Image showing plans of Heathfield


In June 1790 James and Ann Watt moved from Harpers Hill in Birmingham to Heathfield in Handsworth. The house cost £900 and, in a letter to Dr Joseph Black, James Watt wrote of Heathfield:

it is pleasant & commodious, but has cost me much more money than I think I had a right to lay out in that way”. [Letter. James Watt to Joseph Black 5 December 1790. MS 3219/4/127]

During the first few years of their stay Ann Watt had drawn up an inventory of the house’s furniture and furnishings. Many of the rooms were named after the colours they were decorated: White, Orange, Calico and Red. The daughter Jessy had a mahogany desk in her room and the son Gregory’s room included a “small ship”. [Inventory of Heathfield. MS 3219/4/235/238]

Despite James Watt’s initial hesitance at laying out such a sum of money, he had many additions and improvements done to Heathfield. Plans and drawings for Heathfield from 1789 to 1795 survive, and the above image shows Heathfield and its floor plan [MS 3219/4/235/1]. A workshop and steam heating were also installed in the house.

James Watt died at Heathfield in 1819, and Ann Watt in 1832. Although the house was demolished during the last century, Watt’s workshop was removed beforehand and reconstructed at the Science Museum in London.

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