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Soho Mint - A World First!

Where Genius and the Arts Preside

The conference ‘Where Genius and the Arts Preside: Matthew Boulton 1728-1809’, was held at University of Birmingham, and Birmingham City University, from 3rd – 5th July 2009.


The conference attracted an audience of around seventy five per day - ninety four individuals over the whole weekend. Participants came from as far afield as Australia, the United States and Canada, and from Europe including Sweden, France, Russia and Italy. A wide range of specialists from universities, heritage organisations, archives and museums, plus independent scholars, gave a series of fascinating talks on a variety of topics.


University representatives taking part came from the Universities of Birmingham, Exeter, Glamorgan, Oxford, Salford, and Birmingham City University in Britain, and the University of Turin, Italy, the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia, EHESS, (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales) Paris, Uppsala University, Sweden, University of California, Los Angeles, University of Georgia, and University of New South Wales, Australia,


Specialists included those from the Birmingham Assay Office, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, and Birmingham Archive and Heritage services, Thinktank Birmingham, Wolverhampton Museum and Art Gallery, the British Museum, the Science Museum, the Linnaean Society, Coventry City Council Conservation and Archaeology, the Society for the History of Astronomy, Blenheim Palace and the Royal Northern College of Music, as well as the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, the Speed Museum, Kentucky and Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, Australia.


The talks on Boulton ranged over his long and varied activities from the establishment of his famous Soho Manufactory, his relationship with James Watt and his various employees, and his family life. His technological developments in metal processing, steam engines, and minting were covered with much discussion on the products of the Soho Mint. Also Boulton’s design in silver, Sheffield plate and ormolu plus the establishment of the Birmingham Assay Office were detailed. Some very useful contributions were made about Boulton’s overseas contacts such as his Jewish partners in Paris and Thomas Jefferson and others. The proceedings of the conference will be published in due course by Ashgate and contributions will be edited by Professor Ken Quickenden of Birmingham City University and Dr Sally Baggott of the Assay Office.


There were also visits to the exhibitions being held at the Barber Institute for Fine Arts, University of Birmingham ‘Matthew Boulton and the Art of Making Money (held until 15th May 2010), and also to the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery exhibition ‘Matthew Boulton: Selling what all the World desires’ (held until 27th September 2009), plus a concert on Saturday ‘Hark I hear Musick! An evening with Matthew Boulton and Friends’ at St Philips Cathedral, Birmingham.


All who attended agreed that the conference had been very interesting and that Matthew Boulton was a fascinating man, whom we would all like to have invited to dinner.


Sue Tungate

Many of the papers which were given at the 2009 Bicentennial Conference have now been collected and published in a new work ‘Matthew Boulton: Enterprising Industrialist of the Enlightenment’ edited by Prof. Kenneth Quickenden, Sally Baggott and Malcolm Dick. For publication information about this work, CLICK HERE

Enterprising Industrialist