Cuthbert Heath. Maker of the Modern Lloyds of London.


George Burr.

Many articles have been written in the Study Group's Journals over the years, about the British Empire Exhibition, however I cannot recall any mention of the Insurance, of this Great Event. From the above book, I can inform the E.S.G. of the undertaking by C. E. Heath & Co. Ltd., of this risk for 1924.

Cuthbert Heath had been involved with the Underwriting of Insurance Risks, of many types for 44 years, when he took on the whole risk of the B. E. E. himself. If we start the extracts from the Book in 1921, one can judge for yourself, the high esteem in which he was held by Members of his syndicate and all Members of Lloyds.

At Lloyds, in 1921, he was presented with the portrait by Sir William Orpen commissioned by members of his syndicate, and perhaps for the first time became aware that he was held in something more than admiration. With all his qualities, said Sidney Boulton at the presentation dinner. "we love best in him the patience, the fairness, the kindliness, and the gentleness that never fail, amid all the hurry and worry of our daily work. Cuthbert Heath, you are an old darling and we all love you". The market's affection was to be visibly demonstrated in 1924, the year of the British Empire Exhibition. Despite the fact that exhibitions usually turned out to be expensive risks for the insurer, Heath was firmly of the view that Lloyd's should, as a goodwill gesture, guarantee the Exhibition without asking any premium. For its aims was, he wrote, "to serve more than one object. It relieves unemployment and it will be the means of bringing many visitors and much money to this country besides promoting trade. It is felt that not only should Lloyd's be willing to help where others have done so, but that in view of the great interest felt in the Exhibition by the Prince of Wales, it would be a nice thing to give this guarantee to him, as some acknowledgement from Lloyd's of all he has done." Heath not only promoted the idea in the market, but on one memorable day, broked the risk himself in the Room. He was now 65 and for several years had not been seen in the Room since increasing deafness had led to his transacting business in his office. His second cousin, Philip Heath, recalled the unusual event: "One afternoon business was proceeding at Lloyd's in its usual decorous way. An underwriter happened to look up and noticed a tall, stooping figure standing patiently in a queue waiting his turn to see a leading underwriter, and this was only right and proper, for at Lloyd's it is a rigid rule that everyone, whether a leading broker or a junior clerk, must take his turn in the queue with the others. With a shout the underwriter left his box and ran across the room to greet Mr Heath the broker (not Mr Heath the famous underwriter) waiting to show the Empire Exhibition risk to a leading underwriter. Others had seen him too, and pandemonium broke out. All business at Lloyd's stopped. Underwriters threw aside their books and rushed to join the crowd round the rather bewildered old gentleman. They were cheering him, they were patting him on the back, they were trying to shake his hand, they were telling him how wonderful it was to have him among them again after all this time. The demonstration lasted for several minutes-then Lloyd's went back to work and Cuthbert went on with his job. The queue in which he had been standing mysteriously disappeared so that he was in front of the underwriter. The latter glanced at the slip on which details of the proposed guarantee were shown, wrote down a large line on behalf of the syndicate he represented and initialled it, then with a broad smile he said "Nothing for you to pay Mr Heath." He crossed out the proposed rate shown on the slip and substituted '0%'. Cuthbert thanked him politely and went on to see the other underwriters. Each time the queue disappeared and every underwriter wrote his line, large or small, according to the size of his syndicate. All these hardheaded business men knew perfectly well that they were bound to face a heavy loss on the policy and they couldn't care less. This was their way of showing their affection. The underwriters at Lloyd's had every reason to be proud of the way in which they behaved on that famous day. It was perhaps their finest hour. The book does not indicate, whether there were any substantial claims or whether this risk was covered also during 1925.

Kind permission has been given by Messrs David & Charles Ltd., to reproduce from the book, also The Heath Lambert Group for which we acknowledge our thanks. For members who wish to read more of Cuthbert Heath, the details are as follows Cuthbert Heath Maker of the Modern Lloyds of London, by Antony Brown published 1980 ISBN.0-7153-7942-9.1.

© Exhibition Study Group 2003