'My staff are best in the world' - esteemed firm to close after 160 years

Edward Allen, of Russell Scientific Instruments in Dereham, which is set to close

Edward Allen, of Russell Scientific Instruments in Dereham, which is set to close. He is pictured with a barograph made by the company - Credit: Danielle Booden

A Norfolk firm renowned across the globe for its expertise in making thermometers and barometers is set to close after 160 years.

Russell Scientific Instruments, based in Dereham, will cease to exist come the end of May. 

Craig Kitkney, machine shop manager, working at Russell Scientific Instruments in Dereham

Craig Kitkney, machine shop manager, working at Russell Scientific Instruments in Dereham - Credit: Danielle Booden

The company was established in 1862 and has, over the years, made and repaired tens of thousands of unique products. 

But owner Edward Allen learned in recent months that the business would need to leave its home in Rash's Green after the landlord opted to sell up. 

And the decision has been taken not to seek new premises following a change in the law relating to Russell Scientific's main business: using the chemical element mercury in its instruments. 

Angela Savory-Moll, skilled factory worker, working at Russell Scientific Instruments on Rash's Green, Dereham

Angela Savory-Moll, skilled factory worker, working at Russell Scientific Instruments on Rash's Green, Dereham - Credit: Danielle Booden

Despite Mr Allen's best efforts, which saw him travel three times to Brussels to fight for his staff, the European Union banned the sale of mercury thermometers to protect the environment. 

"What they wanted was to ban anything to do with mercury," said the 72-year-old. 

"I argued we should still at least be able to carry out repairs. There are pieces of craftsmanship which have been in museums and people's houses for 200 years.

Edward Allen outside Russell Scientific Instruments on Rash's Green Industrial Estate, Dereham

Edward Allen outside Russell Scientific Instruments on Rash's Green Industrial Estate, Dereham - Credit: Danielle Booden

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"I even pointed to the Queen's wonderful collection of mercury barometers and said she would not be amused. 

"Ultimately I won that battle, but I didn't win the war.

"By taking away the industrial side of making thermometers, our business completely shrank. Basically, we can't keep going with just the odd repair coming in."

Despite the UK now being outside the EU and no longer covered by its rules, the British government has its own laws closely regulating the use of mercury.

Trevor Brackpool, cabinet maker, working at Russell Scientific Instruments in Dereham

Trevor Brackpool, cabinet maker, working at Russell Scientific Instruments in Dereham - Credit: Danielle Booden

Russell Scientific will shut with a total of five employees on its books.

Three of them hail from Dereham and have worked there ever since leaving school at the age of 16. 

Today, they are experts in their field and are still shipping items all over the world, including recently to Sri Lanka and Nigeria. 

Russell Scientific Instruments in Dereham is set to close after 160 years in business

Russell Scientific Instruments in Dereham is set to close after 160 years in business - Credit: Danielle Booden

In January, one of the company's barograph's detected a pressure change caused by an undersea volcanic eruption 10,000 miles away in Tonga.

"This firm prides itself on accuracy, and that's why we always kept going," added Mr Allen.

"The repairs we do - there is nobody else left to do them. My staff are the best in the world and closing is really sad because this is a fantastic little industry."

Russell Scientific Instruments, based in Dereham, is set to close for good after 160 years

Russell Scientific Instruments, based in Dereham, is set to close for good after 160 years - Credit: Danielle Booden

Stephen Frost, glass blower, working at Russell Scientific Instruments on Rash's Green Industrial Estate, Dereham

Stephen Frost, glass blower, working at Russell Scientific Instruments on Rash's Green Industrial Estate, Dereham - Credit: Danielle Booden

Edward Allen, owner of Russell Scientific Instruments in Dereham

Edward Allen, owner of Russell Scientific Instruments in Dereham - Credit: Danielle Booden

Angela Savory-Moll working at Russell Scientific Instruments in Dereham

Angela Savory-Moll working at Russell Scientific Instruments in Dereham - Credit: Danielle Booden

The glass blowing station at Russell Scientific Instruments on Rash's Green Industrial Estate, Dereham

The glass blowing station at Russell Scientific Instruments on Rash's Green Industrial Estate, Dereham - Credit: Danielle Booden