Hot Property

Hot Property

A single-owner collection of fire badges, comprising examples from the mid-18th to the early 20th centuries, comes to sale at Sworders this September. 

24 August 2021

The collection includes badges from some of the oldest insurance companies in the world, such as the Fire Office, founded 1680 (lot 365), the Sun Fire Office, founded 1710 (lots 366, 369 and 375) and Royal Exchange Assurance, founded 1720 (lot 367, 368, 373, 374).

As a result of the Great Fire of London in 1666, the first societies for insurance were established throughout the late 17th century to protect and recover the losses felt by fire. These new insurance companies began to form their own fire brigades to be called upon to fight fires and to protect and salvage items from the buildings that they insured, or those that they didn’t in return for a fee to be paid later. These firemen needed to be identified as employees of the company so were clothed in colourful costumes and given badges of silver or silver-gilt to be worn on the sleeve, like those of the Thames Watermen, where many of the firemen were first employed.

 

 

Examples of firemen’s dress and badges can be seen in artworks such as ‘The Pantheon, the Morning after the Fire’, from 1792, a graphite and watercolour on paper by JMW Turner, currently in the Tate Collection. So important was the job of these men that they were exempt from conscription into the Navy after an act of parliament in 1707.

Unlike fire insurance marks, which were metal plaques placed onto every building that was insured by a given company, firemen's badges were never made in large numbers as each brigade would have been limited in number to no more than 30 men. This, along with the abuses of daily wear, explains why so few have survived today.

 

Fire badges 2

 

Included in the collection being sold at Sworders are also three Free Waterman badges (lots 363, 364 and 370), and an interesting alabaster model for fire marks of the Sheffield Fire Office (lot 377).

For further information, refer to Brian Henham and Brian Sharp, Badges of Extinction, The 18th and 19th Century Badges of Insurance Office Firemen, London: Quiller Press, 1989.

 

Next Article

 

 


 


 

More Recent News

 

Mutiny On The Bounty

After becoming interested in the story of The mutiny on the Royal Navy vessel HMS Bounty, John O’Conner began collecting artefacts on the subject, eventually owning some of Bligh’s most personal possessions. The collection will be sold as part of our Books and Maps timed auction in September

14 September 2021

 

The Lawrence Gatehouse Collection

Lawrie Gatehouse (1943 - 2020) was an avid collector of Art Deco and posters, drawn to the printed medium through his primary love of the golden age of steam and travel.  The main pieces of the collection now comes to sale in our auction of Design on Tuesday 19 and Wednesday 20 October, other works from his collection will be sold in our Homes and Interiors sale on 21 September.

10 September 2021

It's The Little Things in Life...

Our upcoming Fine Interiors auction offers a magnificent single owner collection of miniatures that pay testament to the passion of their collector whose interests ranged from the 16th century to the early 19th century, from portraits of Kings to glamorous women...

6 September 2021

 

 


 

Get Sworders News