W F O (Westminster Fire Office)

W F O (Westminster Fire Office)

The Westminster Fire Office (WFO) was founded at Bedford Street in Westminster, London in 1717 as an insurance company to provide compensation for losses from fire.

The company restricted its business to the London area. Almost all types of property, from domestic to industrial, could be insured. The WFO operated its own fire brigade. The part time firefighters wore uniforms with copper badges and were equipped with hooks, axes and crowbars.

The badge of the WFO was the portcullis and Prince of Wales’s feathers. It was adopted from the design of Roger Askew who was a coach painter and director of the company. The portcullis was taken from the Arms of the City of Westminster and the feathers were from the heraldic badge of the Prince of Wales. The WFO badge was used for seals, notepaper, policies and other documents and on staff uniforms, as well as being placed on all company office furniture. The badge became known as a “fire mark” which, when cast in lead and gilded, was affixed to every building that was insured. A house was not considered secure until the mark was in position, and additionally it served as an advertisement for the company.

In 1906 the WFO was absorbed into Alliance Assurance and continued to operate under its own name as a subsidiary of the company.

In 1959 Alliance merged with the Sun Life Assurance Society to form Sun Alliance. Today, the business is part of RSA, currently the second largest insurer in the UK.