Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 126,733 pages of information and 199,758 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Soho Foundry

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Staff of the Soho Works in 1860.
1909. Boultons' coining presses from the works.
1909. Side lever engines.
1909. Murdocks' 20 ton crane. An historical relic from the Soho Works.
1909. Vertical boring machine.
1909. Vertical boring machine.
1909. Lathe with worm drive.
1909. Watt tilt steam hammer.

1795 Matthew Boulton began construction of the Soho Foundry for Boulton and Watt about one mile from his Soho Manufactory; in the Foundry steam engines to the design of James Watt would be built for the new use, namely in mills and factories which required rotating shaft drive (unlike the mine pumps, which is what Boulton and Watt had made to date). The foundry was located at Smethwick, near Birmingham, England (grid reference SP037885). The foundry opened in 1796[1].

The workshops were managed by William Brunton, who constructed a machine for cutting and shaping the teeth of wheels.

c.1808 Brunton was succeeded by Mr. Hayden, who was foreman for many years

c.1824/25 Hayden was succeeded by Buckle, who possessed good mechanical knowledge and scientific research, and was always guided by experimental truths rather than trusting to theory. He experimented on fans and fan blasts, under different conditions, on the velocity of water issuing through pipes from different altitudes, and the velocity that water attains when rushing into a vacuum. He constructed a mill for pulverising bones for agricultural purposes and also a machine for sowing turnip or other seeds with fertiliser[2]

Mid 1830s James Watt (Junior) took the French Wall's Works into his own hands and ran it in conjunction with the Soho Foundry, though as a separate concern, until old age forced him to give it up in 1842 [3].

The French Walls works provided the Soho Foundry with boiler plates and uses (semi-finished forgings for engines) as well as turning out merchant iron and steel. Scrap from the Foundry was returned to the French Wall's for reworking [4].

1849 After James Watt (Junior)'s death, The Soho was let to various persons. The name of Boulton and Watt's company was changed to James Watt and Co.

1850 William Buckle was appointed to the Royal Mint.

c.1860 An order for 12 coin presses was placed by Calcutta Mint[5]

1895 The Soho Foundry at Smethwick closed and was purchased and rebuilt as the Avery company's main factory.

Circa 1896 Avery, acquired the celebrated Soho Works (sic) of Messrs. Boulton and Watt and carried on the business under the title of Messrs. James Watt and Co. [6]

The factory is mostly extant, and is now the home of Avery Weigh-Tronix (formerly Avery Berkel), who make weighing scales. The site includes William Murdoch's cottage and overlooks Black Patch Park.

There is a small museum there, open only by appointment.

The grade II listed Pooley gates, of cast iron, are marked with "a Liver bird above ropework draped with cloth, flanked by nautical symbols including oars, flags and bugles, ships' wheels and intersecting dolphins". A plaque reads: "These gates were cast by Henry Pooley and Son about 1840 for the Sailors' Home, Liverpool. The Avery and Pooley Foundries were amalgamated in 1931".

The building is a Grade II* listed building. The gates and adjacent canal bridge are Grade II listed.

Description in The Engineer

The Engineer published a series of articles on The Soho Foundry in 1895.

Read them at the links below;

Further recollections of Soho Foundry were published in The Engineer 1909/12/17

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Lunar Men, by Jenny Uglow, Faber and Faber,2002
  2. The Engineer 1895/09/27
  3. Victoria County History, History of the County of Stafford: Volume 17: Offlow hundred (part)
  4. Victoria County History, History of the County of Stafford: Volume 17: Offlow hundred (part)
  5. The Engineer 1909/12/17
  6. The Engineer 1898/07/15