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The Lutine Bell at the Lloyds Insurance Building

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Further to my recent blog on the Lloyd’s building, one of its famous fixtures is the Lutine bell, an historic relic from the early days when Lloyd’s was predominantly a marine and cargo insurance market.

Located in the centre of the underwriting room within the Lloyd’s building, it sits grandly and is widely regarded as the symbol of Lloyd’s.

Whilst it is predominantly only rung these days on ceremonial occasions, its purpose was very different many years ago.


In 1799, HMS Lutine was travelling off the Dutch coast when she sank, taking with her a cargo of gold and silver worth over £1,000,000. Six years previously ‘La Lutine’, a French frigate had been surrendered to the British, La Lutine being French for ‘Sprite’.

The cargo she was carrying when she sank had been insured at Lloyd’s and the claim was fully paid out. The ship’s bell was recovered in a salvage expedition in 1859 after many previous attempts to salvage the vessel’s cargo.

The bell has always subsequently hung in the Underwriting Rooms at Lloyd’s. Whenever a ship was overdue or late into port, Underwriters would traditionally try to reinsure part of their liability in case the ship was to be written off.

Once reliable word of a ship’s fate had come in, the bell was rung so that all parties concerned would know simultaneously what the outcome was, if the ship had arrived safely or indeed if it and the goods it was carrying had perished.

If the bell rang once, it was bad news and if it rang twice it was good news. The bell always rings twice here at, where you can always find a great deal on goods in transit insurance. The business insurance comparison site!

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