Data from the Sun Fire Office
Bryan Mawer

 

Contents...
  History.
  Records.
  Policy Numbers
  Valuations

History.
Founded in 1710, the Sun Fire Office was one of the first companies to insure the sugar refiners, but they did not find it easy and were unsure of the risks of the new technology (1), to the extent that over the next 70 years they found it necessary to demand extremely high premiums and place upper limits on sums insured for both premises and stock. In 1781 Phoenix Fire Office came into being and took a large proportion of the sugar insurance business, although there was no evidence initially that Phoenix provided better cover or lower premiums. Within a few years, however, it did lower premiums dramatically, and then Sun had to react by doing the same, as it could not afford to see the business go to others so easily (2).

Records.
The policy records of the Sun Fire Office are held at the Guildhall Library, London, but in some 1200 volumes. An initial transcription of a sample, 1775-87, was undertaken in 1971 and published as a booklet and set of 47 fiche, by D T Jenkins (1), and often available in major libraries. Following that, a team of volunteers undertook to transcribe as much as possible of the data, and as a result indexes (1710-1840s) are available at a number of archives, including the Museum of London. This same team is now placing the indexes online [2005 - part of 19thC policies], and these can be accessed on A2A under Guildhall Library.
I am most grateful to Barry Sarbutt for sending me his database of extractions of the sugar refiners, premises and valuations, from that card index at the Museum of London, and also to another transcriber for his list of policy numbers for those refiners. The information regarding names, locations, and years can be found in the database ; the valuations on their own pages linked to this page (see below) ; and the policy numbers are available on request (see below).
No matter how careful we have been, it must be understood that the Sun data I have made available on this website is often a second or third transcription. Name variants should be checked - D T Jenkins (1) writes about the difficulties the original transcribers had with the names of policy holders written in many different hands, and it will have been no easier for those who followed. Data should be checked against the original where possible, and to do this you will need the policy numbers for the refiners you are researching.

Policy Numbers.
These are not listed on-line, but I am prepared to send individual policy numbers, by e-mail, to researchers requesting them for individual refiners. E-mail here.

Valuations.
Tables of refiners, types of premises, and sums insured.
To Valuations for 1710-1749
To Valuations for 1750-1779
To Valuations for 1780-1819
To Valuations for 1820-1844

 

 

(1) - "Indexes of the Fire Insurance Policies of the Sun Fire Office and the Royal Exchange Assurance, 1775-87" by D T Jenkins (booklet and set of fiche) - it is the booklet that makes such informative reading, giving excellent background to the records, in particular the insured values, and the insurance business of the time.

(2) - "Phoenix Assurance & the Development of British Insurance" by Clive Trebilcock, CUP, 1985. ISBN 0 521 25414 0 - Although primarily about Phoenix, it does contain a good number of Sun references. The conditions of insurance were the same for both companies, so the general information, and that specific to the sugar refiners, is equally relevant.

 

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