From smoking crocodiles to embarrassment and flaming pants – Aviva’s strange historic claims

A look through the archives at Norwich Union.Byline: Sonya DuncanCopyright: Archant 2017

A look through the archives at Norwich Union.Byline: Sonya DuncanCopyright: Archant 2017 - Credit: Sonya Duncan

As you might imagine an insurer's archive is full of weird and wonderful claims and policies.

A look through the archives at Norwich Union.Byline: Sonya DuncanCopyright: Archant 2017

A look through the archives at Norwich Union.Byline: Sonya DuncanCopyright: Archant 2017 - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Through its American arm General Accident, Aviva has insured John and Jacqui Kennedy, and Dwight D Eisenhower – and the equally distinguished circus animal Percy the Smoking Crocodile.

The following are among the more unusual claims to Norwich Union over the years:

• Hair raising – In 1895 Norwich Union received a claim for £1 for a 'loss of eyebrows and portion of head hair'.

• Hot head – The Norwich branch received a claim in 1927 from a man who, while playing chess, had emptied his pipe onto his hat and set fire to it. He wanted 16s 6d.


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• Champing at the bit – In 1928 Norwich Union received a claim from a woman who had accidentally thrown her false teeth in the fire while peeling an orange.

• Absolute rhubarb – A country vicar made a claim to Norwich Union in the 1930s after some fermenting rhubarb wine burst and destroyed an electric light fitting.

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• Pants on fire – In 1954 North British and Mercantile received a very polite letter from the child of a long term policy holder.

It read: 'My mother respectfully asks me to write and intimate that she intends to proceed with a claim under her policy, with your esteemed company. She has been insured with your company for about 50 years and as this is her first claim she is rather ignorant of how she should proceed. A friend has told her that if she exhibits the articles involved in the fire to our minister, he will issue a certificate. Unfortunately, modesty prohibits such an action as the articles are of an intimate character. Both Mother and I would much prefer it if you would send one of your ladies on your staff (if you have ladies on your staff) to look at the articles if it is essential that you should see them. Please excuse our lack of knowledge of business methods as my mother is aged and I am hardly as young as I was.

'PS they fell off the clothes-horse and into the fire.'

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