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18 January 2007

Insurance introduction

Exeter Working Papers in British Book Trade History; 8
The British book trades 1775-1787: an index to insurance policies. Introduction


Full transcripts of selected entries from Sun policy registers
Tabulated analysis of selected entries
Alphabetical index of policies: A-B, C-D, E-G, H-L, M-Q, R-S, T-Y, unnamed


Until recently the value of insurance policy registers to researchers in the field of economic history has been greatly diminished by the lack of indexes. While there are several hundred thousand eighteenth century policies the actual registers were maintained in policy number order with few indexes by name and even fewer by place.

In the 1980s the Economic and Social Science Research Council sponsored a project to produce a computerised index to twelve years of policy registers of the two largest insurance companies, the Sun and the Royal Exchange. The keyboarded records were sorted by name of policy holder, place of residence , trade, policy number and valuation and the resulting indexes were distributed on 44 microfiches to 250 research centres throughout the British Isles. It was impractical to carry out detailed editing of such a massive database and there are therefore many inconsistencies and inaccuracies due to problems of handwriting and variations in the original registers. For example the transcription of long s as f has lead to much misfiling, a number of printers are hidden as "punters" and "printers and glaziers" are almost certainly painters and glaziers. Errors of coding also lead to mistakes in the printout. When in doubt the keyboarders enclosed information in parentheses. These problems and many other factors relevant to the interpretation of the indexes and original registers are discussed in D.T.Jenkins in the useful booklet accompanying the microfiches Indexes of the fire insurance policies of the Sun Fire Office and the Royal Exchange Assurance 1775-1787 (ESRC, 1986). This also includes references to other researchers who have used insurance policy registers, such as Stanley D.Chapman in The Devon cloth industry in the eighteenth century: Sun Fire office inventories , 1726-1770 (Devon and Cornwall Record Society, 1978), Ponting on woollen mills and Adams on the ceramics industry. In addition A.H.Shorter made extensive reference to insurance policies in his Paper mills in England 1495-1800 (Paper Publications Society, 1957).

The original registers are held in Guildhall Library, London who also produce a leaflet guide Fire insurance records at Guildhall Library which gives details of other indexes. It also makes the reasonable point that: "Staff cannot undertake research on behalf of enquirers. Those unable to visit the Library are advised to employ a professional agent"

In this present index an attempt has been made to provide a more consistent guide to the approximately two thousand policies taken out by members of the book trades during this period. It was not possible to check and amplify all book trade entries. Nevertheless a sample has been checked against the original registers in Guildhall Library, and some entries were also amended by reference to other sources. Doubtless mistakes have slipped through and some of my corrections may themselves be erroneous. In some instances it was impossible to check back the entries against the policy numbers either because the policy number could not be located in the numerical index or because the number referred to another policy holder. These entries have normally been retained with an explanatory note.

The original indexes give:

The name(s) of the main proposer(s) - through a software error only the last named of joint policy holders is printed out in the trade index which was used to locate the relevant book trade entries, the trades, the address, the valuation (printed out in the policy number index but not the name, trade or place indexes), the policy number and the register number. The year is not given in the indexes but has been ascertained from a table in the accompanying booklet. It does not refer to the date of the individual policy but to the date coverage of the volume in which the policy is registered.

In the present index all these items, including the date of the register, have been brought together and separate entries are normally given for each person in the book trade named as a joint policy holder, as well as some book trade personnel named in other contexts.

The present index gives the following information for each entry:

Name, date, insurance company (R=Royal Exchange, S=Sun), register number (for the Royal Exchange the volume number within Guildhall Library ms 7,253 and for the Sun the volume number within Guildhall Library ms 11,936), the policy number, the address, the trades and any explanatory notes. In London addresses the position within the street is followed by the street name, then normally by the district; in provincial addresses the street, mill or hamlet, where this is given, is followed by the town or village and then by the county. The county abbreviations can be explained by reference to the county index at the end of this volume. The following abbreviations may also be found in addresses:

cr corner ofoa over against
nr near op opposite
nx next toun under

Some of the entries may not in fact refer to book trades. For example some of the provincial printers may be textile printers, indeed some are also described as dyers. Engravers could also work in a range of industries, for example the clock trades.

When the sample of entries was checked in the original registers the opportunity was taken to transcribe examples of policies in full. These are given in the first schedule, on page viii. The second schedule, on page x, analyses a larger number of policies to show the proportion of the valuation dedicated to such items as household goods, wearing apparel, utensils, stock and goods or houses. This should be sufficient to show the dangers of using the total valuation to draw conclusions on the size of individual businesses. Some policies are purely on household goods, others only cover the stock in a particular warehouse, others again cover dwelling houses which may not be in the tenure of the person taking out the policy and have no connection with the business activites of the policy holder. In other instances the policy holder is lodging with the book trade member and hence the valuation refers not to the book trade member but to the tenant, who is frequently carrying on an occupation outside the book trade. In any case the accuracy of valuations is a matter of dispute. In theory they were intended to represent replacement value but Jenkins devotes several pages to a discussion of reasons for possible overvaluation or undervaluation.

By 1780 there were six insurance companies operating in London and eight in the provinces. Of the London companies the Sun had 53.4 per cent of the London business, the Hand in Hand 15.6 per cent and the Royal Exchange 10.8 per cent. The Hand in Hand was omitted by the project because its registers consisted largely of renewals, but the two companies covered account between them for roughly two thirds of the London business. The practice of insurance by fire was then more prevalent in the southern and eastern counties and it has been estimated that by 1802 perhaps one third of all property by value was insured in England. The Leeds section of Bailey's northern directory for 1781 has been checked against the Sun registers and 100 of the 168 names were found to be insured with the Sun, a total of 60 per cent.

The names in the present index have been checked with sections of John Pendred's The London and country printers, booksellers and stationers vade mecum of 1785 which was largely based on Bailey's British directory for 1784 with the addition of many names of printers. The following coverage has been found:

CategoryTotal namesInsuredPercentage
1. Letterpress printers1245746
2. Engravers and Copperplate printers611626
3. Booksellers, stationers, bookbinders &c427178 42
4. Total 1-3612 25141
5. Eleven larger provincial towns1284031

The towns were: Birmingham (4 out of 10 insured), Bristol (3/22), Cambridge (3/9), Canterbury (1/7), Chester (1/7), Exeter (5/7), Liverpool (0/17), Manchester (3/14), Norwich (8/20), Oxford (4/7) and York (3/8).

These figures certainly represent an underrecording as, for the period 1782-84, 13 out of the 29 Sun policy registers are missing while for the period 1776-81 a complete run of policies was available for the Leeds analysis mentioned above. In addition Pendred includes fellmongers and other trades not covered by the present index. Making allowances for these factors, the coverage of the book trades can be reckoned to be closer to sixty per cent.

An attempt was also made to correlate apprentice premiums for the 1770s, as recorded in the present author's The British book trades 1710-1777 (1983), with insurance valuations to see whether any estimates could be made of the size of business but there was too great a variation for this to be easily done. In a sample of thirty businesses the apprentice premium varied from less than one per cent to 100 per cent of an insurance valuation for the same period. Fifty per cent of the sample fell within the range 2 to 13 per cent with the median at 7 per cent. However there are so many factors influencing the levels both of individual valuations and individual apprenticeship premiums. In addition the size of a business can change dramatically over time and in the date of the policy differed by several years from the date of the apprenticeship. The structure of different aspects of the trade also differs. For example a paper mill often attracts a high valuation because of the buildings and equipment while, as it employs large quantities of manual labour, the apprenticeship premiums are normally lower than for booksellers and stationers. With more detailed investigation of these sources though, it should be possible to extract some evidence on the relative sizes of enterprise.

The main listing and indexes of this working paper were produced from reports generated from a d-Base II file which contains a total of 2267 records, 845 of them for country policies. Some of the information has been transferred into the British Book Trades Index database.


At the top of each policy is the entry date to the register. The marginal notes refer to the policy number, the premium, the quarter day when renewal was required, sometimes wth the renewal premium and the name of the agent. At the end of the policy are the names of the three managers who signed the policy and references to any index entries or endorsements. The original capitalization has not been retained in these transcripts.

Register 25514th Feby 1777
380273Henry Trapp of no 1 Paternoster
£1Row printer & bookseller on his utensils
Lday 1778& stock in the dwellg house only of Thomas
£1.2.6Carr no 3 Ave Maria Lane book binder
Lday 83brick not exceeding one thousand pounds£1000
W.Webber C.Dewicke H.Watts
Register 25712th April 1777
382864Thomas Brewman in Peterborough
£1.13.- Court Fleet Street printer on his houshd goods
Lday 1778in his now dwellg house only situated as
aforesd brick timber not exceedg two hund pds200
utensils & stock therein only not exceeding
two hundred pounds200
Wearing apparel therein only not exceeding
one hundred pounds100
Utensils and stock in the printing house seperate [sic]
brick & timber not exceedg four hundred pds400
Utensils & stock in his warehouse & office adjoining
timber not exceeding two hundred pounds200
Rd Bowen J.Chelié C.Foulis£1100
Register 25912 July 1777
387102William Randall
12/-of Catherine Street Strand music printer
Mich 1778On a brick house only situate near the white house in
Griffin Kennington Lane Lambeth (not finishd) not exceeding
Mich 82six hundred pounds£600
Saml Pohe C.Bewicke John Mason
Ind no. 31 p 118 & 478
Register 25916 July 1777
387121Thomas Cadell opposite Catherine
£3:15Street in the Strand bookseller
Midsr 1778On utensils & stock in his warehouse only brick situate in
G XSavoy Alley in the Savoy not exceeding
Midsr 83three thousand pounds£3000
Geo Mason Richd Bower John Barwick
Register 2593d Septemr 1777
388025Humphry Matthews of
15/-Bradnich in Devon papermaker on
Mich 1778his housh. goods in his now dwellg house
15/11papermill house adjoing with lofts over
Webberin Bradnich aforsd stone cob & thatchd
Mich 82not exceedg fifty pounds50
Utensils & stock in the said building
only not exceedg one hundred & twenty pds120
In the linhay in the meadow only not
exceedg fifteen pounds15
In the stable loft & linhay adjoing not
exceedg fifteen pounds15
I.Pigeon W.Hamilton N.Pearse£200
Register 25912th September 1777
388321John Mazzinghy at no 183 in
16/-Fleet Street bookseller on his househd goods
Mich 1778in his now dwellg house only situate as
17/-aforesd brick not exceedg one hundred & ninety pds190
Wearing apparel therein only not exceedg seventy pds70
Plate therein only not exceedg forty pds40
Utensils & stock therein only not exceeding
five hundred pounds500
G.Mason J.Moffatt J.H.Langston£800

place and date
Policy house- hold goods wearing apparel plate china & glass house office or mill utensils stock goods printed books total notes
Almon, J
London 1785
Brewman, D
London 1785
Brewman, T
London 1777
382864200100---- 200
-1100utensils & stock in dwelling
utensils & stock in printing house
utensils & stock in warehouse & office
Coster, R
London 1777
Hamilton, A
London 1777
379237-------1000 1000books in wareho in Craven Street in tenure of Noyes, printer
Jones, J
London 1777
38791110050----50-200household goods in dwelling of Davis, printer, (also wife, milliner)
Noyes, J
London 1777
388666----400----400house on Paternoster Row in tenure of coffeeman
Pearce, J B
London 1777
388393------3000-3000utensils stock & goods in 2 warehouses in Peterborough Court
Skirven, J
London 1781/2
Fry, J
Bristol 1777
378709------1000-1000utensils & stock in 6 shops in 1 building in Queen St Moorfields LON
Moore, I
London 1777
place and date
Policy house- hold goods wearing apparel plate china & glass house office or mill utensils stock goods printed books total notes
Johnson, R
London 1777
3801451040----50-100household goods in house of Simpson, taylor
Trapp, H
London 1777
380273------1000-1000utensils & stock in dwelling house of T.Carr, bookbinder, 3, Ave Maria Lane
De Boffe, J
London 1785
--400also dealer in medicines
for medicines
Jacob, J R
Peterborough 1777
38832950----- 150-200
Rackham, J
Bury St Edmunds 1785
501698100----- 200
-400utensils & stock in house
utensils & stock in printing office
Bell, J
London 1777
-5400utensils stock & goods in main premises
- in warehouse behind Mr Hodges
- in house by Somerset Gate
Cadell, T
London 1777
387121------3000--utensils & stock in warehouse in Savoy Alley
Eades, R
High Wycombe 1777
379616100----- 120
- 400utensils & stock (as bookseller)
utensils & stock in rabbit house
Hammond, H
London 1781/2
Langdon, J
Sherborne 1785
50040650--- 150--- 200dwelling house, washhouse, stables
Mazzinghy, J
London 1777
3883211907040--- 500- 800
Palmer & Co
Oxford 1785
502114------ 200-200
Robinson, G
London 1785
500296200100------ 300
place and date
Policy house- hold goods wearing apparel plate china & glass house office or mill utensils stock goods printed books total notes
Wigg, T
London 1781/2
45397420----- 380- 400household goods at 298, Wapping
Ogilvy, D
London 1785
500219100100----2800-3000utensils & stock in shop and warehouse 23, Middle Row, Holborn
Cheyne, C&T
London 1785
502188------ 300- 300utensils & stock in house of W.Hinton, printseller
London 1777
386389----2800 ---2800dwelling house
Imlach, J
Banff 1785
-1300also grocer
utensils & stock in cellar
Jewkes, S
London 1785
500957805055-- 15010300
Lewis, G
Worcester 1785
5009375020---- 130- 200
Starling, J
London 1777
381913200100---- 300-600
Stower, S
London 1785
500092------1000-1000utensils & stock in warehouse in Carter Lane. Also dealer in hazardous goods
place and date
Policy house- hold goods wearing apparel plate china & glass house office or mill utensils stock goods printed books total notes
Silk, R
London 1777
38799350----- 250- 300household goods in house of Mackenzie, stationer & bookbinder 30, Paternoster Row
Jackson, J
London 1777
38865815050---- 300- 500
London 1777
3799795020---- 130- 200
Murray, J
London 1781/2
453006------500-500 utensils stock & goods in Exhibition Room facing Beaufort Buildings, Strand
Bott, J
London 1781/2
453980403010--- 20- 100household goods in house of Robinson, goldsmith
Boyne, J
London 1785
5006485020---- 30- 100
Green, V
London 1781/2
Lumsden, J
Glasgow 1785
501616---- 300--- 300Third storey & half garret in tenure of J Hamilton merchant
place and date
Policy house- hold goods wearing apparel plate china & glass house office or mill utensils stock goods printed books total notes
Gale, J
London 1781/2
45308315050---- 200- 400
Harris, J
London 1777
38753512555 10----10200
Randall, W
London 1777
387102---- 600--- 600brick house in Kennington Lane
Bland, J
London 1785
50063220050-- 100- 650-1000£100 on communicating room
Pawson, R
London 1785
5017675050---- 300- 400
Fry, J
London 1777
380233------1300-1300utensils stock & goods in house of Isaac Moore 43, Drury Lane
Finney, D
London 1777
386987100502525-- 300- 500
London 1781/2
453781100701020-- 100- 300
place and date
Policy house- hold goods wearing apparel plate china & glass house office or mill utensils stock goods printed books total notes
Austin, J
Amersham 1777
380120---- 200--- 200house in Little Marlow in tenure of Lawrence & Harding
Bennett, H
Foots Cray 1777
380207------ 500- 500utensils & stock in mill
Blackwell, A
Abbot Langley 1777
387912------ 400- 400utensils & stock in warehouse in George Inn Yard, Snow Hill
Buck, M
Stoke Holy Cross 1785
500061------ 200- 200utensils & stock in mill
West Peckham 1777
380158100--- 100200
-1500paper mill & drying loft
rag house
sol house
Hamerton, J
Ling 1785
500664---- 700--- 700house, cottages, tenements barn, stables
Howard, J
Wooburn 1785
501404------ 200
-400utensils & stock in mill & drying loft
utensils & stock in drying house, finishing room, rag house & sizing house
Matthews & D
Bradninch 1777
386562----- 600 300- 900paper & grist mill with running tackle
Matthews, H
Bradninch 1777
388025 50-----120
-200utensils & stock in dwelling house
utensils & stock in linhay in the meadow
utensils & stock in stable loft & linhay
Taylor, J
Ayton 1785
501464----- 500500-1000paper mill & offices
Wenman, I
Snodland 1785
500907---- 8020---100house in tenure of Brain butcher
100 butcher's shop

This page last updated 15 Jan 2007
© Ian Maxted, 2001.