Today the US Open gets underway at Torrey Pines and I thought it would be a good excuse to publish a short blog on Aviva’s golfing links (couldn’t resist it).

Illustration of golfer from General Accident booklet, 1901

I’ll tee off with the key golf fact from my collection of Aviva trivia — an Aviva member of staff invented the first recorded portable golf tee. William Gibson Bloxsom (pictured below), and his friend Alexander McDonald, patented a portable golf tee in 1889.


To mark the belated start of UEFA Euro 2020, here is a selection of football-themed stories from the Archive.

Commercial Union’s football team in action, c1958

Our companies have been insuring football teams for well over 100 years. In the Archive we have many examples of proposals for the insurance of individuals against football accidents and for amateur football teams, indeed Norwich Union claimed to have been the first to ‘specialize’ in this type of insurance.


This morning a memorial was unveiled at Ver-sur-Mer in memory of the service men and women under British command who died on D Day and during the Battle of Normandy.

Twenty-three of the 22,424 names on the new memorial belong to members of staff who worked for Aviva’s ancestor companies.

I’ve spent the morning searching for them on the memorial website’s roll of honour database. The database lists their names and regiments but often our research in the Aviva Archive includes additional information and sometimes even a photograph. I thought I’d share what we know of their stories.

Peter Sherlock…


This blog is about two pantomimes linked to staff from the same company, but over 50 years apart.

The first story concerns this poster.

Extract from North British and Mercantile spoof pantomime poster, 1863

It appears to be promoting a pantomime to mark the opening of an extension to the head office of North British and Mercantile Insurance in Princes Street Edinburgh. The date of the opening was to be April Fool’s Day and although the year isn’t given, the names of the staff mentioned suggest it was written in 1863. …


Following on from my blog about women in the office I thought I would share a small selection of material from staff magazines dealing with the thorny relationship between typists and those who dictated to them.

General Accident typist, 1942

The earliest of these was written by Walter Frederick Gemmer and appeared in the Ladyday 1943 issue of the Norwich Union staff magazine. By this date Gemmer, who had started his career at Norwich Union in 1889, had already retired from his work in the stationary and printing department. …


Re-posting a blog originally published in March 2019 to mark the 75th anniversary of a mass escape of prisoners of war from Stalag Luft III. The story of the escape was the basis for the 1963 film The Great Escape, starring Steve McQueen, James Garner and Richard Attenborough, which was at one time staple family viewing at Christmas.

Although the real Great Escape was not entirely as portrayed in the film, it is certainly a story worth re-telling, and one of the central characters worked for a company which is now part of Aviva.

The first evidence I found of…


At 3 minutes to midnight on 6th August 1927 part of the 6 storey Commercial Union building in Cornhill London fell, floor by floor, into a 55 ft deep pit. The pit had been dug alongside the building as part of excavations for the new Lloyds Bank head office which was being built next door. Eye-witnesses described the ground shaking — and the noise, which was like a series of bombs falling, was heard nearly a mile away.

Commercial Union’s head office Cornhill London, c1920

Fortunately, the building did not fall without warning. Workmen digging in the pit had heard ominous sounds of cracking earlier in the…


So, what is the link between Aviva and the team from Chile in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens? The answer is two gold medals and one bronze: the tally of medals taken home by Chile at the end of the 2004 games and the tally of Olympic medals known to have been collected by staff from Aviva’s constituent companies.

The most recent of ‘our’ medals was that of Jayne Torvill, half of ice dance champions Torvill and Dean. Together with Christopher Dean she won gold in the Sarajevo Winter Olympics of 1984. Their score included 12 sixes and the…


This week I’ve been having a look in the archive for stories about cricket. It began when I read about staff at Sun Life Insurance in the early 20th century using these branded match holders for indoor cricket practice.

Sun Life match holder, c1900

I’m glad that at one survived the mistreatment and is still in the archive collection today.


This is a photograph of Charles Edward Quilter of Gloucester. He is proudly wearing his uniform as captain of Norwich Union’s fire brigade.

C E Quilter, Gloucester, 1905

Charles captained the Norwich Union firemen in Gloucester for 21 years as they fought fires in and around the city.

He was the last captain of the brigade; in 1912 it was finally disbanded after more than 60 years of service to the people of Gloucester. The photograph below was probably taken to mark the event. It appeared in local newspapers along with a description of the celebratory meal and concert which marked the handover of the…

Aviva Group Archive

Unearth some fascinating stories from our past. Learn more @ https://www.aviva.com/about-us/our-heritage/

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