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Remains of the Boulton and Watt Soho foundry and mint, Birmingham Canal, Smethwick

A Scheduled Monument in Soho and Victoria, Sandwell

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Latitude: 52.4976 / 52°29'51"N

Longitude: -1.9509 / 1°57'3"W

OS Eastings: 403431.035327

OS Northings: 288857.808858

OS Grid: SP034888

Mapcode National: GBR 5N2.3K

Mapcode Global: VH9YW.4HH5

Entry Name: Remains of the Boulton and Watt Soho foundry and mint, Birmingham Canal, Smethwick

Scheduled Date: 17 April 2008

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1021388

English Heritage Legacy ID: 35144

County: Sandwell

Electoral Ward/Division: Soho and Victoria

Built-Up Area: Smethwick

Traditional County: Staffordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): West Midlands

Church of England Parish: Smethwick The Resurrection

Church of England Diocese: Birmingham


The monument includes the buried remains of the Soho foundry, associated
buildings and adjacent canal basin.
The Soho foundry was established by James Watt (1736-1819) and Matthew
Boulton (1728-1809) although much of the credit for the Foundry lies with
their sons, James Watt junior and Matthew Robinson Boulton in 1795. Soho was
an integrated engineering works dedicated to the manufacture of steam
engines. Steam engines had been powering machinery since the C18 and prior
to the establishment of the Soho Foundry, the various stages in the
production of steam engines were carried out at small-scale furnaces,
foundries, forges and workshops scattered around the country, located close
to the sources of raw material and power. As the leading steam engine
manufactory, Boulton and Watt's Soho foundry aimed for the first time to
apply the techniques of making and assembling all the engine parts on one
site, allowing assembled delivery to the purchaser. The foundry attracted
many leading engineers, such as William Murdoch and John Southern, who in
turn pioneered further innovations. In 1798 the foundry was the first
factory in the world to be lit with gas from a fixed retort. The production
of marine steam engines began in 1804, and during the C19 Soho developed into
one of the most important marine engine businesses in the country, including
the manufacturing of screw engines for Brunel's Great Eastern, for instance.
The scheduling includes the buried remains of the original Boulton and Watt
foundry, dating from 1795-6 and its various extensions and ancillary
buildings. These include the light foundry and its extension; the range of
pattern stores; the erecting shop; H shop; weighbridge shop; the foundry
stores and site of the boring mill; and the powerhouses. Archaeological
excavations carried out during 2000-01 demonstrated extensive and high
quality survival of the buried remains of the original buildings, including
the survival of engine beds and machine fixings etc. Survey work has
indicated that the north western and north eastern walls of the original late
C18 mint building survive incorporated in later extensions. These two
standing walls are also included in the scheduling.
All paths, surfaces, extant buildings, including the listed buildings, are
excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The remains of the Soho foundry provide a unique example of an early
industrial Foundry. Soho was one of the first purpose-built steam engine
manufactories in the world, founded by the pioneering firm of Boulton and
Watt and associated with other renowned engineers and new techniques. William
Murdoch, John Southern and Peter Ewart all worked for Boulton and Watt. In
establishing this ground breaking manufactory Boulton and Watt established a
format which was copied and developed by many later steam engine firms and
general engineering concerns. At the date of its inception in 1795, the
engineering industry had barely developed and the steam engine manufactory
represented a pioneering venture of fundamental importance to the origins of
an industry for which Britain became renowned. The site may be considered as
one of the founders of the great industrial lineage in which Britain was
pre-eminent in the world for much of the C19. In addition to steam engines,
Boulton and Watt had important associations with the development of
steamships from 1804 and the Boulton and Watt marine engine business was one
of the most important in the country during the C19. Its most celebrated
contract was the provision of the screw engines for Brunel's Great Eastern,
which successfully laid the first transatlantic cables. In 1788 Boulton and
Watt manufacturing was also the first to introduce steam powered mint
machinery, which was then exported worldwide, for example to Mexico, Russia
and India. The works were also the first gas-lit factory building in the
world and responsible for pioneering the production of gas lighting
equipment on a commercial basis. The remains of the Boulton and Watt Soho
foundry and mint survive well. They will help to illuminate this pioneering
phase of industrial development in the West Midlands.
The significance of the site is enhanced by the exceptional archive
associated with it which includes the papers of the Boulton and Watt company
as well as the separate collections of the personal papers of James Watt and
Matthew Boulton which are housed in the Birmingham City Reference Library.

Source: Historic England


EIA, Demidowicz, G Belford, P Hislop, M, Historic environment Assessment Soho Foundry, (2003)
report 20000/142, University of Leicester, The Mint building Soho foundry, (2000)

Source: Historic England

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