Oxford Inscriptions: Fire Insurance Marks

Headington Manor House

Manor House, Headington (at John Radcliffe Hospital)
Sun Insurance Office Ltd, Policy No. 371401
Sun with sixteen rays, alternating straight and wavy
Issued to Sir Banks Jenkinson between c.1770 and 1790

St Andrew's Lane

2 St Andrew's Lane, Headington
Salop Fire Office Policy No. 5266
Three leopards' heads*

1 & 2 Windsor Street

2 & 4 Windsor Street, Headington
Royal Insurance Company Ltd
Crown and liver bird
House built in c.1872

3 & 4 Windsor Street

6 & 8 Windsor Street, Headington
Royal Insurance Company Ltd
Crown and liver bird
House built in c.1872

Beaumont Buildings

20 Beaumont Buildings
Guardian Assurance Company Ltd
Figure of Athene
House built in 1826

Temple Road

79 Temple Road, Cowley
County Fire Office
Britannia with spear and shield

* This is the firemark used by the Salop Fire Office, but their records show that Policy No. 5266 was issued on 25 March 1807 to George Crockett Nichols, a gentleman of Windmill House, Madeley, Shropshire, for use on that house. As the number on each marker is unique, it appears that this Headington firemark may be a copy, as there are also markers with the number 5266 in Thame and Hungerford, and another one again was put up for auction in Plymouth in 2014.

Fire marks were placed high on properties (to deter thieves), showing the design of the relevant insurance company and sometimes the individual policy number.

Search here for details of 162,973 fire insurance policies issued by the Sun and Royal Exchange Insurance Companies between 1777 and 1786 (under “Search in Document Type”, choose “Additional Datasets > Fire Insurance Registers, 1777-86”)

Fire Insurance Marks Group on Flickr

Firemark Collection at Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Library, St John's University

The Fire Mark Circle

Twenty insurance companies (seventeen offering fire cover) had agents in Oxford in 1830. Pigot's Directory for that year lists the following


ALBION (life): Joseph Andrews, Ship Lane
ALLIANCE: Crews Dudley, Broad Street
BERKS, GLOUCESTER & PROVINCIAL (fire): Richard Smith, High Street
BIRMINGHAM (fire): William Cooke, High Street
CLERICAL & MEDICAL (life): John Freeman Wood, St Mary Hall Lane
COUNTY (fire): John Coleman, St Mary Magdalen's
CROWN: Michael Underhill, High Street
GLOBE: Charles Talmage, St Aldate's
GUARDIAN: William H. Butler, St Aldate's
HERTS and CAMBRIDGESHIRE (fire): Samuel Ste[a]ne, Cornmarket
MANCHESTER (fire): Charles Mallam, St Aldate's
PALLADIUM: Charles Watts, High Street
PELICAN: George Cecil, Beaumont Street
PHOENIX (fire): Thomas Sheard, High Street
PROTECTOR: Michael Underhill, High Street
PROVIDENT (life): John Coleman, St Mary Magdalen's
ROYAL EXCHANGE: Thomas Wyatt, Holywell Street
SUN: Richard Cox, High Street
UNIVERSITY (fire): Rev. John William Hughes, Holywell
WEST OF ENGLAND (fire): George Rackstrow, St Mary Magdalen's.

Back in 1823, Pigot's Directory listed thirteen insurance offices which had agents in Oxford, and these included three which were unrepresesented in 1830: the COMMERCIAL, the HOPE, and the NORWICH.

Stephanie Jenkins, 2013