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Series One: The Boulton & Watt Archive and the Matthew Boulton Papers from Birmingham Central Library

Part 8: Muirhead III & IV - Notebooks and Papers of James Watt and family

These documents provide rich detail on business affairs and social life, c1772-1818. Correspondents featured include:

  • Thomas Beddoes and William Withering.
  • Matthew Robinson Boulton.
  • Peter Ewart and James Lawson.
  • George A Lee and John Furnell Tuffen.
  • Charlotte Matthews.
  • J L Moilliet, John Mosley and Ambrose Weston.
  • Joseph Priestley, Junior and Josiah Wedgwood, Junior.
  • John Rennie and John Southern.

There is an emphasis in this material towards the later years of James Watt’s life, especially 1795-1818, when his son James Watt Jnr, was playing a major role in the various business concerns, social duties and administration of the Welsh estates.

The letters from James Watt to his son, 1784-1818, are most informative. Many of these consist of the regular exchange of daily news and instructions. They are crammed with detail and often run to quite a number of pages.

There are also letters from James Watt to his wife Ann Watt. Other family papers cover James Watt of Greenock, Thomas Watt (mathematician at Crawfordsdyk), John Watt, senior and John Watt, junior.

A sequence of Canal Papers, mainly devoted to the construction of the Monkland Canal, relate to the period 1770-1772 when James Watt worked as a canal surveyor and engineer on various Scottish canals. There are maps, plans, calculations, notes on dimensions, working papers and accounts relating to this work.

Papers for 1789-1795 on Heathfield House (built for James Watt in 1790), and its grounds in Handsworth, include watercolour drawings and plans thought to be by the architect Samuel Wyatt. There is much fascinating material on the internal layout of the house, different designs and ideas – a valuable source for social historians.

Boiler design

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