A special service will be held at Westminster Abbey in honour of Birmingham-born industrialist and entrepreneur Matthew Boulton.
Birmingham City Council’s flag will be flown from The Abbey, which will close for the day, to host one of Birmingham’s largest civic events outside of the city.
More than 1,000 people are expected to attend the event on Friday, October 17, for the unveiling of a new memorial, which will sit alongside the existing memorial to James Watt, to 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.”
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.
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.
Birmingham’s Assay Office was founded in 1773 by Boulton, and has been located in its current Grade II listed building on Newhall Street for 137 years. It is due to relocate to a new, purpose-built site in Icknield Street next year.
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 examples of late 18th century furnishings together with products of Boulton’s famous Soho Manufactory and Mint.
Coun 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.”
The Boulton memorial will fit in the space adjacent to the existing James Watt memorial plaque in the floor of St Paul's chapel (which is off the nave of the Abbey).
It has been designed and produced by the artist and lettering sculptor, Gary Breeze. The typeface is Baskerville, making a further link with Birmingham, as the font was designed by John Baskerville.
Tickets can be reserved via www.eventbrite.com.