Lloyd’s of London


Intriguingly, the name ‘Lloyd’ that has become so well known both within the insurance and marine classification industries, appears to have originally had very different business interests. Edward Lloyd was a coffee shop owner at Lombard Street, in the City of London in the late 17th century. The import of this product was courtesy of the Honourable East India Company: also shipping tea and chocolate to the UK as well. Not unique to those connected with shipping by any means, these houses became fashionable centres of commercial activities, but underwriters and other interested parties frequented Lloyd’s. So the industry consolidated in this pocket of the City and has remained, although it has relatively recently expanded down to Aldgate and the Minories which had previously been rough areas of industrial manufacture, wholesaling, retailing, warehousing and plebeian accommodation (including that for mariners between voyages).

Although modern communications, it could be argued, have made the old ways of face to face business unnecessary, insurance people can be routinely seen going to and from the present ‘market’ at Lime Street. (Easy to spot, they are normally suited and carrying folders of documents, sometime struggling under their loads: like professional packhorses!)


Edward Lloyd, entrepreneur that he was, briefly published a news-sheet, Lloyd’s News, in the late 1690s. (Later he also seems to have published Lloyd’s Weekly London Newspaper.) However, in regards to shipping the 1734 the first editions of the famous Lloyd’s List appeared: though Edward Lloyd had nothing to do with this, having died in 1726. Unfortunately, the earliest editions have not survived. So, from modest beginnings came this august company. From 1811 a network of agents, both in the U.K. and abroad began and the rest, it is said, is history!


The movements of vessels are one highly important aspect in these periodicals. These can be found variously, but generally in most detail in Lloyd’s List. Although I have no personal experience of these, many of the 18th century copies (from 1741) have been, or are in the process of being indexed. However it was not until the mid 19th century that Lloyd’s List comes into its own. Between 1838 and 1927 there were contemporaneous indexes compiled to identify movements in the above publication. So, it should be noted that while entries are often similar, some individual entries cannot be found in copies of Lloyd’s Weekly Index.

Also, there had been competitors, such as the Shipping Gazette, renamed the Shipping Gazette and Commercial Advertiser, which was certainly active in the 1830s but appears to have gone by 1846 (when the first Newspaper Press Directory appeared). Whether William Mitchell had anything to do with the above operation I do not know, but the publication of Mitchell’s Maritime Register as of 1856 meant substantial competition. There had been other titles, such Mitchell’s Steam-Shipping Journal between 1859 and 1869, but the Shipping and Mercantile Gazette became the group’s daily (with a weekly summary also).

Without going into the corporate histories too deeply, the two groups merged their publication operations in 1884. The result was initially the Shipping Gazette and Lloyd’s List Summary as of 1884, but with marketing further titles came and went. All of these can be helpful in tracing movements and much else, although it must be stated that the Guildhall Library does not hold copies of Mitchell’s Mercantile Register before 1880.

It must also be noted that there were also separate confidential wartime listings of movements, in both world wars. Certainly for the First World War, there are various complications.

Accidents involving vessels, or ‘casualties’ as they are known within the marine insurance world are also to be found in the same and other Lloyd’s records. Earlier 19th century reports can and often were of few words. However, with improved communications, specifically the laying of undersea telegraph cables between important centres in the expanding Empire and in the 20th century the adoption of wireless telegraphy; as well as other factors, such as greatly increased values involved (of both hulls and cargoes); often far more information was recorded in these reports. (It must be stressed that it can be seen that this was more a reflection of the successful business operations of Lloyd’s of London, rather than of shipping companies spending more money informing the industry of their problems though.) Once again, during wartime separate listings were developed which covered accidental and intended losses.

Whilst Lloyd’s List dealt very much with day-to-day market conditions, Mitchell’s and the Shipping Gazette were ‘newspapers’ in the normal understanding. Major happenings within the industries involved were commented on and this included events about vessels and crews.

As an aid to underwriting Lloyd’s also maintained registers of ocean-going master mariners’ service as of 1869. And, for their own reasons this institution also awarded medals for gallantry.

The information for this section came principally from Charles Wright and Charles Ernest Fayle: A History of Lloyd’s (London: The Corporation of Lloyd’s, 1928). Additional elements came from the Newspaper Press Directory.



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