Ferret bites, catapult blows and confusing poison with sleeping medicine: How bizarre insurance claims have been around since the Victorian days
- Farmer bitten by rat received £132 and merchant hit in eye by rice at wedding given £50
Discarded fruit peel often led to insurance claims in Victorian England. This undated Aviva cartoon from the archives shows a man falling over
Bizarre insurance claims are no mere invention of the modern era – they were just as common in Victorian Britain.
Claims of bites by ferrets and fish, blows to the eye from catapults, slipping on orange peel and confusing poison with sleeping medicine were all made in 19th century East Anglia.
Fascinating documents unearthed in Aviva’s Norwich archives reveal an amazing catalogue of accident claims dating back to the 1800s.
The adage that where there’s blame, there’s a claim was as true in Victoria’s England as it is today if a trawl through the records of Aviva, formerly Norwich Union, are anything to go by.
Discarded banana skins, errant horses and simple clumsiness are also revealed as some of the major hazards of the day.
East Anglian claims include a shipbuilder from Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, who swallowed a fishbone and pocketed a payout of £1,000 in 1901.
A farmer from Sudbury, Suffolk, received £132 when he was bitten by a rat in 1887 and a merchant from Essex who injured his eye from rice thrown at a wedding in 1892 banked £50 compensation.
Fascinating documents unearthed in Aviva’s Norwich archives reveal an amazing catalogue of accident claims
BIZARRE CLAIMS FROM YESTERYEAR INCLUDE:
- A shipbuilder from Great Yarmouth who swallowed a fishbone and received a payout of £1,000 in 1901.
- A grocer from Lancashire slipped while playing blind man’s bluff and was paid £15 in 1878.
- A merchant from Essex received £50 in 1892 after injuring his eye while throwing rice at a wedding.
- A tailor from Launceston, Cornwall, missed his chair when going to sit down and was paid £58 in 1887.
- A £1,000 payout in 1878 to an innkeeper from Handsworth, Birmingham, who took poisonous potion mistaken for a sleeping medicine.
Aviva archivist Anna Stone has spent months poring over the documents for an exhibition in the insurer’s General Insurance headquarters in Norwich.
Anna said: ‘It has certainly proved to be very interesting reading material.
‘Sport injuries are also commonplace, with slips during fencing, blows from hockey sticks and golfers rupturing legs getting out of bunkers.
‘Not to mention the clerk who received £36 for an injury caused by a blow from a fellow bather’s heel sustained while diving.’
Anna added: ‘I have to say I do have some personal favourites from across the country that stand out for their sheer peculiarity – like the vicar who fell while playing a game of leap frog, or the gentleman who missed a dog while trying to kick it and struck a sofa instead, injuring his big toe.’
The records also reveal that by 1958, Sir Winston Churchill was the longest-standing customer on the company’s personal accident books.
But unlike many of his contemporaries, he never made claim.
Aviva archivist Anna Stone has spent months poring over the documents for an exhibition in the insurer’s headquarters in Norwich
The personal accident policies covered a wide range of professions and groups, from rail passengers and fox hunters to surgeons and solicitors.
Rob Townend, director of property claims at Aviva said: ‘Obviously insurance claims change as lifestyles change, but some incidents appear to be as common back then as they are today.
‘Even in prim and proper Victorian times people were still tripping up kerbs, falling on ice and slipping on cobbled streets, albeit back then discarded orange peel appeared to be the major culprit.
‘The supposedly more traditional slipping hazard, the banana skin, makes just one appearance in our archives, back in 1904.’