WHEN did Britain adopt the metrication system of weights – 1896, 1951 or 1995?

In fact it was 1896 that the British Parliament passed an Act, which said the official system of weights would be kilograms and grams. However, the Act did not make its use compulsory.

Then, in 1879, the Weights and Measures Act gave precise definitions to ounces, pounds, stones, tons etc. If you think the differences between the Imperial and metric weight systems was and is confusing, what went before was even worse as two reports in the Gazette pointed out.

In 1827 at Ulverston market, oats and barley were sold by the ‘Carlisle Bushel’, which was four pecks twenty-four quarts each. A bushel of wheat was sold as six pecks, which was four and a half quarts each.

In Kendal, oats were sold by the ‘Winchester Bushel,’ which was slightly smaller in weight. At Lancaster, wheat was sold by the ‘Carlisle Bushel’ but oats were sold as in Kendal.

At Preston and Garstang, wheat was measured by the ‘Windle’ or 220 pounds and oats by the bushel of 45 lbs.

Barley was sold by the ‘Windle’ in all the towns except Lancaster, Preston and Garstang, which used the bushel.

The ‘Winchester Bushel’ is still used as a measure in America and even there differing states have different definitions as to its weight.

If that wasn’t enough, in 1833 another complaint arose over the selling of fruit. In Kendal, fruit was sold in ‘Panniers’ and ‘Half Panniers’, a sort of oval-shaped shallow depth basket.

However, there was no definition of the size of the pannier and some stallholders sold their goods in heaped panniers while others – those after the biggest profit – leveled the fruit to be in line with the top edge of the basket.

There was a similar problem with potatoes, which were also sold in panniers but there the discussion took place as to whether the soil, which covered the potatoes, should be included or should be removed before the sale.

Another Act of Parliament dispensed with the heaped measure in 1834 but it was not until 45 years later, in October 1879, that the Government of the day introduced statutory measures by which all scales could be checked.

The differences in the weight of bread also provided cause for complaint in April 1879.

In Kendal a loaf in one baker costing six pence weighed two pounds but in another shop the same sixpence would buy a 3lb loaf, and in Preston Ulverston and Barrow 3d would buy you a 2lb loaf.

In modern times we still use Imperial as well as metric measurements but nowadays most traders put both prices on their tickets.