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Mountain, Sir Edward Mortimer, first baronetlocked

(1872–1948)
  • Robin Pearson

Mountain, Sir Edward Mortimer, first baronet (1872–1948), underwriter and insurance company manager, was born on 24 November 1872, the second son of Stanford Henry Mountain, a Southwark hop merchant, and his wife, Louisa, daughter of George Eve. Mountain was educated at Dulwich College, then joined a Lloyd's insurance broker's office. His father died in 1890, leaving an estate of £18,653. In 1897 Mountain married Evelyn Ellen Regina (d. 1950), daughter of August Siegle, a bookseller. Together with others, including his elder brother Henry, Mountain soon established his own broking firm, Hawley Mountain & Co., which in 1902 merged to form Gardner Mountain, specializing in Scandinavian hull risks. In 1904, when the firm took over the marine account of British Dominions to form British Dominions Marine Insurance Company, Mountain became its first managing director. This provided him with the base from which to launch a brilliant career as a manager and underwriter. By 1913 British Dominions had become one of Britain's largest marine insurance companies. Famed for being the one prominent underwriter who had declined the Titanic, Mountain also played a leading role in reducing competition in the market. In 1910 he became the first chairman of the Joint-Hull Committee, which brought together Lloyd's and the company underwriters to negotiate marine rates and policy terms. In 1920, when he retired from the committee, he was honoured as the first company underwriter to be elected a member of Lloyd's.

From an early date Mountain diversified, transforming his company into one of Britain's greatest general insurers. Fire and motor underwriting were begun in 1911. The profitability of wartime marine insurance and the rising equity values allowed Mountain to purchase three life-assurance offices—Eagle, Sceptre, and Star—within ten months in 1916–17. The combined company was renamed Eagle, Star and British Dominions. In 1921 the old connection was severed when Mountain sold his interest in Gardner Mountain. Diversification offset the post-war decline in marine insurance, and was also a way of attracting talented managers. In 1916 a new ‘all-in’ policy was successfully launched, the first to offer householders comprehensive cover against almost all domestic hazards for one premium with the minimum of conditions. This required innovative advertising and extensive marketing, both of which became hallmarks of Eagle Star.

Between the wars Mountain also established connections with several finance houses, notably Philip Hill & Partners, of which he became chairman after the death of Philip Hill in 1944. Several major schemes financed property and industrial companies, including the Odeon cinema chain and the development of the Covent Garden area of London in 1933. Through these associations Mountain also joined the boards of a large number of companies, notably United Drapery Stores and Mosul Oilfields.

Mountain combined the skills of a broker and underwriter with the managerial ability of a company chief executive. At his regular morning meetings, he expected his senior staff to be fully briefed to answer his questions. He was a small man with great authority and exuberance, which extended to a range of outside interests. He appreciated paintings and built up a fine collection of old masters and modern works. He owned properties in Somerset, Perthshire, the Isle of Wight, Surrey, and London, and his country gardens and conservatories produced some of the finest orchid shows in England. From his youth he bred homing pigeons. He owned several yachts, enjoyed golf and shooting, and was a keen angler on stretches of the Tay which he owned near his home at Dunkeld. In his later years, despite being confined by illness to a wheelchair, he continued to go salmon fishing until the day before his death. In 1934 he organized a watch for the Loch Ness monster. He was knighted in 1918 and created a baronet in 1922. He died on 22 June 1948 at Dunkeld House, Perthshire, and was cremated in a private ceremony; his ashes were buried at Stoke Poges in Buckinghamshire. He was survived by his wife and their son, Brian Edward Stanley (1899–1977), who became general manager of Eagle Star in 1947.

Sources

  • O. M. Westall, ‘Mountain, Sir Edward Mortimer’, DBB
  • The Times (24 June 1948)
  • The Times (25 June 1948)
  • The Times (28 June 1948)
  • Post Magazine and Insurance Monitor (3 July 1948), 652–3
  • Lloyd's List and Shipping Gazette (24 June 1948)
  • WWW, 1941–50
  • private information (2004)
  • S. D. Chapman, ‘Hogg Robinson: the rise of a Lloyd's broker’, The historian and the business of insurance, ed. O. M. Westall (1984), 173–89
  • Post Magazine and Insurance Monitor (1 Jan 1916), 12
  • The Times (30 June 1948)
  • The Times (11 Aug 1948)
  • museum brochure, Eagle Star Group Archives, Cheltenham

Archives

  • Eagle Star Group, Cheltenham, related artefacts and MSS

Film

  • Eagle Star Group Archives, Cheltenham, The magic scroll (1930)

Likenesses

  • A. E. Cooper, portrait, 1948, Eagle Star, William Kent House, Arlington Street, London

Wealth at Death

£582,824 7s. 3d.: probate, 3 Aug 1948, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

(1920–)
D. J. Jeremy, ed., , 5 vols. (1984–6)