Abstract Measurements of the stresses acting on the base and wall of a cylindrical container were made in a 100-mm dia. steel tube containing a granular material before downward flow of the charge had commenced. The load cells used were designed for this purpose and have high sensivity and thermal stability, permitting the measurement of very small forces. The results show that the ratio of the normal stresses on a horizontal and a vertical plane at any point in the container is substantially constant and has a value that can be predicted by a formula derived in the paper. Drawing the Mohr circles for stress conditions in the material in contact with the wall suggests that friction at the wall is fully mobilised, the coefficient of wall friction varying slightly with depth. The normal stress on the base does not increase as an exponential function of the bed depth and does not appear to approach a limiting value. A small shear stress on the base of the container was detected, but friction was very far from being fully mobilised. The results showed that deformation of the base of the container due to the weight of the charge may cause a large increase in the normal stress on the wall.