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Boulton, Watt and Murdock

In 1762 Matthew Boulton opened Soho Manufactory at a cost of 0,000. It was the biggest factory in the world and put Handsworth at the centre of the industrial revolution. In 1775 Boulton went into partnership with James Watt - Watt being taken on board to develop steam engine production, while Boulton concentrated on the company's other products such as Coins and Tokens, Ormolu and Silver Plate. Steam engine production expanded rapidly and the firm set up offices in Cornwall where demand was heavy from the tin and copper mines.

William Murdock (sometimes spelt Murdoch), the firm's chief mechanic and technical agent, represented company interests there for nineteen years. On his return in 1797 he developed a gas lighting system to increase productivity, for which he remains known to this day. All three men are buried in Saint Mary's Church Handsworth where thee are tablets commemorating their magnificent achievements. Boulton once remarked that they had succeeded in providing "What all the world desires to have - power !"

Soho Foundry 1860 by Sir Benjamin Stone

The archives of Boulton and Watt are housed in the Library of Birmingham. The Digital Handsworth Project presented a sample of it online. Much of the material has not been widely available before, so it provides a fascinating look at life, work and products of the principals and the factory itself.

Technical drawing of Boulton and Watt engine