The Lutine Bell

The Lutine Bell, weighing 106 pounds and measuring 18 inches in diameter, is synonymous with the name of Lloyd’s. Traditionally it has been rung to herald important announcements – one stroke for bad news and two for good.

The bell was carried on board the French frigate La Lutine (the sprite) which surrendered to the British at Toulon in 1793. Six years later as HMS Lutine and carrying a cargo of gold and silver bullion, she sank off the Dutch coast. The cargo, valued then at around £1 million, was insured by Lloyd’s underwriters who paid the claim in full.

There were numerous salvage attempts and in 1859 the wreck yielded its most important treasure - the ship’s bell. It was hung in Lloyd’s Underwriting Room at the Royal Exchange and was rung when news of overdue ships arrived.

Whenever a vessel became overdue, underwriters would ask a specialist broker to reinsure some of their liability based on the possibility of the ship becoming a total loss. When reliable information became available the ringing of the bell ensured that everyone with an interest in the risk became aware of the news simultaneously. The bell has hung in four successive Underwriting Rooms. In the Royal Exchange 1890s-1928, Leadenhall Street 1928-1958, Lime Street 1958-1986; and in the present Lloyd’s building since 1986.

The bell is no longer rung as the result of a vessel becoming “overdue”. Today, the ringing of the Lutine bell is generally limited to ceremonial occasions, although in rare instances exceptions are made.

A Lloyd's waiter ringing the Lutine Bell.
The Lutine bell was rung twice to herald the good news of the baby boy born to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. This image was provided by Bartek Olszewski.
Lloyd's rang the Lutine Bell to mark the birth of the Royal heir. Picture taken by Bartek Olszewski.

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325 years of Lloyd's: An Extraordinary History

Take a journey through Lloyd's extraordinary 325 year history. From sea vessels to space ships, body parts to natural catastrophes.

Royal visits to Lloyd's

 

The Queen Mother opens Lloyd's building (1957)

News reel of the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret visiting Lloyd's

Princess Margaret visiting the Lloyd's building 

Princess Margaret visits Lloyd's (1959)

News reel of the Princess visiting Lloyd's

King and Queen Open Lloyd's Building 

King George V and Queen Mary visit Lloyd's (1928)

A silent movie showing the monarchs visiting Lloyd's