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The Great Fire of London in 1666 heralded the beginnings of the Loss Adjusting profession.

The Great Fire of London in 1666 heralded the beginnings of the Loss Adjusting profession. Afterwards, with the introduction of fire insurance on buildings, independent surveyors and tradesmen were soon using their expertise in settling claims. By the late 18th century, the major fire insurers were appointing “assessors” to act for them exclusively and a number of today’s leading loss adjusting firms can trace their roots back to those early days.

The term “loss adjuster” was first used in 1941 with the founding of the Association of Fire Loss Adjusters. This was a grouping of prominent claims experts who found themselves actively involved in dealing with damage as a result of the bombing in World War II. The achievements of that association in monitoring standards and the conduct of members was recognised in 1961 by the granting of a Royal Charter and a name change to The Chartered Institute of Loss Adjusters. In 1979 the Institute received a Grant of Arms with its motto “Truth and Equity” which remain the key principles and ethos of the profession.

How we won our arms

by Maurice Hempsell

When the Association of Fire Loss Adjusters was formed in 1941, the founding President, J McMullen-Brooks had the outstanding idea for the “arms” of the Association. It was the scale of justice upon the sword of truth, elaborated with “supporters” of fasces (bundles of rods bound around an axe) to symbolise the strength of members uniting together and surmounted by a crest of a lamp to indicate learning.

This was a dignified and meaningful symbol that all members could readily accept but in 1977 a learned Fellow of the Institute, Charles Mellor, who was also an Honorary Fellow of the Heraldry Society, pointed out that although we referred to the device as our “arms” it was only a logo for which we had no prescriptive right. Further, because the logo was in a format purporting to be arms it was illegal and we were in peril of action against us by Garter King of Arms. It was recommended that we made a submission to the College of Heralds seeking a grant of arms and we were advised that the fee for corporate bodies was £810.

The matter was put before the Council of the Institute when more than one member expressed the view that they were entirely satisfied with the way things were, it was a waste of members’ money when we could well finish up with something else we did not like and Garter King of Arms could do what he pleased. However, the vote was in favour of an approach to the College of Heralds in the sum of £810 and I as Treasurer was instructed to take appropriate action.

In due time we were invited to attend upon Mr John Brooke-Little, Richmond Herald of Arms and Treasurer of the college of Heralds and the President, Stewart A Anderson, accompanied by the Treasurer, went to the College. This was before the restoration of the building and its decaying glories were painfully obvious as we were escorted through the Court and along narrow passages and up and down stone stairways until finally we were ushered into the Treasurer’s office. For a description of the small room we found ourselves in, stacked with the books and documents in chaos, I suggest you read suitable passages from Dickens referring to a lawyer’s chambers. But we were quickly put at ease by Mr Brooke-Little, who, it was clear, had studied the Charter Handbook, Examination Handbook, Several Annual Reports and a few miscellaneous items I had sent him previously. The President attempted to apologise for the past misdemeanours but this was almost pushed aside with the news that the Heralds had considered we were a fit and proper body to be granted arms. So to the business of what our arms should be.

We said that the device of the scales and sword were very significant to us and held in high esteem but accepted that if such a device had already been granted to someone then we could not have it. I still think it a cause for wonder, that, after more than 700 years of Heralding no one, nor any body, had been given such a device. The device of any arms must be unique and a search had been made and no other similar device had been found. So we could keep our scales and sword symbolizing equity and truth.

The Herald thought that such a device on a white background would look anaemic and gave the shield a red border to show our origins as fire assessors.

Thus the blazon of the Institute was defined:

“Argent a Sword palewise point downwards surmounted by a pair of scales within a Bordure Gules” This, being interpreted from the English/Norman French jargon means: A sword showing the flat of the blade and pointing downwards has a pair of scales hanging from it and is shown on a white shield with a red border.

So far so good but more was to come. It is proper to surmount your shield with a helmet and the style of helm indicates one’s rank and we were given one denoting the rank of Earl. None of your middle class Knights for us. The swirling decoration around the helm is the tattered remains of our mantle, used to avoid sunstroke in the Middle East during the Crusades, and showing it was cut to ribbons because we had been in the thick of the fighting. To that extent things don’t change much. It should be noted that the mantle and headband is in the basic colours of the shield.

The next problem was the crest. Our logo had a lamp of learning above the shield but the crest, like the arms, must be unique and lamps new or old, are fairly common. Thus Mr Brook-Little gave us a lamp with a flame at both ends symbolizing the light of knowledge at both ends of the world – i.e. the Australasian Division and then stuck the hilt of the sword on our shield as the handle of the lamp to make it unique. Thus we were able to preserve with only small changes the essential elements of the original logo of the Association of Loss Adjusters.

There was a final honour. The Heralds had deemed our service and our status worthy of being granted supporters. The fasces would not do as supporters must be animate beings, real or mythical. I suggested the Phoenix rising renewed from the fire as evocative of the work we do but thought that it would be common and we might have to put up with salamanders. But Mr Brook-Little liked the idea of the Phoenix and that the ancient Phoenix had not been used very much for centuries. Thus our supporters became “on either side a Phoenix (in sensu antiquo) wings displayed and addorsed all proper”. Our motto “Truth and Equity” was confirmed and so we were offered with full achievement.

We had a membership who were, in a sense, “retainers” and so we needed a badge to be worn by them. Of course we did – and so the College did “further grant and assign the following Device or Badge that is to say a Sword palewise point downwards Argent hilt pommel and quillons or surmounted by a Pair of Scales also Or”.

The discussions concluded by Mr Brook-Little, an accomplished lightning artist sketching a suitable design for a banner being the badge repeated four times on alternate white and red segments. President Anderson and myself relaxed with a feeling of achievement and well being. This euphoria faded when he said that the final cost would have to be some 40% over the original estimate but we gave our immediate agreement and were greatly relieved when Council eventually endorsed our decision. In the realms of tradition things move slowly and it was nineteen months later that the Institute was advised by the College of Arms that our Grant of Arms was completed. By now I was President and the Annual Dinner was only some 8 or 9 weeks away. I thought it was be a happy event if Mr Brook-Little, as Richmond Herald could attend our Dinner and present the grant. This led to weeks of uncertainty as to whether he could fit this in with the start of a visit to America and it was not until the eleventh hour that he said he could come and would speak for about 15 minutes! I had visions of my Annual Dinner being as exciting as a wake but in the event Mr J Brooke-Little, Richmond Herald, proved a most entertaining speaker, witty yet erudite and set the seal for the insurance press headlines “A Touch of Tradition”.