|Forum Home > Blackcountry Factual History. > Soho Foundry, Smethwick.|
There's absolutely no doubt, that the names of Matthew Boulton, James Watt, and William Murdoch, will forever be associated with the second part of the Industrial revolution. Watts re-design and improvement of Newcomens engine, and the later design from vertical to horizontal power, gave an almighty push to this countries industrial output.
Although initially they did not construct the engines, the opening of the Soho Foundry, in 1796, bought a degree of excellence to the manufacture of Steam powered engines, that others followed long after they were dead and buried. From the opening in 1796, to 1800, 41 Engines were manufactured on the site, which was quite an achievement, for the machinery to make the engines, had also to be made or adapted.
There are only three Iron works shown on a map of Smethwick, 1831, Soho Works, ( Boultons Manufactory ) The Foundry, ( Boulton and Watt ) and the French Wall works. There will have been others, for not every part of the Engines were made on site, and they had a need for Rivets, Nuts and Bolts, Iron Plates, Brass parts, and a hundred other different items. The Birmingham Canal influenced the decision to build where thet did, as indeed it did for all the other factories that quickly sprang up along it's length as it passed through Smethwick. Less than 30 years after the Foundry began work, from the start of Rolf Street, to the boundry with Birmingham, there were over 30 companies engaged in the metal trade. George Muntz, a Birmingham metal roller, had purchased the French Wall Iron works and was supplying high grade iron plates to the Foundry. Patent Axles, and Patent Rivets, ( two of his other firms ) were supplying parts, and a whole range of other products were on offer both locally, and nationally. Nuts and Bolts from Atlas, Falcon, and the London Works. ( later GKN ) Castings from Smethwick, Woodford, Victoria and Sandwell Iron works, Hydraulic Jacks and engines from Tangyes, all added to the growing demand for products. Midland Nut and Bolt opened up a factory next to the Soho Foundry, and nor far away, even a Soap works began.
The District Iron and Steel works produced both bar and sheet iron, and just below their works, and the Cornwall Works of Tangyes, The Birmingham Plate Glass Works began production. The Soho Foundry was operated by members of the family for a hundred years, until in 1896, it was purchased by Avery, who continued to use the site for the production of heavy weighing machines. They are still there today, and a section of the works has been listed, and preserved. I have said before, this area of the Black Country is seldom mentioned by many, most of whom it appears, don't believe it is actually part of the Black Country. Well, it most certainly is, and this may upset a few, but a very important part of the Black Country, for without it, and the power of the machines that Boulton, Watt, and others built, there wouldn't be a Black Country to talk about.
A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day. ( See my Blog entry )
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