Mercury ban forces closure of specialist Norfolk firm after 160 years

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Getting the latest weather forecast these days is very much a science, and with modern technology all you need is a quick glance at your smart phone.

However, for decades many people relied on a barometer at home to say if it was going to be sunny or to expect rain.

Now it's the end of an era at Russell Scientific Instruments as the production and repair of thermometers and barometers comes to an end after 160 years.

The firm, based at Dereham in Norfolk, employs five people and is one of the last places in England making traditional precision instruments to help forecast the weather.

Craig Kitney has worked for the firm for 15 years Credit: ITV Anglia

Machine shop Manager Craig Kitney has spent the last 15 years of his life working for the company.

He said: "You have to be sympathetic sometimes to them, they're very old and they're somebody's pride and joy. You do your best to try and get it working as well as you can.

"Some of these are very accurate pieces of precision equipment. They were, and they still are - if they're just given a bit of TLC."

Glass blowing at Russell Scientific Instruments Credit: ITV Anglia

The business is known worldwide for building precision instruments, as well as repair work.

Everything from glass blowing to the finishing woodwork is done at the factory in Norfolk.

Recently they've made specialist items for met offices in Sri Lanka and Nigeria, while pilots landing at Norwich Airport get readings from equipment produced by the firm.

Owner Edward Allen told ITV News Anglia: "It's a passion and a craft, because my staff are the best at what they do. They're so skilled and we get work from America, Australia and we're the last people doing some of this work in the world."

A combination of a ban on the use of Mercury in new products and being forced to leave its current spacious factory has led to the decision to close.

Mr Allen added: "I'm afraid that the way the world has changed, the anti-Mercury brigade have won and electronic measurement means that basically business is dying."

Owner Edward Allen inspecting some of their repair work Credit: ITV Anglia

The closure will mean the end of specialist skills built up over generations.

Their top of the range barograph is the only one of its type currently made in England.

It recorded the storms which hit the UK earlier this year, and also an underwater volcanic eruption in Tonga - 10,000 miles away.

Mr Allen said: "I've had a lot of response when we've told people that we're closing down with most of them saying: 'You can't, there's no one left.' But I have to say that we have to, the way things have been means that the future is not good."