICE was 
" the best example of the late Professor Cockerell 
which London possesses . . . thoroughly 
refined and yet vigorous in every detail." The 
exigencies of space to meet the growing require- 
ments of the business of the SUN necessitated the 
enlargement of the building when an opportunity 
of acquiring adjoining premises presented itself in 
1893, and the Directors had to consent, not with- 
out reluctance, to alterations in the original 
elevation which, admitting the absolute need of 
extension, may be regarded as having inter- 
fered with the Architect's design as little as 



AFTER FIRE, 1838. 



o c 

bo v 


O o 

C -o 

o c 





|ITH the name of the SUN FIRE OFFICE, 
j that of its Founder, Charles Povey, must 
ever be associated. His chief natural 
'characteristic was his enormous inge- 
nuity of invention, but he could hardly be termed 
a genius, unless the inspiration which prompted 
him to promote a scheme for the insurance of 
Goods and Merchandize against Fire can be 
ascribed to that quality. It was twenty years 
after the SUN had started that he made the 
assertion, already quoted, that such insurance 
was ever looked upon to be impracticable before 
he commenced it, and the fact that it had not 
previously existed, although Fire insurance on 
Buildings had been in vogue for many years, gives 
colour to his statement. Born about the year 1655, 
as far as can be ascertained from his reputed age 
at death, he lived until 1743. Even with so 
extended a life it is difficult to conceive how he 
crowded into it the number and variety of works 
and undertakings which owed their origin to his 
initiative. Author, Inventor, Coal Merchant, 
Politician, Projector of Public Companies, Public 
Benefactor, Promoter of Charitable Schemes for 
the Benefit of Widows, Orphans, Apprentices, 
News-boys, Wholesale Merchants and Dealers 


requiring Loans ; evidence supporting the claim he 
made to all these characters is undoubtedly to be 
found, and yet or perhaps seeing the extent of 
his efforts, we should say consequently, Povey 
apparently derived little personal advantage and 
still less contentment from his labours. He 
entirely lacked the power to work amicably with 
those with whom his varied pursuits brought him 
into contact, the result being that he lived an 
embittered existence during his later years, and 
died with a sense of his grievances full upon him. 

As to his authorship, he certainly wielded the 
" pen of a ready writer." Doubtless the results 
now traceable form only a portion of his effusions, 
but enumeration of the titles of some of those 
known will sufficiently indicate the diversified 
nature of the subjects with which he regarded 
himself as competent to deal. Amongst others 
we find, naming them in chronological order of 

Writings about James II. (when the Author 

was about 30 years of age). 
Indirect practises in the Coal Trade. 
Meditations of a Divine Soul. 
Holy Thoughts of a God-made Man. 
General Remarks on Trade, etc. 
Visions of Sir Heister Ryley. 


On Scandalous Reports respecting himself. 
Enquiry into the Miscarriages of the 

four last years of the Reign of Queen 


Torments after Death. 
The Virgin in Eden. 

In some of the writings the style of Addison 
and Steele's contributions to the " Spectator " is 
adopted, and the last mentioned embodies an 
attack on Richardson's " Pamela," which itself 
was not published until November, 1 740, so that 
Povey's latest production must have been written 
when he was about 85 years of age. There is no 
reason to doubt the sincerity of his desire to approve 
Virtue and condemn Vice, but the latitude of 
expression allowed at that period renders some of 
his own writings unsuitable for perusal at the 
present day. He complained very strongly that 
" false wits " were " down upon him at every 
move he made, and branded him with offensive 
titles," but it was not only in connection with his 
literary work that he managed to make enemies. 
It was a feature of most of his undertakings, and 
his qualities were summed up by one Gardyne, 
who, describing himself as a "delver in literary 
rubbish," and possessing a collection of many of 
his works, wrote the words, " Povey was a 

65 F 

cantankerous character, a very great religious 
professor, and yet always in ' hot water ' with 
some one." Under the circumstances it is hardly 
strange that his relations with the SUN were 
not entirely satisfactory to him. Documentary 
evidence is wanting to trace details of all the 
earliest negotiations, but it is clear that he con- 
sidered that the original terms, agreed upon at a 
time when the success of the venture was by no 
means assured, ought to have been entirely 
revised and readjusted when, years afterwards, 
that success appeared secure. His consistency 
in holding the opinion that increasing benefits 
should have accrued to him corresponding with 
the development of his idea, is evidenced by the 
attitude which he took up with regard to the 
establishment in 1720 of the Royal Exchange and 
the London Corporations. In the year 1736 he 
"humbly presented" a " Memorial to the King, 
Lords and Commons for the Restoration of an 
Estate and Fortune taken away by the Crown 
and Parliament, contrary to the laws of Great 
Britain." After referring therein to the fact that 
the SUN had become a profitable business under 
the conduct of the " Part-sharers," the " twenty- 
four cunning men " alluded to on a previous page, 
he calls attention to his grievance in the following 
words : 


" Article VII. Now enters another Act : Here the 
Crown comes in, and only by adding two trifling 
Articles^ raifes Three ' Hundred Thoufand Pounds 
Sterling* upon the very Foundation of a Scheme 
laid and invented by your Sufferer." 

"After much Study, Thought and Expence, your 
Sufferer set up the SUN FIRE OFFICE. 
Before this Office was erected, no Houfes were 
ever injured beyond ten Miles of London : As for 
injuring Merchandizes, PIoufehold-Goods, Stock 
in Trade, Linen, and Wearing Apparel, that 
was ever look'd upon to be impracticable ; and 
no such Scheme was ever offered to the World, 
before your Sufferer opened the Sun Fire-Office, 
which was done upon his own Bottom ; And ever 
since Houses, Merchandizes, Houfehold Goods, 
Stock in Trade, Linen and Wearing-Apparel, have 
been injured in all Parts of Great Britain" 

" For the Space of ten or twelve Tears, the Sun Fire- 
Office did little more than anfwer its own Charge; 
but in the Tear 'Twenty, foon after the Undertaking 
began to flourijh, and get Money in Bank, to pay 
Claims to them that fuffered by Fire ; then the 
Crown comes in, and without afking any Queftions, 
grants two Charters for Injuring Houfes, Merchan- 
dizes, Houfehold-Goods, Stock in 'Trade, Linen, and 
Wearing-Apparel from Lofs and Damage by Fire 
in all Parts of Great Britain. One of (he Com- 

* This relates to the amount paid by the Royal Exchange and 
the London Corporations for their Charters. 


panics thus incorporated by the King, was the 
Royal-Exchange Infurance, the other the London 
Infurance, as they no-iv call themfelves." 

" So that at the Expence, Study and Thought of your 
Sufferer, the Crown raifed, only hy ejtablifhing 
the two faid Charters, Three Hundred Thoufand 
Pounds Sterling" 

" May it never he reported abroad in the World, 
that this is hut Jelling your Sufferers Scheme and 
Intention to Strangers, and granting them a Leafe 
upon his Undertaking for ever." 

Povey gives a schedule in the " Memorial " in 
which he computes his Loss and Damage under 
five separate heads at .50,800. He writes : 

" The Lofs and Damage fustained hy thefe intolerable 
Acts are here minuted down, as a Memorandum to 
the next Century, viz. : that in this Age a Subject 
was ruined and undone for no Crime, unlefs it was, 
that he wore out Nature, andfpent himfelfin defence 
of the Revolution and the Houfe of Hanover, and 
in inventing Schemes that will remain ufeful Under- 
takings to the Publick, when hefhall beftripped into 
a naked Spirit, and fet onfhore in the Invifible 

As regards four of the items in his schedule, his 
calculation is based on the possible profit which 
might have accrued to him if circumstances had 


been entirely different from what they were. As 
to the fifth, his claim in respect of the two 
Corporations named rested on an assumption that 
the Government should entertain a feeling of 
moral responsibility towards him for his 
" invention " of a business which had enabled 
them, by the granting of Charters to the Royal 
Exchange and the London Offices, to demand a 
very considerable sum on behalf of the Exchequer, 
to be employed in the doubtless laudable object 
of " discharging the Debts of the Civil list." 
We give his arguments in his own words : 

" // was very fey ere to raife fuch an immenfe Sum of 
Money out of the Brain-work of a Subject , and not 
to fend the firft Inventor Three Thousand Pounds 
out of Three Hundred Thoufand, as fome Recom- 
pence for his Study and Thought, and to difcharge 
his original Expences in writing and publifhing the 
Articles, in Jetting up the Undertaking, and for 
Rent, the Clerks Salaries, and the Firemen, till 
such time as the firft Policy of Infurance was taken 
out ; and it was a considerable time even before 
that was done. New Inventions move butflowly, 
and are long in gaining Credit and Reputation in 
the World." 

But from a perusal of the Act 6 Geo. I. by which the 
Charters were granted, it does not appear that 
the insurance of goods and chattels against loss 


or damage by fire was subject to its provisions, 
which refer only to the " Assurance of Ships and 
Merchandize at Sea, and for lending Money 
upon Bottomry." As a fact, Fire insurance was 
not commenced by either Company until some 
short time after their establishment and without 
connection with the Act of Parliament. It is 
hardly conceivable that Povey refers to the Marine 
Assurance and Bottomry in his words " Here the 
Crown comes in and only by adding two trifling articles" 
etc. (p. 67), but otherwise his meaning is not clear. 

Povey died in May, 1743. One can hardly 
withhold sympathy from a man who, with more 
than average abilities and undoubtedly good 
intentions, failed to derive more personal satisfac- 
tion from his labours than he did, but it is clear, 
even from the necessarily brief account of his 
career here given, that his troubles were to a large 
extent due to the inherent qualities of his nature. 
Had his disposition allowed him to confine his 
activities within a more limited range, he would 
probably have avoided disasters which stood in 
the way of success. He was never actually a 
poor man, although his benevolent desires were 
doubtless curtailed for want of means during 
a portion of his life, but there is comfort in 
learning from his statement in the introduction to 


his "Virgin in Eden," the last essay from his pen, 
and published subsequently to the date of his 
Memorial, "A Divine Providence sent me, from 
an unforseen Quarter, a plentiful fortune, to enable 
me to lend to the Poor, and bear the charges to 
my Sepulchre, the Habitation of the Dead." 

His Will bore testimony to his charitable 
inclinations, but was also made the vehicle of 
solemnly reiterating- charges of injustice and 
oppression, the belief in which had had so baneful 
an influence on his life. 


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