The Story of the British Museum, £8.99
Insurance certificate for part of Montagu House
London, England, 12 May 1769
The old museum buildings get insured by the 'Hand in Hand' fire insurance company
The Trustees of The British Museum bought Montagu House in 1755 to house the newly acquired collections of Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753). At this time the building was heated by coal fires and lit by candles. The Trustees were anxious about the danger of fire, and they insured the house at once with the 'Hand in Hand' fire insurance company.
There were many fire insurance companies at that time, but the 'Hand in Hand' was the oldest, founded in 1696. Like most of the other companies, it kept its own private fire brigade. It fixed its own 'firemark' (a metal plaque) to the wall of each of its insured buildings.
The Trustees first insured Montagu House with the 'Hand in Hand' in 1755, but this certificate is dated 1769, when the Trustees renewed the insurance policy. It states that the Trustees of The British Museum have insured 'part of the Body of the House of The British Museum & the Center Building including the Great Stair Case'. As Montagu House was so large, the central block and the east and west wings all had to be insured separately.