A SPECIAL service is to be held at Westminster Abbey honouring a new memorial for Birmingham-born entrepreneur Matthew Boulton, one of the architects of the Industrial Revolution that did so much to shape the city’s fortunes.
In honour of tomorrow’s service, the flag of Birmingham City Council will be flown from the Abbey.
More than 1,000 people are expected at Westminster Abbey for the service in what will be one of the largest civic ceremonies for Birmingham ever held outside the city.
Themes covered at the service will include Boulton’s legacy, his innovation and achievements in Birmingham, the promotion of science, engineering and technology to young people in Birmingham, the importance of the city’s multicultural and multi-faith community, the role of its modern business community and academic institutions, and Birmingham Year of Science 2014.
The new memorial will sit alongside the existing memorial to the city’s other founding father, James Watt and will reflect their historic business partnership and joint contribution to British and world history. Commissioned by the Birmingham Museums Trust (BMT), the tribute to Boulton follows a series of commemorative events held since the bicentenary of his death in 1809.
Dean of Westminster, The Very Reverend Dr John Hall, said: “We are delighted that Matthew Boulton’s major contribution to British and World history will finally be recognised with this new memorial.”
Toby Watley, Director of Collections at Birmingham Museums Trust said: “Birmingham Museums is dedicated to preserving and promoting Birmingham's great cultural, scientific and industrial heritage. Matthew Boulton was an incredibly important figure not only for Birmingham, but for British and world history. We are delighted that his extraordinary achievements are being recognised by this memorial at Westminster Abbey.”
Marion Roberts, Chair of the Matthew Boulton memorial advisory board said: “It was the driving forces of both dedication and collaboration which allowed the two great engineers, Matthew Boulton and James Watt, to give to industry what it most desired - steam power - and which, in turn, would lead to the Industrial Revolution and to the modern world.”
Cllr Shafique Shah, Lord Mayor of Birmingham said: “Matthew Boulton was one of the pioneers of the early Industrial Revolution, one of the founders of the Lunar Society and Fellow of the Royal Society. We are pleased to see Westminster Abbey commemorate one of Birmingham’s most famous and influential figures.”
There has been a memorial to James Watt in Westminster Abbey since 1825 (replaced in 1960), and Boulton’s memorial – the first ever memorial at The Abbey to be constructed of cast iron, will see him finally join his business partner as the 18th century industrialist’s contribution to British history is celebrated.
The dedication service takes place between midday and 1pm, followed by an opportunity to view the unveiled memorial.
Matthew Boulton was born in Birmingham in September 1728, the son of a buckle, button and toy-maker – toys were then considered as small metal decorative objects like buckles and snuff boxes.
After attending a local school, he joined his father’s business in the early 1740s. On the death of Boulton senior in 1759, Matthew took over the family business.
In the mid-1760s Boulton established his world-renowned Soho manufactory in Handsworth – one of the first factories in the world. Here he employed some 700 people to make a whole range of goods including ‘toys’, silver, ormolu (gilded bronze), Sheffield plate, coinage, medals and eventually the steam engine.
The Soho Manufactory was so innovative that it became a must-see stop on the itinerary of well-heeled early industrial tourists.
In 1775 Boulton offered the Scottish engineer James Watt a partnership at Soho to develop and manufacture his ‘improved’ steam engine. They were joined shortly afterwards by William Murdock who was also to play a major role in the success of the business.
Following the start of the steam engine business Boulton famously told James Boswell in 1776:
‘I sell here, Sir, what all the world desires to have – POWER!’
In 1788 Boulton established his Soho Mint, producing high-quality coins and medals. He was eventually awarded the contract to produce the British copper coinage in 1797, in the form of his distinctive ‘cartwheel’ pennies.
Boulton was a founder member of the Lunar Society, whose members included such intellectual giants as Erasmus Darwin, Joseph Priestley, James Watt and Josiah Wedgwood. Their meetings gave them the opportunity to share their ground-breaking scientific ideas. The society was so called because their meetings were held at full moon to so they had better light to illuminate their journeys home.
The Lunar Society often met at Boulton’s home, Soho House, which is now an award-winning museum. It contains outstanding examples of late 18th Century furnishings together with products of Boulton’s famous Soho Manufactory and Mint.