Soho manufactory and estate
The Soho estate was acquired by Boulton in 1761, and building work for the new manufactory started the next year. The Soho estate was constantly being improved upon. Before Boulton even moved onto Soho house on the Soho estate in 1766 he had over 2,000 conifers planted. Boulton’s notebooks are a testament to this:
“Improve Soho: a bridge opposite Eggintonis for company to walk out round + so that a one horse Chair may go round + go over the little ____ a mowed walk along at brow of the hill.” [Matthew Boulton’s Notebook 1772. MS 3782/12/108/7]
Further extensive landscaping in 1795 hid the Soho Manufactory and nearby roads so that the lands reflected the ideal of a wooded rural estate.
Yet it was not just the estate that was impressive. Designed by the local architect William Wyatt, Soho Manufactory was intended as a statement of classical taste and luxury and an image that would place Birmingham as the source of quality goods. The inclusion of Watt’s steam engine was a driving force for the production, and the surrounding buildings were extended to accompany this. In 1788 J.A.Smiths valued the total value of the Soho estate at £10,185.15.-, with £8519.10.- for the manufactory. [J.A. Smiths valuation 4 June 1788. MS3147/5/1447]
Soho manufactory was also impressive for its provision to the workers. When Soho Foundry opened in Smethwick in 1796 a row of houses was provided for the workers, and a second row added in 1801. The plans for these houses included a kitchen, a pantry, a wash house and three bed chambers. [Ground plan of Soho Foundry Cottages, 1796. MS 3147/5/1455] Similar provisions were made for the workers of Boulton and Watt at Soho. The image above shows Soho Manufactory set in the centre of the estate.