Fire insurance marks were lead or copper plaques embossed with the sign of the insurance company, and placed on the front of the insured building as a guide to the insurance company's fire brigade. They are common in the older areas of Britain's and America's cities and larger towns. They were used on the eighteenth and nineteenth century in the days before municipal fire services were formed. The UK marks are called 'Fire insurance plaques'. The first to use the mark was the Sun Fire Office before 1700.
British fire marks
For most of the 18th century, each insurance company maintained its own fire brigade, which extinguished fires in those buildings insured by the company and, in return for a fee to be paid later, in buildings insured by other companies. By 1825, fire marks served more as advertisements than as useful identifying marks; some insurance companies no longer issued fire marks, and those that did sometimes left them up after a policy had expired. Successive combinations of fire brigades led to virtually the entire city of London being put under the protection of the London Fire Engine Establishment, which fought not only the fires of policy holders but those of nonsubscribers, the reason being that fires in uninsured buildings could rapidly spread to insured buildings.
This one is on a building in the Cathedral Close, Norwich.
To prevent theft and fraud they were placed as high up on the house as possible, usually between the two upper storey windows and are now highly collectible items.
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