The Soho Manufactory, Mint and Foundry, West Midlands, 1761-1895

The Soho Manufactory, Mint and Foundry, West Midlands, 1761-1895

Where Boulton, Watt and Murdoch Made History

George Demidowicz
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This volume is a comprehensive analysis of the three primary elements of the ground-breaking historic industrial complex created to the west of Birmingham in the 18th century and associated with Matthew Boulton, James Watt, and William Murdoch. The complex at Soho lies at the heart of the story of the Industrial Revolution, and the work carried out there by the three men is of national and international significance. The complex consisted of the Soho Manufactory (1761-1863) and Soho Mint (1788-1850s) both situated in the historic parish of Handsworth, now in the City of Birmingham, and the Soho Foundry (1795-1895) in the historic parish of Smethwick, now within Sandwell Metropolitan Borough. Here Boulton, Watt, and Murdoch and their successors achieved many industrial ' firsts' : the first working Watt steam engine employed at the Manufactory, the first steam-powered mint in the world, and the first gas-lit factory (the Soho Foundry) to name but a few. However, existing literature focuses largely on the biography of the people, primarily Boulton and Watt, or the products they manufactured, not the three industrial sites themselves. The place - the Soho complex - has attracted very little analysis and the published material on the subject is slight, and in some cases, inaccurate or misleading. This volume is the first to offer a complete landscape, archaeological and historical analysis of the Soho complex (Manufactory, Mint and Foundry) and as such, will provide something which is currently missing from both academic and popular understanding of Boulton, Watt and Murdoch' s role in industrial history: a definitive account of the development of the place where they created profound technological change. This site played a key role in the Industrial Revolution: it is the site where their ideas, technology and the infrastructure required to service them were developed, so the volume provides vital information for understanding the wider impact of their achievements. The volume contains a large number of historical illustrations, accompanied by reconstruction plans and drawings created by the author, which together provide a detailed working understanding of how the complex functioned for the very first time.
George Demidowicz is an Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of History at the University of Birmingham and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. He worked in the Conservation and Archaeology team at Coventry City Council for over twenty years, retiring as its head in 2011. George' s main research field is the historic environment, employing a multi-disciplinary approach combining documentary history with field work and archaeological excavation. His particular interests are building history, rural landscape history, garden history, urban topography and industrial archaeology.