Friday 14 June 2024
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Collection of Victorian weights and measures found in County Hall to be auctioned

Nottinghamshire County Council has announced it will auction off a trove of historical metrology equipment, once used by trading standards teams and going back to Victorian times.

Antique collectors and historical enthusiasts will have the opportunity to own a piece of Nottinghamshire’s trading past under plans announced by Nottinghamshire County Council.

A recent inventory of old metrology equipment held by the council’s Trading Standards Service has identified a total of 281 items currently in storage, including a wide range of weights, weighing scales, capacity measures and various other pieces of obsolete equipment. This Aladdin’s cave of historical metrology equipment, some of which dates back to Victorian times, will be put up for auction during the next 12 months. Many of the items are of significant local historical value, bearing inscriptions such as “The County of Nottingham” and some have inspectors’ stamps from as far back as 1880.

The equipment itself is now obsolete for several reasons, including the shift from imperial to metric measures and advances in technology. While the equipment might be redundant, “Weights and Measures inspectors” continue to play a key role within the Trading Standards service, as they have done since responsibility for this area was given to county councils as part of the Local Government Act 1888. Today officers use more modern equipment to carry out inspections of suppliers and retailers across Nottinghamshire to make sure that residents are getting what they pay for in the quantities stated.

Funds raised from the sale of the auctioned items will be used to contribute towards the costs of the council’s Trading Standards service. This includes protecting residents against rogue traders, supporting businesses to enable them trade well and helping to manage the health and welfare of the county’s livestock.

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In addition to the auction, the council plans to select a few key pieces that will be displayed in local museums, county council buildings and archive collections across the county to give residents the opportunity to appreciate the craftmanship behind these historical items.

Councillor Gordon Wheeler, Deputy Cabinet Member for Communities and Public Health at Nottinghamshire County Council, said: “We were aware that we had lots of old metrology equipment when we carried out a recent inventory of our storage space, however we didn’t expect to find such amazing collection of historic weights and measures. There are so many wonderful looking items, including Victorian apothecaries’ weights, beam scales and egg grading poises, still in their original boxes.

“We are looking forward to being able to showcase some of these key artefacts to celebrate our local metrology history. And for antique collectors and enthusiasts, the future auction will give them a unique chance to purchase a bit of Nottinghamshire’s history.”

Further details about the auction will be released at a later date, once the plans have been finalised.

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Box of Apothecaries Weights (1880 VR stamps)

Funds will support the Trading Standards teams of today

The proposed sale, scheduled for the 2024/25 financial year, is part of a broader initiative to declutter storage spaces within County Hall and other premises while generating funds to support the council’s Trading Standards Service.

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Set of 6 brass bell weights 56lb to 2lb) (VR stamps 1886 and 1882)

The decision comes in light of recent inventory findings, which uncovered the equipment languishing in the basement of County Hall and various garages and office buildings.

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One yard length measure in wooden box

Some items date back to 1880

This collection, with items dating back to Victorian days and dated 1880 in some cases, includes an eclectic mix of weights and capacity measures, many of which bear inscriptions such as “The County of Nottingham” alongside inspectors’ stamps. This historical equipment is of course now redundant by metrication and advances in technology.

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De Grave boxed beam scale (thought to be from 1898)

Nottinghamshire’s move follows in the footsteps of other Trading Standards Authorities, with past auctions fetching between £25,000 and £50,000. Such figures hint at the potential financial boon for the council, which aims to channel any proceeds towards the 2024/25 Trading Standards Service budget.

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Oertling precision balance

Public display for some of the items

In addition to the auction, the council plans to preserve a select few pieces for public display across local museums and county buildings. This initiative not only aims to declutter valuable space but also to pay homage to the local history and craftsmanship embedded in these instruments.

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W & T Jackson & Co Ltd. Set of 8 egg grading poises in box.

Auction of the antique metrology equipment

The auction is expected to attract collectors and history enthusiasts alike, drawn by the unique opportunity to own a piece of Nottinghamshire’s trading past. With the council in the process of selecting an auction house, anticipation builds over the potential discoveries among the 281 listed items.

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3 foot measure in decimal intervals (Bakelite).
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Mettler AE200MC mass comparator
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Trading Standards: Old metrology and other equipment
There are 281 listed items in total and some of those items have multiples pieces of equipment within them.
The table gives a breakdown of numbers by type.

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