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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0074 CLC/B/017-11
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1861-1985
Level of description: Collection
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Extent: 748 production units.
Name of creator(s): Fire Offices' Committee | association for fire insurance providers


Administrative/Biographical history:

The Fire Offices' Committee was established in 1868 by the major fire insurance companies, and was the result of many years of informal co-operation on fire insurance matters. This co-operation began as early as 1790 when the three dominant companies, the Sun and Phoenix Fire Offices, and Royal Exchange Assurance, agreed minimum rates for the insurance of riverside wharves and warehouses. Conferences between the three companies were revived in 1825 and a continuous stream of information about all classes of risks passed between them. This sharing of expertise and underwriting experience, which standardized and improved fire insurance services, culminated in the formation of a fire insurance tariff. The first attempt to establish a tariff can be traced to 1826 when the risk experience of Liverpool warehouses proved too burdensome and 22 offices agreed to a common tariff of minimum premiums. Similarly, the managers of the Edinburgh fire offices, who had begun regular meetings in 1829, agreed minimum rates for cotton mills, flax mills, and distilleries with the leading offices of London, Manchester and Leeds. By 1831, 15 London offices had joined the Scottish companies in a tariff on Manchester drying stoves and a similar tariff operated for Glasgow and Paisley warehouses after 1833. Regular meetings of the London fire offices were instituted by 1842 and tariffs were agreed for cotton mills (1842) and Liverpool warehouses (1843).

From 1853, the co-operating fire insurance companies were known as the "Tariff Offices", and their committees published specifications and tariffs for warehouses at Liverpool, and for corn, flax, woollen and cotton mills. In 1860, the tariff offices formed three area committees: the Southern, Northern and Scottish District Committees. The Scottish Offices, based in Edinburgh, had been meeting since at least 1829. There was a Manchester Committee in addition to the Northern District Committee also based in Manchester. The Manchester Committee had been formed in 1844 and the Northern Offices Committee in 1858. General meetings of all offices concerned in the tariffs were held twice yearly in London. The first general meeting was held on 20 November 1860. Moves towards a more formal association of tariff offices were first made in May 1867 when attempts were made to scotch a rumour that the regulation of tariff rates was not being universally observed. At this time there is also mention of a Committee of Associated Fire Offices. The name Fire Offices' Committee first appears in May 1868 when concern was expressed that there was no statement of principles or rules of practice on which the co-operation of the tariff offices was based. It was proposed that rules should be adopted and these were drafted as rules of the Fire Insurance Tariff Association. They were finally approved in May 1869 as rules of the Fire Offices' Committee. The original membership comprised 19 London companies, 17 country, nine Scottish, three Irish and two foreign.

The pre-eminence of the London offices and increasing dominance of the Southern District Committee and its close relationship with the Fire Offices' Committee (they had the same Chairman and Secretary) is reflected in the fate of the district committees.In 1883, the Southern and Northern Districts were combined to form the Southern and Northern District. In 1887 the division of the United Kingdom into two districts (Southern and Northern, and Scottish) was abolished. In 1868, particular tariffs were allocated to the different district committees. Increasingly Standing sub-committees were established to deal with particular tariffs. These were abolished in 1890 and four Standing Tariff Committees were set up. Three ofthe committees met in London, the fourth in Edinburgh. The Standing Tariff Committees were in abeyance by the end of 1893. From this date, most business seems to have been dealt with in frequently held general meetings, with specific matters referred to sub-committees.

Originally, the officers of the Fire Offices' Committee, the Chairman and Secretary who carried out much of the day to day business, had come from the member fire offices. By 1893, the workload had increased so much that the Committee decided to employ as an assistant secretary someone not directly involved in the insurance business. Its first assistant secretary was appointed in August 1893. Much of the business of the Fire Offices' Committee had always been carried out in general meetings. However, in December 1898 a Grand Committee, made up of all members of the Fire Offices' Committee transacting direct fire insurance business in the United Kingdom, was set up. It met once a month and conducted most of the business formerly carried out in general meetings, although these continued. In July 1904, the Grand Committee was abolished and a General Purposes Committee established in its place. In November 1904, the General Purposes Committee was also abolished and general meetings held in place of the committee meetings.

The Fire Offices' Committee consolidated existing rating agreements and continued to supervise the rating of fire risks insured by the tariff offices for over a century. The tariff permanently altered the conduct of fire business from the mid-19th century. These alterations were reflected in the increased range of information about insurable risks published in the Committee's circulars and discussed at its meetings. The tariff companies ratings of new products and processes influenced traders and manufacturers in their choice of buildings and plant. Also under the tariff system, with the sharing of underwriting information between the competing offices, the size of the British insurance market grew rapidly. Co-operation assisted British fire offices in their development of overseas markets where they had problems with competition from local companies, legislation by foreign governments and the novelty or complexity of overseas risks. Offices conducting business overseas had been meeting since at least 1859. By 1869, 29 foreign fire insurance tariffs were in operation, and the participating companies formed the Fire Offices' Committee (Foreign) for supervising rates (see CLC/B/017-12 for records). Further foreign committees were established in the 20th century.

The Fire Offices' Committee was associated with a number of other organisations which shared its staff and premises:

- The London Wharf and Warehouse Committee was established in 1861, as the Warehouse Improvement and Wharf Committee, by offices involved in fire insurance (later the Fire Offices' Committee); it was renamed in 1872. It surveyed and rated wharfs, warehouses and goods covered by the London Mercantile and Insurance Tariffs. (Its records were deposited in Guildhall Library in 1974 and 1975 and have been listed separately as CLC/B/017-26).

- The Consequential Loss Committee was established by the Fire Offices' Committee in 1909 to rate the premiums to be applied to insurances against consequential loss by fire and to administer the Consequential Loss Tariff (see CLC/B/017-08).

- The Printers and Theatres Rating Committee (Southern Committee) was set up under the auspices of the London Salvage Corps. In 1962, it was taken over by the Fire Offices' Committee. See CLC/B/017-29.

Further committees to do with foreign business were established under the auspices of the Fire Offices' Committee (Foreign): the London Continental Fire Insurance Committee in 1920 (CLC/B/017-21); the London Australasian Insurance Committee in 1925 (CLC/B/017-20); the London West Africa Insurance Committee in 1958 (CLC/B/017-25); the London South African Insurance Committee in 1966 (CLC/B/017-24); and the Fire Offices' Committee of Ireland in 1975 (CLC/B/017-13).

Some joint committees were formed during the Second World War: Trading with the Enemy Joint Insurance Committee (CLC/B/017-31); the Associated Fire Insurers (Government Commodities) Management Committee; and the Insurance Companies (War Settlement) Committee (CLC/B/017-17).

The Fire Offices' Committee was wound up in 1985 and its activities transferred to the Association of British Insurers, apart from its technical services which were transferred to the Loss Prevention Council. The Fire Offices' Committee was located at 63 Threadneedle Street to 1875, at 11 Queen Street from 1875 to 1885, at 11 Queen Street and 63 Watling Street from 1885 to 1907, at 63 and 66 Watling Street from 1907 to 1958, at 107 Cheapside from 1958 to 1962 and at Aldermary House, Queen Street from 1962 until 1985.


Scope and content/abstract:

The main records of the Fire Offices' Committee comprise minutes of general meetings, 1861-1979 (Ms 29452); sub-committee minute books, 1897-1978 (Ms 29454); circulars, 1873-1985 (Mss 29462-3); accounts, 1874-1973 (Mss 29464-73); a significant body of material relating to the administration of the tariffs, 1842-1983 (Mss 29476-84); and material relating to fire-testing and research, 1935-72 (Mss 29457-9). The general meetings minute books contain the minutes of the district committees and standing committees on tariffs (to ca. 1890), as well as minutes of the Glasgow Rate and Salvage Association and its predecessors (1861-1904) (see also CLC/B/017-14). The accounts concern not only the Fire Offices' Committee, but also associated organisations such as the London Wharf and Warehouse Committee, the Consequential Loss Committee and the Fire Offices' Committee (Foreign).

Please note that permission must be obtained from the Association of British Insurers for access to records less than 75 years old. Contact details may be obtained from staff.

NOTE: the records found amongst the archives of the Sun Insurance Office have been catalogued as Mss 18862-3, 29578, 30625 and 30625A.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Records arranged by MS number, assigned during cataloguing at the Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section.

Conditions governing access:

Access by appointment only. Please contact staff.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright to this collection rests with the City of London.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Fire Offices' Committee records, and those of the other organisations associated with it (apart from some minutes and other records which were found amongst the archives of the Sun Insurance Office and the records of the London Wharf and Warehouse Committee which have been listed separately) were deposited in the Manuscripts Section of Guildhall Library on 26 and 27 June 1985, and on 30 April and 1 June 1987. In June 1994 the deposit was converted to a gift by the Association of British Insurers. The Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section merged with the London Metropolitan Archives in 2009.

Allied Materials

Related material:

The early minutes of the co-operating fire offices, 1842-60, are in the Sun Insurance Office archive (see CLC/B/192/H/006).

Publication note:

More detail about the history of fire insurance, in particular co-operation between the fire offices and the development of foreign business, can be found in H.A.L. Cockerell and Edwin Green, The British Insurance Business (Sheffield Academic Press, 1994).

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
November 2010 to January 2011.

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