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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): MCC/PC
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1904-1965
Level of description: subfonds
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Extent: 6.43 linear metres
Name of creator(s): MCC | Middlesex County Council x Middlesex County Council


Administrative/Biographical history:

A section within the Clerk's Department became the Public Control Department in 1920 and existed until 1965. The Department reported to the General Purposes Committee and the Head of the Department was the Chief of Weights and Measures Staff 1908-1920 and Chief Officer of the Public Control Department 1920-1965.

Weights and Measures:
Before 1889 the Justices of the Peace had powers and responsibilities over the verification and inspection of weights and measures. The Weights and Measures Act 1878 provided for a national standardization of weights and measures and the Weights and Measures Act 1889 provided legislation for the verification of weighing machines. Under the Local Government Act 1888 the County Council became responsible for the inspection and verification of weighing and measuring apparatus used by traders in Middlesex. Under the terms of the Middlesex County Council Bye-laws the County Council also had responsibility for weighing coke. Further responsibilities were added so that by 1965 three quarters of the Departments work was concerned with weights and measures functions.

The functions of this section were:
1 To keep and maintain in good condition the weights, scales and balances used by the County Council inspectors
2 To test apparatus to be used by traders
3 To check the quantities of pre-packed goods in wholesale and retail transactions. Foods not pre-packed, coal, sand, and ballast in retail transactions also had to be checked.

The County Council owned and operated two public weighbridges at Brentford and Willesden. As a highway authority the County Council was also responsible for ensuring that overweight vehicles were not driven on roads and this work was dealt with by the Public Control Department.

Food and Drugs:
Here too the Justices of the Peace had responsibilities to protect the public against the adulteration of food. The County Council inherited these functions in 1889. During the lifetime of the County Council these responsibilities were added to and consolidated. The Department was responsible for ensuring that food and drugs sold were genuine; that they did not contain unlawful substances; that they were correctly labelled; and that the special provisions for the production and sale of milk were carried out. Milk was the substance most commonly tested.

Middlesex County Council was the biggest Food and Drugs authority in the country and resisted attempts by its local authorities to take over these functions. The Department established a system of informal sampling (formal sampling had to be done by the County Analyst and was more expensive). These departmental tests were made as preliminary surveys to decide on the best selection of formal samples to be procured. Under Food and Drugs legislation the County Council was obliged to appoint a County Analyst. The County Analyst was not a full time employee.

Merchandise Marks:
The Merchandise Marks Act 1887 prohibited the use of false or misleading trade descriptions being applied to goods. The Merchandise Marks Act 1926 gave food and drugs authorities permission to use this legislation in relation to imported foods. This legislation was consolidated later in the century.

Pharmacy and Poisons:
The Pharmacy and Poisons Act 1933 made local authorities responsible for the control of poison sellers (other than pharmacists) and poisons in Part II of the Poison List. The Pharmaceutical Society was responsible for pharmacists. Stringent provisions regarding the packaging, storage, labelling and sale of poisons were introduced. Poisons on the Part II list were mainly domestic in type - ammonia, carbolic disinfectants, insecticides and weed-killers.

The Public Control Department:
Until 1920 the work of the Department was done as a section of the Clerk's Department. In 1920 the Chief of Weights and Measures staff became the Chief Officer of the Public Control Department. The Department was, by the 1950s, run on two tiers with a small Headquarters staff and below that three divisional offices administered on an area basis.

Western Division: Brentford and Chiswick; Ealing; Feltham; Hayes and Harlington; Heston and Isleworth; Southall; Staines; Sunbury-on-Thames; Twickenham; Yiewsley and West Drayton.
Central Division: Acton; Harrow; Hendon; Ruislip-Northwood; Uxbridge; Wembley; Willesden.
Eastern Division: Edmonton; Enfield; Finchley; Friern Barnet; Hornsey; Potters Bar; Southgate; Tottenham; Wood Green.

Divisional offices were in Willesden, Brentford and Tottenham. At each divisional office thee was a Divisional Chief Inspector; a Senior Inspector of Weights and Measures with up to half a dozen inspectors; a Coal and Sale of Food officer and trained assistants. The direction of policy came from the County Headquarters. On the abolition of the County Council in 1965 the functions of the Public Control Department passed to the new London Boroughs.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the Middlesex County Council Public Control Department, 1904-1965, including personal papers of Chief Officer John O'Keefe (1950-1960) including files on the foods and food standards commission, food labelling, weights and measures regulations, Consumer's Advisory Council, samples sent to the public analyst, articles on food and drugs legislation, correspondence, photographs of the work of the department and examples of labels and forms used by the department.

Papers relating to food standards including files on coffee, gelatine, fish paste, ice cream, margarine, mustard, salad cream and mayonnaise, jams and jellies, beverages, wines, spirits and liquors, bread, milk, butter, cream, yoghurt, confectionary, vegetables, meat, eggs, soups, herbs and spices, cakes, pies and biscuits, slimming foods, vinegars and condiments, cheese, cereals, crisps, honey, soya products, vitamins. Also files on drugs, cosmetics, pollen tablets, and animal fats.

Papers relating to merchandise marks including legislation; notes regarding legal points; and files regarding honey, fruit and vegetables, meat, poultry, butter, turpentine, bleach and fabrics. Papers relating to the interpretation and labelling of poisons.

Papers relating to weights and measures including regulations; notes for the guidance of inspectors; correspondence and enquiries relating to sand and ballast; files regarding coke, coal, liquid fuels and lubricating oils; files regarding weighing equipment and measuring instruments including weighbridges.

Also registers and index cards of infringements; reports of infringements and legal appeals.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

The archives are arranged into the following series: MCC/PC/CO Chief Officer's files; MCC/PC/FD Food and Drugs; MCC/PC/INF Infringements against Public Control legislation; MCC/PC/MM Merchandising Marks; MCC/PC/PP Pharmacies and Poisons; MCC/PC/WM Weights and Measures.

Conditions governing access:

These records are available for public inspection, although records containing personal information are subject to access restrictions under the UK Data Protection Act, 1998.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright to these records rests with the Corporation of London.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Acquired with the records of its parent authority, the Middlesex County Council, and with successor authorities.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

For further information on the history of the Middlesex County Council please see Middlesex by Sir Clifford Radcliffe (2 editions, 1939 and 1953), LMA Library reference 97.09 MID; and The County Council of the Administrative County of Middlesex: 76 years of local government, 1 April 1889 to 31 March 1965, by Middlesex County Council (1965), LMA library reference S97.09 MID.

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
April to June 2009

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