Matthew Boulton’s thoughts and inventions also strayed from the sciences and manufacturing into coach design. The above image is from one of Boulton’s Notebooks titled ‘Thoughts on Carriages’, and includes many drawings and workings for designs. [MS 3782/12/108/22] Initially these designs were concerned with comfort and practicality. Elaborate folding roof designs for the carriage chair were included, as well as detailed drawings of far larger soft tops. Boulton was also willing to look far for good craftsmanship, recording in his diary for 1766 the details of “Mr Horner. Coach maker of Ripon in Yorkshire.” [MS 3782/12/107]
In 1777 Boulton employed William Murdoch (1754 to 1839) for his engineering abilities, and he worked on the designs for Watt’s steam engine. In his spare time he started designs for a carriage driven by steam. Evidently these plans were discussed with Boulton and Watt, and in 1784 the latter wrote to the former with a warning:
“you will see that…the machine… will cost much time to bring it to any tolerable degree of perfection and for me to interrupt the career of our business to bestow my attention on it would be imprudent.” [Letter. James Watt to Matthew Boulton 31 August 1784. MS 3782/12/78/133]
Yet in this same lengthy letter Watt ran through all the requirements from portability to the durability of the construction so that such an engine would not break, and even included a drawing of a Steam Wheel Carriage. Two years earlier designs had been included in a steam engine patent by Boulton and Watt, presumably to limit Murdoch’s interest to his other engineering projects.
Despite Boulton and Watt’s apparent disinterest in such a project, one of Boulton’s 1786 notebooks recorded the scientific working out for a “Steam Wheel Carriage”, concluding “hence a cylinder 20 in diameter = 400sqr x 2 = 8 Horses.” [MS 3872/12/108/47] James Watt wrote to Boulton in 1786 that he was “extremely sorry that W.M still busys himself with the Steam carriage”, and declared his intention to finally do something with the designs. [Letter. James Watt to Matthew Boulton 12 Sept 1786. MS 3782/12/79/73] Despite this, the Boulton and Watt partnership never made a successful business venture from such coaches.