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The database used in this lookup tool is derived from a table published in C. Ricketts (1996): 'Marks and Marking of Weights and Measures of the British Isles', with some minor corrections and re-organisation.

A Brief Introduction to Verification Marks

One of the joys of owning and researching antique holloware is that often we can work out where in the British Isles the object was used. Sometimes inscriptions help us, but often we must rely on verification marks to pin down a locality.

Vessels of British origin intended for measuring or serving a given capacity (liquid or dry) will often bear verification marks of some kind. These marks served to confirm that the vessel met a given capacity standard. Some marks were applied by the makers – especially by pewterers - but the majority were applied by local weights and measures inspectors.

The marks may be applied in various ways, depending in part on the material from which the vessel is constructed. Pewter and brass vessels usually have the mark stamped into the metal (though very rarely one encounters examples of etched marks on pewter), and stamping was also used on copper and tinplate vessels, but in this case it was common practice to apply the die to a blob of solder rather than the vessel itself. Wooden measures often bear branded marks, while ceramics commonly have transfer printed marks or may incorporate wooden or lead plugs to facilitate marking. Perhaps most familiar today is the marking of glass vessels - acid etched marks are a common site on pub glassware.

Verification marks are known from the 16th century, but it was in the 19th century that the practice of capacity inspection became commonplace, as local authorities took on responsibility for what we would now call consumer protection. Each metrological authority developed its own style of mark, often drawing on local heraldic sources such as the arms of a borough or county. Others adopted marks based on area names, initials or abbreviations, or the names or initials of inspectors, and a few chose devices of obscure origin. In many cases the marks incorporated the royal cypher (e.g. VR for Victoria Regina; WIV for William IV) below a crown. It is impractical to illustrate all the pre-UV number verification marks - there are hundreds - but the majority have been catalogued in Ricketts (1996).

This ad hoc system of marking could be abused, especially because there was no centralised record of marks in use, and in 1879 legislation was introduced to regularise practices. The Uniform Verification Number was promulgated as a nationally recognised standard for metrological authorities, and from 1879 onwards authorities were issued with numbers. However, not all authorities adopted the UV numbering system immediately, and some continued using their own marks for many years.

Until 1963, UV numbers were required to be accompanied by the cypher of the reigning monarch, which helps date marks. In many cases, date years are also included, though this was not compulsory until 1907.

The UV numbering system described here applies to England, Scotland and Wales, though in Ireland a similar but separate numbering system was developed. You can distinguish most Irish UV number stamps by the inclusion of a crowned harp in the mark. The Irish numbering system is not yet fully documented, and the numbers in the lookup tool above do not apply to Ireland.

The tool above enables you to enter a UV number, and find the name(s) of the authorities to which it applied. The database incorporates all UV numbers allocated up to 1980. Authority names are accompanied by usage dates. Note that in some cases UV numbers were re-allocated. This happened when local authorities were re-organised (e.g. UV no. 21 was allocated to St. Marylebone in 1879, then became a London County number when the county was created in 1890, and was then allocated to the Borough of Camden when London County was disaggregated in 1965), but also occurred when one local authority surrendered a number, which was then sometimes re-allocated to a geographically distant area (e.g. UV no. 60 was allocated to Cheshire between 1879 and 1894, but then transferred to Glasgow from 1894 onwards). Where usage dates have no terminal year, the allocation applied for the life of the authority.