The Soho Manufactory, Mint and Foundry, West Midlands

BookThe Soho Manufactory, Mint and Foundry, West Midlands

The Soho Manufactory, Mint and Foundry, West Midlands

Where Boulton, Watt and Murdoch Made History


January 15th, 2022

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This volume provides a comprehensive analysis of the ground-breaking historic industrial complex created to the west of Birmingham in the eighteenth century and associated with Matthew Boulton, James Watt, and William Murdoch. The Soho Manufactory (1761-1863) and Soho Mint (1788-1850s) were both situated in the historic parish of Handsworth, now in the city of Birmingham, and the Soho Foundry (1795-1895) lay in the historic township of Smethwick, now within Sandwell Metropolitan Borough. Together they played a key role in the Industrial Revolution , achieving many world 'firsts': the first working Watt steam engine, the first steam-engine powered mint and the first purpose-built steam engine manufactory (the Soho Foundry), to name but a few. Existing literature focuses largely on the biography of the people, primarily Boulton and Watt, or the products they manufactured. The place - the Soho complex - has attracted very little attention. This volume is the first to concentrate on the buildings themselves analysing not only their physical origins, development and eventual decline but also the water and steam power systems adopted. An interdisciplinary approach has been employed combining archival research in the magnificent Soho collection at the Library of Birmingham with the results of archaeological excavations. The volume is profusely illustrated with archival material, most published for the first time, and contains a large number of reconstruction plans and drawings by the author.

'This is a magnificent work that synthesises much unpublished material to cover a largely neglected topic... I have no hesitation in recommending this book to anybody interested in Boulton and Watt, historical manufacturing buildings, power system development or steam engine manufacture.'
Chris Allen, International Stationary Steam Engine Society Bulletin

'[The Soho Manufactory, Mint and Foundry, West Midlands] clarif[ies] this fascinating story on a comprehensive scale and in a definitive manner, while also indicating new lines of research in the future.'
James Douet, Industrial Archaeology Review

Author Information

George Demidowicz, FSA, is an Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of History, University of Birmingham.