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Ref NoMS 3219
TitleJames Watt and Family Papers
Date13th century - 1873
LevelCollection
DescriptionThe collection comprises the correspondence and papers of James Watt (1736 - 1819), engineer, and other members of the Watt family. Those whose papers have been preserved here are Thomas Watt (1639 or 1642 -1734), Watt's grandfather; John Watt sr. (1694 - 1737), his uncle; James Watt of Greenock (1698 - 1782), his father; John Watt jr. (1739 - 1763), his brother; James Watt jr. (1769 - 1848), his eldest surviving son, and Gregory Watt (1777 - 1804), his younger son.

One other family for whom a number of papers exist in the collection is the Miller family. Daniel Miller married James Watt's aunt, Margaret Muirhead in 1727 and their daughter Margaret was Watt's first wife. One of her sisters, Nancy (Agnes) Miller, married John Marr, a surveyor in the army in 1769. She accompanied him to Canada in 1775, where he spent some years of his service. Marr's papers were eventually passed to James Watt and are preserved with Watt's own personal papers.
Extent11
FormatCubic metres
AccessStatusOpen
AccessConditionsIn general the papers are fairly robust and have survived the centuries in very good condition. Most of the fragile letters and drawings have been conserved and repaired as part of the Archives of Soho Project. The quantity of correspondence and papers means, however, that items will still be found which would benefit from conservation. Any extremely fragile items may not be served at the archivist's discretion.
ArrangementAn examination of the Watt and Muirhead papers suggested no reason to preserve them as separate collections. It was therefore decided to follow the original suggestion in the Archives of Soho Lottery bid document that the collections should be reintegrated. This new catalogue combines the two collections. Since neither of the 1848 or 1873 inventories lists all the papers in the two collections, and there were no sequences of records which spanned the entire archive, it was decided to list the papers by their original creator or recipient where possible. It was clear that Gregory's papers had been kept separately, most in Tin Box 6, as these are referred to after Gregory's death. Wherever possible, existing series of correspondence and existing bundles of papers have been listed following the attribution and information provided by bundle wrappers and labels. Where items have been moved from the sequence they were found in, this is indicated in the bundle level description.

A number of letters and papers had been removed from their original bundles in the 'James Watt Papers' for display in the 1966 exhibition to celebrate the bicentenary of the Lunar Society of Birmingham, held at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. These had not been replaced in their original bundles, but were given the numbers C1/1-43 on the Business Archives Council list. Where it has been possible to return the letters or papers to their original bundle, this has now been done.

New arrangement.
Each of sections 1 to 7 of the catalogue is devoted to the records of a particular member of the Watt family. A detailed biography for those individuals will be found under the appropriate section. Section 8 of the catalogue lists miscellaneous records not attributable to any one person, and section 9 lists the later additions to the papers of James Watt and family

The Papers of James Watt and Family have been arranged as follows:

MS 3219/1 Records of Thomas Watt
MS 3219/2 Records of John Watt sr.
MS 3219/3 Records of James Watt of Greenock
MS 3219/4 Records of James Watt
MS 3219/5 Records of John Watt jr.
MS 3219/6 Records of James Watt jr
MS 3219/7 Records of Gregory Watt
MS 3219/8 Miscellaneous records
MS 3219/9 Later additions to the records.

Separate lists have been made for the records of each individual, to at least bundle level. All surviving correspondence, incoming and outgoing, has been listed to item level and a name index has been provided to correspondents. There is also a comprehensive conspectus of new and previous reference numbers.
Related MaterialFurther considerable correspondence and papers of James Watt, James Watt jr. and Gregory Watt are to be found in the Boulton & Watt collection (MS 3147) and the Matthew Boulton Papers (MS 3782).

There are a number of other records relating to members of the Watt family, as follows :
Papers relating to James Watt, James Watt junior and Gregory Watt and Boulton & Watt collected by James Patrick Muirhead, 1750 - 1898; and original letters to Robert Muirhead from James Watt, 1778 - 1812. MS 4285.

Ann Watt.
Letter from Ann Watt to William Withering jr. 1815. 263548 [ZZ35]
Letter from Ann Watt to Catherine Hutton. 1821. Hutton 74.

James Watt.
Theorie de la vis d'Archimede, by M. Paucton. (1768). Signed by James Watt. MS 156 [639564]
Letter from Erasmus Darwin to James Watt. 1781. MS 1730.
Letters Patent for improved furnace construction for steam engines. 1785. MS 1380.
Letter from P. Leveque to James Watt. 1793. MS 181.
Letter from James Watt to Samuel Tertius Galton. 1808. MS 1633/2.
Letter from James Watt to James Mylne. 1808. MS 59/16a-b.
Lease and release for land at Fairhill, Sparkbrook. 1808. (James Watt was one of the parties). MS 252/1-2.
Piece of wood said to be from the floor of James Watt's attic and accompanying letter. MS 59/12-13.

James Watt jr.
Title deeds for French Walls. 1709-1888. Lee Crowder 581.
3 letters from JamesWatt jr.to the Withering family. 1794-1815. 263548 [ZZ35]
2 bundles of papers concerning Aston Estate. 1826-1829. Lee Crowder 361
Letter from James Watt jr. to Arthur West about their late friend, J.F. Tuffen. 1828. MS 885/2.
Letter from James Watt jr. to Elizabeth Stuart. 1828. Lee Crowder 1055.
Letter from James Watt jr. to F. Chantrey. 1829. MS 82.
Letters from James Watt jr. to W.C. Mylne. 1830. MS 798/1-2.
Correspondence with Lord Brougham and others about Arago's √Čloge de James Watt. 1834-1847. MS 1354/1-274.
Uncatalogued deeds and papers concerning Aston Park Estate. Includes letters etc. from James Watt jr. objecting to plans to construct a railway line in part of the park. c. 1834. MS 1091 [26 boxes].
Letter from James Watt jr. to [not known]. 1838. MS 1384.

Gregory Watt. Diary , 1791. MS 637.
26 letters from Gregory Watt to William Withering jr. 1792-1804. 263548 [ZZ35].

Short printed powerpoint presentation of the Papers of James Watt & Family available in the Archives Searchroom for staff training purposes.

Material held elsewhere.
There are some records of James Watt, James Watt jr. and Gregory Watt at the National Library of Wales.
The 'Garrett Workshop' of James Watt has been recreated at the Science Museum, London.
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