Days when inspectors had plenty weighing on their minds
- Credit: Honiton museum
From 1834 the Honiton Borough Council was responsible for checking that all the town’s traders sold grain and liquids in accurate legal measures.
The brass bell weights on display in the museum range from 56 pounds to 1 pound avoirdupois weight. There was a different system for weighing gold, silver, platina, precious stones, and drugs in retail, which were sold at troy weight.
Weights were regularly checked and stamped by Inspectors. It was illegal to have weights that were made of lead or pewter and if they were inaccurate, they were stamped with the letter C or confiscated. Magistrates were empowered to impose penalties on people who used inaccurate weights and there was a £50 fine for using a weight with a false stamp.
In the 1890s, Sam Smith and Mr T Latham, the Inspectors of Weights and Measures were busy checking on traders in Honiton. Frederick Voysey, baker, and confectioner in the High Street was summoned for having defective spring balances, found guilty and was fined £1. James Midway, a butcher was in court for using four defective and unjust weights in Honiton market during Christmas week. He was fined 18s 2d and three of his four weights were ordered to be forfeited. James Brewer, a market gardener, of Fenny Bridges was charged with using a false 2lb weight whilst selling vegetables in the market, was fined 13s 2d, including costs.
Alfred Rowland, a butcher and farmer from Upottery had a street stall at Honiton market. He was summoned because only one weight out of seven was accurate. Six weights were seized and he was fined 1s 6d. Annie Hartnell, a High Street butcher was also summoned for using six defective weights and was fined £1. Francis Fayter a potato dealer from Ottery St. Mary, was fined £1 because his son was caught hawking potatoes in Honiton using a defective spring balance.
The Honiton Magistrates had a real dilemma when Edward Blackmore a fruit dealer from Ilminster was in court for selling brazil nuts on the first day of Honiton Fair. He had an unstamped measure which was 3 ounces short of a half pint. His father Richard Blackmore stated that it was not the custom to sell nuts by measure at fairs but by weight. Police Sergeant Thomas Cridland was consulted because he was considered to be knowledgeable about the customs at Fairs. He stated that hawkers never had scales and always measured their nuts with cups which they carried for that purpose. The case was dismissed.