Birmingham’s past and present as a world leader in design and engineering has been celebrated in a service dedicating a memorial to industrial revolution pioneer Matthew Boulton at Westminster Abbey.
Hundreds of people including Birmingham’s Lord Mayor, students from Matthew Boulton College and city faith leaders attended the service to dedicate a plaque to memorialise Matthew Boulton’s achievements, near the shrine of St Edward the Confessor in the historic cathedral.
It will sit alongside a memorial to his business partner James Watt, the Scottish engineer who made his home in Handsworth, Birmingham, and together with Boulton became one of the fathers of the industrial revolution.
Matthew Boulton was born in Birmingham in September 1728, the son of a buckle and button maker. In 1760 he began building the Soho Manufactory in Handsworth.
Jewellery, silverware and coins from his workshops were exported across the world.
He was a partner in Boulton & Watt, founded in 1775, which designed and produced steam engines and had a major role in the industrial revolution, and established the Soho Mint in 1788.
He was also a founder of the Lunar Society, Birmingham’s informal society of industrialists, intellectuals and scientists.
His many other achievements included helping to set up the Birmingham Assay Office, which continues to test and hallmark millions of precious metal items each year.
But as well as Boulton’s enormous historic contribution to Birmingham and the nation, the focus of the service was also on the present and future, symbolised perhaps by the laying of a wreath by Jacob Pearson and Ellie Coleman, students at Birmingham Metropolitan College - formerly Matthew Boulton College and based at Matthew Boulton campus in Birmingham’s Eastside district.
The memorial was formally presented to the Dean of Westminster, the Very Rev Dr John Hall, by Marion Roberts, Chair of the Lunar Society from 2007-10.
Birmingham’s Lord Mayor, Coun Shafique Shah, read from Isaiah, and there were prayers led by Coun Ian Ward, deputy leader of Birmingham City Council, and Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh, Chariman of Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, the Sikh gurdwara on Soho Road, Birmingham.
Prayers were also led by Muhammad Afzal, chairman of Birmingham Central Mosque.
Colin Brown, Director of Engineering at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, read from Revelations.
Toby Watley, Director of Collections at Birmingham Museums Trust, said: “The Dean was keen that the service should reflect a range of things including the importance of manufacturing and entrepreneurship today.
“This happens to coincide with Birmingham’s Year of Science 2014, which is about celebrating science and innovation in Birmingham as a global city.
“It’s about commemorating the past but it’s actually about his legacy - about what is happening today”.
The plaque is the first in the Abbey to be made entirely of cast iron, reflecting Boulton’s achievements as a metal manufacturer.
It reads: “Matthew Boulton FRS 1728-1809 - Pioneer of the Industrial Revolutuion.”
The inscription is written in the Baskerville font - developed by Boulton’s friend, Birmingham printer John Baskerville.