History Feature

(Victoria Square, Hull, showing the Prudential building with the tower)

Our guest Insurance Historian in this Newsletter is Andrew Carrick, Business Partner at Marsh Commercial and based in Kingston upon Hull. He has researched much about insurance history in Hull and here looks at one particular broker, Kenneth Hibbert. He writes:

“The civic archives of Kingston upon Hull hold a wealth of treasures covering 900 years of history. In the course of research into the wartime experiences of the insurance community of the city during the Second World War, I came across a set of papers regarding Kenneth Hibbert (1914-1991), insurance broker, donated by his daughter, and featuring the poet Philip Larkin.

Kenneth was from an insurance background, his family business being Richards, Hibbert & Co, Incorporated Marine and General Insurance Brokers. It was founded in Hull in 1892, and was later acquired by the Oughtred & Harrison Shipping and Insurance Group, which itself was acquired by Bluefin, and ultimately Marsh McLennan. During the Second World War, the firm offered a special “War Cover” policy for personal injury benefits, underwritten by Lloyd’s, for special constables, air raid wardens and the like. Kenneth’s uncle Wilfrid was President of the Insurance Institute of Hull from 1939 to 1940.

During the War Kenneth was a conscientious objector (CO). Such a stance was not popular. He received letters in 1940 describing him as a “cowardly cad” (ironic since the letter itself had no name on it) and a “damned swine”. He was hardly a coward though, robustly defending his pacifist views in court in Leeds. His family had long held similar beliefs dating back to the Boer War at the end of the Nineteenth century, but the judge found against him, and he was retained on the CO register. Forced out of insurance, he had to leave the family firm and worked for a time as an agricultural labourer at a farm in Westmoreland (Cumbria).

Rehabilitated after the War, Kenneth later became the insurance adviser to the poet Philip Larkin. They were both members of the Hull Literary Club, and the archive retains a number of personal letters between the two men, who were clearly friends, regularly exchanging Christmas cards and books.

In December 1970, Larkin wrote to Kenneth from All Souls College, Oxford. “Many thanks for the annual Hibbert text, very wise and consoling…  A minor insurance irritation: the laundry they use here said they had lost some of my clothes about six weeks ago, and asked me to submit a claim.” Larkin suggested £6 value, but found it “mildly annoying” to receive only £4, and asks “Is there anything I can do to clobber them?” Larkin also objected to receiving a credit note from the (unnamed) insurer rather than cash.

“As the last man in Britain to send his clothes to a laundry, I am continually running up against such malpractices (I’ve already had to stop them charging me for washing the clothes they’ve lost.) Laundries seem to me like garages, only more so.”

Very Larkin. Unfortunately, we don’t have Kenneth’s response, nor do we know the outcome. The search continues …”

History Feature

April 24th 2022

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