Minor British Institutions: The Kitemark

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The Independent Online

We all take the British Standards Institution's Kitemark for granted, but it was a revolutionary development. The idea of appending an unmistakable brand of quality assurance to goods and services dates back to 1903, when the clever rearrangement of the letters BSM – British Standard Mark – was devised, a small landmark in the development of a modern industrial society.

It was the initiative of the engineer who designed Tower Bridge, Sir John Wolfe-Barry, who urged the Council of the Institution of Civil Engineers to form a committee to standardise iron and steel sections.

The Kitemark was first seen on tramway rails. In 1929, the Engineering Standards Committee was granted a Royal Charter. A supplemental Charter was granted in 1931, changing the name to British Standards Institution.

The Kitemark can still be recognised when choosing anything from double glazing to a fire extinguisher to a plug. Long may the kite fly.