Saturday 2 June 2012

Matthew Boulton

Matthew Boulton was born in 1728, the son of a wealthy toy manufacturer in Snow Hill. This background and his father's success undoubtedly helped him in establishing his business and the success which he achieved.

At the age of seventeen he produced inlayed buckles and buttons of a type which he invented and exported to France. Matthew Boulton's father encouraged him to manage his already flourishing business and the concept behind the success was based upon the principle of building a business which would encompass the entire manufacturing process as well as the marketing. Most companies at the time would just specialise in their own area of expertise rather than attempt to run the entire process.

This required a move to larger premises at the Sarehole Mill in Hall Green in 1755. It was here that they produced sheet metal. After his father died in 1759 Matthew Boulton moved the business to Soho and nearer to the jewellery quarter. It was here that his ambitious plans were realised and the world famous Soho Manufactory was built at a huge cost of £10,000. Three storeys high with workshops, showrooms, offices and stores and with accommodation for its workers it was an impressive sight. At its completion in 1765 it was a major attraction and an icon of the Industrial might of the great manufacturing empire that he had created. Soho House which was near the site of the manufactory still stands and acts as a museum and testament to his achievements.

Matthew Boulton was a model employer in much the same way as GeorgeCadbury. A visionary who found no shortage of workers, employing the best craftsman and staff and producing goods of quality at the right price.

Matthew Boulton and his association with the brilliant James Watt is well known. Boulton and Watt entered into a partnership in 1774 and are forever recorded in history as one of the most important partnerships of the Industrial Revolution. After extending the patent through parliament the condensing steam engine was operating within two years. With a monopoly secured the Watt engines became world renowned.

Not content with his achievements Matthew Boulton used modern manufacturing methods to revolutionise coinage. The quality and detail in the new coins encouraged the British Government to place an order for 45 million new penny and two penny pieces. Further orders followed, forgery was now much more difficult and coinage entered a new age.

Matthew Boulton died in 1809 and without his leadership and direction the business declined and the manufactory was demolished in 1848. Without doubt, Matthew Boulton was one of the leading Industrialists of his age.

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