The Newport (Salop) Tradesmen’s Plate Glass Insurance Association 1935-1981
Documents consisting of minutes of meetings, correspondence, policy documents and savings books of the Association, which ran from 1934 to 1981, were given to the Newport History Society in March 1998 by Geoffrey Robinson of Lloyd and Robinson Solicitors.
The Association was formed at a meeting in the Literary Institute on Wednesday 28th March 1934. Tradesmen present were: W.G Hayward (grocer, 18 St Mary St.), J Tucker (ironmonger, 55 High St.), F. W Midgley (confectioner and grocer, 2-5 Lower Bar), T.W Hutchin (draper, 81 High St), J Elkes (baker, 66 High St. and 3 St Mary St.), J Scarratt (tailor, 31 High St.), C. E Plant who was represented by H Plant (draper, 79 High St.), R. H Turner (boot dealer, 27 High St.), F Bridge (Draper, 22 High St.), S. B Hayward. Also present was a solicitor J. R Elliott and W T Chamberlain.
The object of the Association was the insurance of the plate glass windows in commercial premises. Those present elected F W Midgley as the first chairman. In the Rules it was agreed that there would be a maximum of twenty members; the reasoning behind this decision is not recorded.
Plant’s drapers, 79 High Street.
The first policy was issued to Messrs Bridge and Doxon drapers of 22 to 24 High Street. They paid 10 shillings and a penny. Fifteen original 1934 policies exist in the archive. The bank they chose to deposit the funds into was the Salop and Welsh Counties Savings Bank and they started the Association with £204.18s3d. The entrance fee was 5% of the value of the glass insured. The yearly premium was set at 2.5%. This premium held for over twenty years.
Bridge and Doxon, 22-24 High Street.
In September, 1940 the association got into a dispute with the General Accident, Fire and Life Assurance Co Ltd. A van owned by Brookfields of Trentham Road, Longton and insured with GA collided with a window blind of the Ark Stores and broke a window. GA denied liability because the blind overhung the road by 18 inches thus absolving their driver of blame. The cost of repairing the window was £13 but the total income from premiums that year was only £15. The Association tried to persuade GA to contribute half the costs. This was denied but eventually GA wrote that they ‘would be prepared to contribute one-third of your loss, as an indication of our desire to settle the matter in an amicable spirit’. The Association tried again for the higher figure but agreed to ‘gratefully accept the smaller contribution’ and received a cheque on the 4th December.
In March 1944 the Association again went into battle with a most formidable enemy: the British Army. An army jeep from Aqualate Park travelling in convoy skidded on ice and broke the window of the grocer Messrs R Brittain of 58 High Street. The cost of repair was £24.10s0d. The Association wrote to the Director of Claims of Western Command in Chester asking for a reimbursement of the full amount. Lt. Arthur Jackson, assistant claims director wrote that ‘this accident was in no way due to the negligence of the War Department driver’. He attributed it to the icy conditions but offered an ex gratia payment of 2/3 of the cost. The Association did not give up and persisted in asking for the full cost.
The correspondence continued back and forth. Lt. Jackson wrote an exasperated letter expressing ‘regret that your committee do not yet feel able to accept the suggested recommendation mentioned in my last letter’. The Association pursued full reimbursement and on June 23rd they received a letter stating that the Army would pay £24.10s.0d ‘in full and final settlement of the claim’.
Included in the correspondence of the association is a letter written in March 1951 to Mrs Lawrence of 4 Chetwynd End concerning her son who was alleged to have broken the window of the Happy Days café which at that time was owned by T W Hutchins. They wrote again in April, this time to Mr Lawrence, threatening legal action if Mr and Mrs Lawrence did not pay for the damage caused by their son. The cost was £20.5s which, according to an online inflation calculator, equates to over £400 today. There is no further correspondence so it can be assumed that the Lawrence family paid.
Tucker’s 55, High Street.
In June 1958 when the membership was down to twelve businesses an existential crisis arose and an extraordinary meeting was called for the 16th September. Present were H. O Hogben (chair), Messrs Midgeley, Tucker, Plant, Smith and Hitchin. During that year a large claim had arisen from G. H Austins, owners of Happy Days café, for £99.7s.8d. This meant that the association only had £79.5s.2d left in the bank and its future was in doubt. They agreed to levy an additional 2.5% premium on all members. The 5% premium stayed for the following year as members felt that they should aim for a reserve fund of between £125 and £150. At the AGM on 21st June 1960 the only claim was for £50.7s. paid to Darralls and Tucker but the financial situation was still precarious so the recommendation was carried to increase the premium again to 7.5%. The premium was increased again to 10% from 1961 to 1964 where they managed to accumulate £244.6.11 in the bank. Unfortunately, in 1965 they had yet another claim for Happy Days café and a significant claim for £139.9.8 for The London House department store and gentlemen’s outfitters owned by Plant. In 1967 Happy Days café (which over the years was a magnet attracting breakages) cancelled their policy as the café had closed. The building was demolished and replaced with a new building housing Woolworths. The Woolworths building is currently occupied by B&M.
In 1960 Dorothy Hartley of 29 High Street put in a claim when she said that vibration from traffic caused a set of shelves to fall and break a window in the property. The following year Dorothy cancelled the policy saying that she had taken out a new comprehensive insurance policy which included plate glass windows. This probably signalled the beginning of the end for the association as businesses realised they did not need separate cover for their plate glass. By 1973 they were down to seven members: H.E Tucker, T.B Plant, F.W Midgley, Hogbens Garage, L .M Browns Motors, Mr and Mrs Jones, R.W Wright.
In that year the policies rolled over with no premiums being paid. There is very little activity recorded for the rest of the decade. At a meeting held on 24th April 1981 a resolution was carried to dissolve the association. The money in the bank was distributed to H E Tucker, T. B Plant, F Midgley, L M Brown Motors, R W Wright and Mr and Mrs Jones.
Newport History Society Archive NDHS 00087 00090 09.06
Kelly’s Business Directory 1934 NDHS 00644 07.06