Approximately 520 of these medals were given to friends, colleagues and employees
who attended Matthew Boulton's funeral on 24th August 1809
2009 marked the 200th anniversary of the death of Matthew Boulton, and throughout
that year various institutions arranged programmes, seminars, exhibitions, and commemorations
of Matthew Boulton, his life and works.
sohomint.info featured some of these - sometimes with links to websites, sometimes
with written descriptions, but, whatever the medium, the aim was the same - to celebrate
the achievements of one of the great men of the Industrial Revolution.
Sue Tungate has compiled a review of some of the interesting events held to commemorate
the Bicentennial, which appears below.
Matthew Boulton (1728-1809) was a key figure during the period known as the Industrial
Revolution when so much was happening; politically, industrially, socially and artistically.
An entrepreneur, manufacturer, engineer and scientist, with numerous contacts and
interests, both in Britain and overseas, Boulton is often referred to as the ‘Father
of Birmingham’ and, apart from his manufacturing businesses at Soho in Handsworth,
was involved in many other activities, including the development of the first steam-powered
coining press in the world.
2009 was the year when Matthew Boulton’s story was justly celebrated. A vast number
of his personal papers are preserved in Birmingham Archives and Heritage at the Central
Library, Birmingham. From these hundreds of letters, notebooks and diagrams one can
learn about a Birmingham man, who was at ease with everyone from King George III
to the humblest of his workers.
● The 2009 celebrations were a collaborative partnership involving Birmingham City
Council through the Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery and Birmingham City Archives,
the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, the University of Birmingham, the University of
Central England, and The Birmingham Assay Office.
For more information, go to the commemorative website.
A special Exhibition: ‘The Art of Making Money’ featuring Matthew Boulton’s Mint,
was held at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham University from 8th May
2009 to 15th May 2010.
● Why not visit our dedicated web page for a review?
The centrepiece of the Bicentenary celebrations was a major exhibition focusing on
Matthew Boulton’s life and times at Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery, Gas Hall Exhibition
Gallery from 30th May to 27th September 2009 This exhibition ‘Matthew Boulton – Selling
What All The World Desires’ included important material from the collections held
at Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery and at Birmingham Archive and Heritage, Central
Library. It also featured items from Birmingham Assay Office and from private collections
as well as significant loans from other national museums.
● The Catalogue contains pictures and descriptions of nearly every item
● At the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, a commemorative piece of contemporary silver
was shown. This was created by silversmith Shona Marsh and commissioned by the Birmingham
Assay Office. Matthew Boulton was instrumental in setting up the Birmingham Assay
Office in 1773 and it is still functioning as the largest Assay Office in the world.
Founded by Act of Parliament, its main function is to test and hallmark precious
metal items, and in 2005, 12 million articles were hallmarked in Birmingham.
For more information visit the Assay Office website.
● At Soho House, the former home of Matthew Boulton from 1766-1809, a display, Soho
House - Where Great Minds Met, tells the story of his friendship with other members
of the Lunar Society. Here, Boulton met with some of the most important scientists,
engineers and thinkers of his time. Soho House has been carefully restored to its
18th century appearance and contains some of Boulton's own furniture. Also shown
are some of the products of Boulton's Soho Manufactory; where buttons and buckles,
clocks and vases, and silver and Sheffield plate tableware were made. This is also
where he developed the steam engine in partnership with James Watt. For more information
visit the Soho House website.
● Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, (Chamberlain Square, Birmingham B3 3DH)
● An academic conference was held jointly at the University of Birmingham and the
University of Central England from 3rd to 5th July 2009, attended by around a hundred
people representing all interests, and from countries as distant as France and Sweden,
the United States and Australia. In conjunction with the conference, a concert of
18th century music was held on 4th July at Birmingham Cathedral, featuring readings
from the Boulton papers, and performances of some of his favourite music.
An account of the conference can be found by clicking here. The proceedings are due
for publication in book form.
Later in the year there were formal commemoration ceremonies including wreath- laying
at Handsworth Church, and Boulton’s statue on Broad Street, on 17th August, and Boulton-linked
events in the Heritage and Artsfest weekend in September 2009, and Birmingham History
Day in November 2009.
The bicentenary year concluded with a special Boulton Christmas event at Soho House
on 13th December 2009.
British commemorative postage stamp issued on 10th March 2009. Others in the set
featured Watt, and Wedgwood
● Not strictly a commemorative item, the Bank of England chose the opening of the
'Matthew Boulton - Selling What All The World Desires' exhibition in Birmingham to
launch the concept designs for their new £50 note, issued in 2011. The note features
Matthew Boulton and James Watt, and shows the facade of Soho Manufactory behind a
sketch of James Watt's steam Whitbread Engine, now in the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney.
Click HERE to read the launching of the note by the Governor of the Bank.
James Watt’s ‘Whitbread’ Engine was chosen to grace the Bank of England’s new £50
note. The engine, which still works, is a much-loved exhibit at the Powerhouse Museum
in Sydney. Click here for more information