Launch of the new Insurance Museum online gallery, ‘250 years of insurance fire brigades’

The Insurance Museum is celebrating the launch of the final gallery in the online exhibition, ‘Fire! Risk & Revelations’. ‘250 years of insurance fire brigades’ explores the impact James Braidwood had on the history of firefighting, including his time as Fire Master in Edinburgh and his move down to London to lead the merged insurance brigades, known as the London Fire Engine Establishment (LFEE). This efficient, professionalised service became the forerunner of the London Fire Brigade.

The gallery also looks at exciting and innovative developments within the sector, including the formation of professional bodies, the employment of more women in administrative roles and the introduction of reinsurance and composite insurance within a growing global market.  

The gallery finishes with a brief look at how the story of insurance continues to evolve as it looks to the future to stay relevant and vital to the needs of a rapidly changing world. While fire insurance no longer exists as a separate form of insurance, it remains a vital part of the composite insurance we are now more familiar with. One only needs to think of contemporary disasters such as the Grenfell Tower and the growing threat of climate change and wildfires, to realise how much our society still depends on it today.

‘Fire! Risk & Revelations’ features four galleries, each sharing the history of fire insurance from its birth back in 1667, following the Great Fire of London, right through to 1929 and the introduction of insurance firefighting brigades. The galleries feature video interviews with academics, experts and historians, and fascinating objects from archives, private collections, and museums from across the UK.

To mark the launch, we are featuring an article written by George Worby, IM volunteer, on James Braidwood. He was inspired by a trip to Edinburgh, where Braidwood grew up and took up a role of Master of Fire Engines for the Municipal Fire Brigade. Our “Museum Object” article is on something most firefighters could not have done without, the humble fire bucket.

We are delighted that our lead sponsor for this latest gallery is Velonetic (a joint venture between DXC Technology, the International Underwriting Association (IUA), and Lloyd’s of London). Velonetic, previously referred to as the London Market Joint Ventures, shares our passion here at the Insurance Museum for using technology to unlock the history and stories behind insurance and we are hugely grateful for their support with making our latest digital gallery possible.

The IM will be developing further online exhibitions to share more fascinating stories from across the sector, including marine, art, motor, aerospace, climate change, life and pensions, cyber, AI and even the specialty insurance of celebrities and other unique risks. These will be backed up with educational and career resources for schools. We can achieve this through membership, corporate support and other fundraising activities.

We are also raising £2m that will fund the creation of a meanwhile, Min-Museum that will have exhibitions and educational facilities. The IM Mini-Museum will engage and educate all audiences, providing understanding of the sector and a doorway for attracting new talent into this diverse and interesting profession, and prepare the ground for a permanent Insurance Museum in EC3, City of London, the global heartland of insurance.

You can visit the exhibition Fire! Risk & Revelations here:

Launch of the new Insurance Museum online gallery, ‘250 years of insurance fire brigades’

October 24th 2023

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