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Fire Insurance Registers, Plans and Maps

Nature of Source

Details of policy holders who insured their property against fire and recorded in the policy registers. Records also include maps commissioned by the fire insurance companies. Most companies were established soon after the Great Fire in 1666. The first modern fire insurance company began as the Sun Fire Office in 1710.

Also consult the maps and plans drawn up by the fire insurance companies such as the Phoenix Fire Office and the Sun Fire office. The most notably plans were drawn up by Charles E. Goad from the mid-1880s and include separate indexes covering street names, buildings and businesses. The plans were updated more regularly than town plans as accurate information was vital for the fire insurance companies. However the plans mostly deal with business and retail premises avoiding residential areas.

The registers and plans mainly deal with London, but by end of the 18th century the industry had spread to the provinces. Fire marks were attached to the walls of insured buildings which occasionally can still be seen today. Unfortunately few records survive.

‘A Place in the Sun’ is a long-running and continuing project to index the early 19th century Sun Insurance Office fire policy registers transcribed by volunteers from The National Archives and the London Metropolitan Archives. There are around 179 registers indexed online, representing more than 310,000 policies covering the years from 1787 to 1840. The indexes can be accessed online at TNA Discovery Catalogue or at the London Metropolitan Archives Online Catalogue. To search the catalogues type in the name or other keyword followed by the word ‘insured’. Each entry contains the name of the insured person or business, the address of the property which is the subject of the policy, the date of the policy and details of any other persons, occupations or addresses mentioned in the policy as it appears in the register. For more guidance on searching and accessing the records see www.history.ac.uk/gh/sun.htm.

Where Found

London Metropolitan Archives (Sun Fire Office policy registers and other Company policy records including card indexes and insurance maps, 1710-1863. The collection was previously housed at the Guildhall Library up to 2009)
British Library (The Map Library. The British Library holds a comprehensive collection of fire insurance plans produced by the London-based firm Charles E. Goad Ltd. dating from 1885 to 1930)
County Record Offices (ARCHON Directory: Find the details of a UK archive from a searchable list of over 2,500 archives The catalogue can be found on the TNA Discovery home page)
Aviva Archive (The holding include statutory records, minute books, annual reports, returns to the board of trade, registers of directors and secretaries, share registers, registers of transfer, financial records, journals, ledgers, cash books, balance papers, valuation books, policies, promotional material, photographs and staff records. The heritage section includes an 'events timeline', a 'history of insurance' and 'companies and countries' which includes histories of the Hand-in-Hand Fire and Life Insurance Society and Norwich Union Insurance. The group archivist blog can be found here)
Phoenix Assurance Company Ltd
Company archives

Period Covered

1690 - 1883

Genealogical Value

Name, status, address and occupation of policy holder. Type of property and land held. Names, addresses and occupations of occupiers & tenants. Occasionally a list of the owner's possessions and their value. Useful for house histories.

Further References

Hawkings, David, Fire Insurance Records for Family & Local Historians 1696-1920: Francis Boutle, 2004


Herber, Mark. Ancestral Trails: Complete Guide to British Genealogy and Family History: Sutton Publishing, 2004


Munby, Lionel M. & Thompson, Kathryn (eds). Short Guides to Records: First Series-Guides 1-24: The Historical Association, 1994


Wallis, Helen & McConnell, Anita. Historian's Guide to Early British Maps: A Guide to the Location of Pre-1900 Maps of the British Isles Preserved in the United Kingdom and Ireland: Cambridge University Press, 1995 (Preview available from Google Books)


West, John. Town Records: Phillimore & Co, 1983  

Websites

www.bl.uk/collection-guides/fire-insurance (British Library Collection guides: Fire insurance and shopping centre plans. The Map Library holds a comprehensive collection of fire insurance plans produced by the London-based firm Charles E. Goad Ltd. dating back to 1885. Search for fire insurance maps and plans at www.bl.uk/onlinegallery)
www.history.ac.uk/gh/fire.htm (Fire Insurance Records at Guildhall Library)
www.businessarchivescouncil.org.uk/materials/nlwinter2010.pdf (A Place in the Sun: 300 Years of Sun Insurance Office 1710-2010, by Richard Wiltshire)
www.aim25.ac.uk/cgi-bin/vcdf/detail?coll_id=18416&inst_id=118&nv1=browse&nv2=sub (AIM25 catalogue description: Sun Insurance Office Limited: Other Bodies)
www.aim25.ac.uk/cgi-bin/vcdf/detail?coll_id=18284&inst_id=118&nv1=browse&nv2=sub (AIM25 catalogue description: Royal And Sun Alliance Insurance Group)
www.londonlives.org/static/AHDSFIR.jsp (Fire Insurance Policy Registers, 1777- 1786)
www.firemarkcircle.com (The Fire Mark Circle. For those with an interest in memorabilia of Insurance Companies including their brigades and fire marks)
www.vintagecoach.com/fmc/history.htm
(The Fire Mark Circle: A brief history of Fire Insurance)
www.vintagecoach.com/fmc/history.htm (The Fire Mark Circle: A brief history of Fire Insurance)
www.pinterest.co.uk/tomcassisa/firemarks
(Pinterest: A collection of Firemarks)
www.historyhouse.co.uk/articles/fire_marks.html
(History House: A look at the history of Fire Marks)
www.waynebeachinsurance.co.uk/point-of-interest.asp
(History of Firemarks and Fire Insurance, by Wayne Beach)
www.aviva.com/about-us/heritage/history-of-insurance (Insurance through the ages)

Online Databases

http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk (TNA Discovery Catalogue: Place in the Sun Index. See above for more details)
www.bl.uk/onlinegallery (The British Library Online Gallery: Search for digitised maps from across the UK including fire insurance maps and plans many produced by Charles E. Goad. The collection of digitised maps representing all of the major centres of population ranging from 1886 to 1930 can be browsed at the Online Gallery)
https://search.lma.gov.uk (London Metropolitan Archives Online Catalogue: Place in the Sun Index. See ‘Nature of Source’ for more details and guidance on how to search)
Online Catalogues (Listing of online catalogues for the partial whereabouts of records including the National Register of Archives [NRA)
www.londonlives.org (London Lives: Fire Insurance Policy Registers, 1777- 1786)
Local history societies for indexes compiled at a local level.

CD Roms

Digital Archives (The Goad Maps of Manchester: Fire Insurance Plans)