On the 28th of June 1934 ‘The Hall’ at 20 Aldermanbury was officially opened by King George V, accompanied by Queen Mary. Writing about the building in his book Sixty Years, H. A. L. Cockerell, Secretary (CEO) of the Chartered Insurance Institute, proffered the following:
“Among the architectural features much admired at the opening were the stained glass windows of the Conference Hall… the museum was to prove a worthy home for the Bain collection of fire marks and other exhibits concerned with the history of fire insurance and fire-fighting.”
Sir Ernest Bain was one of several senior figures who donated fire marks and advised on the setting up of the museum. Another was Bertram Williams who, also in 1934, founded the Fire Mark Circle (FMC).
The object of the Circle was to bring together persons interested in the origins and history of fire insurance companies and their fire marks, as well as fire brigades and fire-fighting equipment, for the purposes of exchanging and recording information and for the preservation of artefacts.
Since 1934 there has been a continuing close relationship between the CII and the FMC. The CII regularly sought the advice of the FMC on the acquisition and disposal of marks, and on their conservation and preservation. Over the years three major collections were acquired by the CII and, with the assistance and advice of the FMC, these collections adorned the main staircase and some corridors at 20 Aldermanbury. Senior members of the Circle acted as curators of these collections.
Enquiries from CII members and from the public via the Institute, especially in relation to rare marks, were regularly referred to FMC members for an opinion. And the standard work on fire marks, The British Fire Mark 1680-1879 by Brian Wright, a long term member of the FMC, is based on photographs of the CII’s collections.
Membership of the FMC currently stands at approximately 200. There are two meetings a year (in Spring and Autumn) at which auctions of fire marks and other artefacts are held. A full colour magazine is published twice a year.
If you would like to learn more about fire marks or the Fire Mark Circle why not visit their website at www.firemarkcircle.com.