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Edwin Preston Ltd. was established as a manufacturer of weights, handbells and laboratory apparatus in Kidderminster (Worcestershire) in 1853, later moving to premises in Jenner Street, Wolverhampton. Among other things, Edwin Preston Ltd supplied iron ring weights to the Army Ordnance Depot at Didcot between 1916 and 1917.

One of the difficulties caused by the First World War was obtaining supplies of German weights (especially gramme weights) since the onset of war. German-manufactured weights had dominated the European market up to this point, and Edwin Preston had to try to meet the demand to produce weights on a par with these. In a letter to the laboratory furnishers Baird & Tatlock (London) Ltd dated 28 December 1914, Edwin Preston commented

As Manufacturers we shall endeavour to keep the Country going to the very best of our ability but I expect there will have to be a little give & take until we have learnt our trade. The metric system has been the German standard for many years, practice makes perfect & nothing short of a miracle will enable the English Manufacturer straight off the reel to produce with certainty articles which have taken the Germans so many years to perfect.

Draft letter from Edwin Preston

Draft letter from Edwin Preston

In some ways, this was obviously beneficial to the company, as they were able to pick up a large volume of new customers. In October 1914, there was, as far as the company were aware, “no firm in this country making the weights”, so this was certainly a lucrative opportunity for further business. However, it proved to be quite a challenge to meet the high demands of their customers. Baird & Tatlock (London) Ltd insisted that

it will not be sufficient to make the weights equal in quality to any which can be procured from other English manufacturers: you must aim at imitation the quality of the German weights.”

Pricing was clearly an issue too. Correspondence from A. Gallenkamp & Co., Limited, challenged the firm.

You stated that you would not be able to supply these Weights quite as cheaply as German Houses. We hope that if you go very carefully into the matter, you will find that you can do so, for we have already received quotations from Birmingham, which compare very favourably with the former German prices.

Nevertheless, Edwin Preston Ltd survived and thrived, continuing to trade until at least 1981. You can view the records of the company at Wolverhampton Archives.