The Lloyd's of London insurance market crashed to its second-biggest ever annual loss last year.

This comes after it absorbed claims from major natural catastrophes including Japan's earthquake and heavy floods in Thailand.

Lloyd's, which traces its origins back 324 years to a London coffee house, made a loss of £516m sterling in 2011, it said today.

This compared with a £2.2 billion profit the previous year.

The loss, reflecting the aggregate financial performance of the 80 competing insurance syndicates that make up the Lloyd's market, is second only to the £3.11 billion deficit it reported for 2001 following the September 11 attacks in the US.

"Make no mistake, 2011 was a difficult year for the insurance industry," Lloyd's chief executive Richard Ward said in a statement. "Given the scale of the claims, a loss is unsurprising."

Last year was the second most expensive catastrophe year ever for the insurance industry, with total disaster-related claims of $107 billion, according to insurance broker Aon Benfield.