A bland and unremarkable office block in Southwark has under a pile of grime a rather odd memorial.

A very grimy sign reads “This window pediment was taken in 1979 from the former building on this site. It is retained in commemoration of RICHARD COURTNEY BALDING under whose Chairmanship this building was commissioned”

The previous building was occupied by United Friendly Insurance Company – now part of Royal London. Although generally given as being at 42 Southwark Bridge Road, they seem to have expanded into 38 as well in the 1950s.

It’s difficult to be sure where the stone pediment came from, but there is a possibility that it actually came from above the entrance if we go by this drawing that was used on their letterheads in the 1950s.

That would certainly explain why this particular lump of stone was saved, as it was the one their employees walked under every day. You can also see that the Managing Director at the time was a Mr R.C. Balding – who presumably rose to Chairman when the old building was torn down.

The current building, presumably erected in 1980 is now host to a data centre provider, so behind the blank glass facade lies rows upon rows of computer servers, supported by what looks like a gigantic air conditioner unit on the roof.

It may not be there for much longer though – there are plans to demolish the entire block and rebuild it.

The stone pediment is frankly not that significant, and will probably end up either in the insurance firm’s basement and forgotten, or sold off to an architectural salvage firm to decorate someone’s garden.

But it’s curiosities like that delight when ambling around the streets – it’s not architecturally or historically important, the person it’s named for barely exists in history and it’s covered in rubbish and grime. In other words, it’s wonderful.


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  1. Andrew says:

    As far as I can make out, the United Friendly Insurance Company Limited was founded in Southwark in 1908, by Edwin Richard Balding (died 1941).

    I believe ERC’s son was Richard Courtney Balding (1907-1980), so this commemoration makes sense. There is a short tribute in the 1980 annual accounts. By that time, the company had over 5,000 employees.

    RCB worked for his father’s company from 1926, became managing director when his father died in 1941, and continued as chairman after retiring as an executive director in 1977. The 1980 accounts say he was “a sincere and kindly man with an astute understanding of human nature. He will be greatly missed by all those who knew and worked with him as a most respected colleague and to many a friend.”

    RCB’s son Richard Edwin Balding (born 1947) was already a director of United Friendly Insurance Limited in 1976, the oldest record available inline from Companies House. He became managing director in 1985, and chairman in 1994. He remained so until 1997.

    The company had become a public limited company in 1981, and then changed back to a private limited company in 2006. It merged with Refuge Assurance to form United Assurance in 1996, and the merged group was acquired by Royal London in 2000.

    • Andrew says:

      Oh, damn – the first ERC should be ERB. And “inline” should be “online”. I blame the proofreader.


    A lovely exhibit, but why do people throw rubbish about??

  3. Retrogeist says:

    “The current building, presumably erected in 1980 is now host to a data centre provider, so behind the blank glass facade lies rows upon rows of computer servers, supported by what looks like a gigantic air conditioner unit on the roof.”

    This reminds me of the AT&T Long Lines Building in Manhattan. Are you familiar with it?

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