Quirky claims: Aviva celebrates 325 years of commercial insurance

We're looking back on our 325 years of serving commercial insurance customers and unearthing some strange but extraordinary claims history.

From the earliest days of insuring British businesses, when brewer Edward Price took out insurance with the Hand in Hand Fire & Life Insurance Society in January 1697 to protect his Knightsbridge Brewhouse from fire, we've been working with British businesses on some of the strangest, but valid, insurance claims.

Our archives show the prominent role Aviva companies have played in protecting British businesses for more than three centuries. Across the years, some of Britain’s largest and best-known businesses have relied on us for their insurance needs, from Rolls Royce to both Sotheby’s and Christie’s auctioneers and Lea and Perrins to Whitbread Brewery.


We've have worked with brokers for a long time to help sell commercial insurance. The earliest of these intermediaries were called ‘agents’ and they were responsible for selling and renewing policies and collecting premiums in return for a commission. Our first agents worked for the Newcastle-upon-Tyne Fire Office in 1783, when the office had 9 agents. In 1806 Norwich Union Fire had 101 agents, growing to 448 in 1818; by 1873 there were 734 agents. General Accident had 20,000 agents in the UK in 1911, doubling by 1940 when they had 41,008 agents. Agents for early fire companies often also ran the companies’ local fire brigades. In 1821 twenty-four of Norwich Union’s agencies had fire brigades attached to them and by 1864 forty-five of the company’s agencies had fire engines.

Nick Major, Managing Director, Commercial Lines said "Aviva has played an important role helping businesses protect what’s important to them, enabling them to continue to trade through good times and bad, something we have continued to focus on through the Covid-19 pandemic. As our records show, we’ve seen the strangest and  most unusual claims, which goes to show that planning for the unexpected is good business practice.

It’s no surprise to see that brokers have played a long and significant role in Aviva’s history. Brokers remain as important to our distribution strategy today as they ever have, and we are continuing to invest in the broker channel – whether that be in our people, our capability or our capacity – in order to help the brokers we work with to best serve their business customers.

Aviva today continues to adapt and evolve to new and emerging risks. From our partnership with the Darwin Innovation Group – insuring a fully autonomous passenger shuttle – to our exit of the fossil fuel market, our concern for the impact of climate change on our communities and the growth in the renewable energy space, we continue to meet the changing needs of our business customers."

Peculiar claims, famous firsts and celebrated customers.

Read the full press release