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Rich Kid View Drop Down
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    Posted: 13 March 2013 at 9:03pm

North British and Mercantile Insurance and its subsidiary, Railway Passengers Assurance, purchased Newland Park near Chalfont St Giles Buckinghamshire in April 1939 and erected office buildings, dining rooms, kitchens and living accommodation in its grounds to house over 500 staff.

The property was ready for occupation in August 1939 and its facilities included air raid shelters, a fire station, elevated and underground water tanks, allotments, a kitchen garden, greenhouses, bowling green, putting green, tennis courts, carpenters shop, rifle range, cycle sheds and an office bus. Staff evacuated there formed their own concert party, the Newland Players, whose first performance took place in February 1940.

Sketch%20plan%20of%20North%20British%20and%20Mercantile%20wartime%20headquarters%20at%20Newland%20Park.

Sketch plan of North British and Mercantile wartime headquarters at Newland Park.

After WW2 the company moved back to the City of London, in offices at 61 Threadneedle Street, EC1.


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Rich Kid View Drop Down
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Joined: 11 January 2005
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rich Kid Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 March 2013 at 10:53pm
An interesting WW2 memory from a staff member who had not relocated to Newland Park but had stayed at the City of London office:

Wartime at head office

WW2 10 November 2010
Subjects: Home front 

  • Written by J W (Tim) Cheal of North British & Mercantile, 1949.

In 1939 when head office, London, evacuated to Newland Park, Chalfont St Giles, I was one of the few left at “61” to hold the fort. From nine till five we worked more or less cheerfully in an atmosphere which, to say the least, was rather dreary.

My colleagues were good scouts all: there was Garden - happy, round faced “Smiler” Garden - with whom it was a pleasure to work; Ernie Salter, never at a loss for a word, with his great wealth of personal experiences; Reg Lawrence, who bubbled with enthusiasm over the simplest job; Mr Taylor, “the boss,” as good a chief as you could ever wish to meet; and I mustn't forget Mrs Draper, charming and helpful always.

Others came and others went, but we went on forever! HO inspectors used us as a permanent camping ground, while the refugees from bombed out Stratford and Mincing Lane offices joined us subsequently. The basement was turned into a city corporation air-raid shelter, and in my capacity as one of the official shelter wardens I occasionally met some rum ‘uns from outside. Our duties were many and varied, and believe me we had plenty to do.

There was the twice daily scramble to get the messenger away to Newland Park at 10am and again at 2pm. He took the mail, cash, and other sundries (business and otherwise). We had requests for all kinds of things, ranging from lighter-flints to water softeners. We, of course, had to attend at the counter.

One incident I often recall: a very dignified gentleman came in and I greeted him with a smile and a jolly “Good morning” unfortunately he stuttered, and it was some moments before he was able to return my greeting. We both persevered pleasantly and then he astonished me by asking for a stamp. Assuming him to be a client of the company, and with our motto “Civility and Service” in mind, I took out my wallet to oblige, which surprised him very much.

Yes, he had mistaken us for the post office next door. This was quite a common error during the war!

On another occasion a soldier strode boldly in with a parcel under his arm, but suddenly sensing something wrong, he took a swift glance round and said in a loud voice, “Blimey, the North British. What a ruddy fool I am!”

I remember ferreting one day in the sub-basement for some documents urgently required by a department at Newland Park. Suddenly the office shook, the basement shook, and oh how I shook! Something had fallen close enough to “61” to be rather unpleasant. Without much dignity I bolted upstairs to be greeted by Garden: “Oh, Tim, you heard us knock, then!”

It wasn't all comedy, however. One morning I arrived at the office prepared for the usual cheery greetings and braced for any of the customary leg pulls, but heard that Lawrence, who often arrived very early, had not turned up. I later learned with deep regret that he had been killed in an air raid the night before.

Like our colleagues at Newland Park we had our transport troubles. After a severe bombing, kiosks appeared in the city where patient transport officials gave advice upon “how to get home from here.” I remember on one of these occasions approaching one and enquiring about transport to Tonbridge. The official looked at me and said, “You've had it, chum.” that meant the line had been jiggered up, so that night I slept on a stretcher in the basement at head office and woke to find that cold breakfast, including cold tea, was on offer. The gas main had been hit!



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