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Lead fire insurance mark of the Westminster insurance company, depicting a portcullis and Prince of Wales feathers and the policy number '4902', provenance unknown. In 1680 Nicholas Barbon set up the Fire Office, the first company to insure property against fires. By 1684 another company, the Friendly Society, was using lead marks to identify subscribers' properties. Most surviving insurance marks, however, are made of copper or tin and are 18th-century or later. Around one in ten London houses was insured by 1690. By 1717 the Hand-in-Hand, Sun, Union Assurance and Westminster companies were also operating and employing watermen as part-time fire fighters. They wore uniforms with copper badges and were equipped with hooks, axes and crowbars.
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