Ref NoMS 3782
TitleMatthew Boulton and Family Papers
Date1737 - 20th Century
FormatCubic metres
AccessConditionsAcc. 2005/207: Serve CD version, not original.
ArrangementThe difficult question of the arrangement of these papers exercised the attention of those working on the Project for some considerable time: the choice seemed to lie between three roads - to continue the work of the Assay Office and adopt an entirely artificial arrangement; to retain the arrangement of the listed papers insofar as it went, but to list the remainder according to archival principles; or to attempt to restore as much of the original order as was possible. In the event, the last turning was taken. This decision was greatly affected by the discovery of the various contemporary (18th and 19th century) Catalogues and the Inventories made by the Assay Office in 1921, which supplied a great deal of information as to the original arrangement of the papers, and the state in which they were in on their arrival in Birmingham. As a result, a great deal of attention has been given throughout this catalogue to ascertaining the provenance of the various files and other groups of documents, and it is hoped that this work will clarify the origin and use of the extremely varied contents of the Matthew Boulton Papers. However, a full record of the relationship between the old and new references has been kept, for the sake of those users familiar with the old arrangement.

The papers are now arranged into 21 sections or "sub-fonds," as follows:

Firms’ records.

1. Records of the firm of Boulton & Fothergill, 1757-1782.
Financial records and correspondence of the firm of Boulton & Fothergill, 1762-1782, toymakers, manufacturers of buttons, buckles, plated and silver-ware, ormolu, "mechanical paintings," sword hilts, &c. The earliest letter book contains copies of a few letters issued by Matthew Boulton (the elder) & Son, 1757.

2. Records of the firm of M. Boulton, 1782-1816.
Financial records and correspondence of the firm of M. Boulton, the successor to Boulton & Fothergill.

3. Records of Soho Mint, 1791-1850.
Financial records and correspondence of the firm known successively as
Matthew Boulton (Mint), 1791-1809;
M. R. Boulton (Mint), 1809-1841;
M. P. W. Boulton (Mint), 1841-1850;
manufacturers of coins, medals, and mint machinery; including records of the Soho Rolling Mill, 1825-1841.

4. Records of the London banking agency, 1802-1819.
Copies (kept at Soho) of financial records of the firm known successively as
M. & R. Boulton, J. & G. Watt, & Co., 1802-1805;
M. & R. Boulton, J. Watt, & Co., 1805-1809;
M. R. Boulton, J. Watt, & Co., 1809-1832;
banking agents in London to firms at Soho, members of the Boulton and Watt families, &c.

5. Records of other firms, 1802-1831.
Cash book of the firm of Boulton & Smith, 1802-1819.
Financial records of the Soho Rolling Mill, 1805-1818.
Letter book and burnishing book of M. Boulton & Plate Company, 1815-
Letter book of the firm of M. R. Boulton (Button Company), 1825-1831.

Household and other private agents’ records.

6. Household Books and Documents, 1768-1848.
Financial records and correspondence relating to the day-to-day running of Soho House, its adjacent gardens and plantations, and estates owned by the Boulton family in Warwickshire and Staffordshire.

7. Housekeeper’s Books and Accounts, 1787-1826.
Financial records of the housekeeper at Soho House.

8. Private Books and Documents, 1802-1841.
Financial records and correspondence relating to the Private Account and private business of Matthew Boulton and Matthew Robinson Boulton.

9. Great Tew Books and Documents, 1815-1844.
Financial records and correspondence relating to the estate of Matthew Robinson Boulton at Great Tew, Oxfordshire.

10. Miscellaneous Cashiers’ Records, 1822-1863.
Miscellaneous records which do not appear to belong to any other of the main groups of records kept in the Mint Office (Mint, Household, Great Tew, and Private Books) or whose place in that system is uncertain.

11. Letters and Papers of Charles James Chubb, 1841-1863.
Papers of the Chief Cashier and Bookkeeper Charles James Chubb, who dealt with the accounts of almost all the Soho firms, and the Boulton’s family’s private finances. [NB – some of the Chubb papers remain unlisted.]

Personal records.
12. Letters and Papers of Matthew Boulton, 1760-1809.
Business and private correspondence of Matthew Boulton, and other papers.

13. Letters and Papers of Matthew Robinson Boulton, circa 1770s-1842.
Business and private correspondence of Matthew Robinson Boulton, and other papers.

14. Letters and Papers of Miss Ann Boulton, 1793-1829.
Financial records and correspondence of Miss Ann Boulton.

15. Accounts of Mrs. Mary Anne Boulton, 1814-1827.
Financial records of Mrs. Mary Anne Boulton.

16. Other personal records, 1759-1845.
Miscellaneous papers of other members of the Boulton family, and John Scale:
Correspondence of Mrs. Ann Boulton.
Bills of John Scale, 1766-1791.
Bills of Matthew Piers Watt Boulton when at Trinity College Cambridge, 1840-1844.
Hugh William Boulton, "Mem. Of Roma", 1845 [visiting cards, invitations etc.].

Other records.

17. Legal documents, 1790-1818.
Matthew Boulton’s coinage patents, licences and agreements; a lease of land to Thomas Allen; and patents of Samuel Henshall and Jonathan Grove for items made at Soho Manufactory.

18. 1st Battalion, Loyal Birmingham Volunteers. 1794-1805.
Papers concerning the founding, organisation and activities of the 1st Battalion, Loyal Birmingham Volunteers, in which Matthew Robins Boulton was an officer.

19. Records of the Committee at Verdun for the Relief of British Prisoners in France. 1803-1813.

20. Miscellaneous Documents.

21. Additions, 1737-20th century.
Material added by the Assay Office, and also records restored to the Matthew Boulton Papers from the other Archives of Soho collections, including:
Pattern-books, formerly belonging to the firm of Boulton & Fothergill.
Records of the firm of Boulton & Scale.
Letters from Matthew Boulton to Sir Joseph Banks.
Miscellaneous illustrative material added by the Assay Master.

Additions to the Matthew Boulton Papers from Boulton & Watt.
Various additions were made to the collection during the Archives of Soho project. These are documents that had once been part of the records of the Boultons’ various businesses, but which had been removed from the papers before the Assay Office took custody of them, and which subsequently found their way into the Boulton & Watt collection at the Library.

MS 3782/3/253A. Correspondence with the Officers of the Royal Mint. 1815-1819. (1 volume)
When this bundle of the mint agent Zaccheus Walker’s correspondence was removed from the Soho Mint office is not clear. The new owner pasted the contents, including the original wrapper, into a volume. This volume was purchased by the Library in 1924 and added to the Boulton & Watt collection, where it was numbered as Vol. 533. It has now been restored to the Records of Soho Mint.

MS 3782/21/1. Portion of a Boulton & Fothergill letter book, 1773.
This volume was donated to the Library in 1924, and again added to the Boulton & Watt collection. It was placed at the start of the sequence of the engine firm’s letter books and given the number Vol. 0. It is unclear how it relates to the other Boulton & Fothergill records, so it has been placed with the Additions.

MS 3782/21/2-9. Pattern Books.
At some point following the death of Matthew Robinson Boulton, pattern books which appear to have contained patterns of wares made by Boulton & Fothergill, M. Boulton (firm) and M. Boulton & Plate Co. were acquired by Elkington & Co., silversmiths and electro-platers, of Birmingham. It seems most likely that Elkingtons acquired these books in the 1850s, when Soho Manufactory was being vacated and parts of it demolished, but it has been asserted that Elkingtons actually acquired them from the steam engine firm James Watt & Co. at the sale of the assets of Soho Foundry in 1895. The former seems more plausible. How many books Elkingtons acquired, and exactly which Soho firms they were from, is not known, as Elkingtons cut up and re-arranged the patterns, apparently reducing the number of volumes from nine to eight. The pattern books were later acquired by the Library, and added to the Boulton & Watt collection, where they were numbered as Vols. 169-176. They have been placed with the Additions as it cannot be said for certain which of Boulton’s firms they rightly belong with.

MS 3782/21/10, 11. Boulton & Scale Letter Book (incomplete) and Pattern Book.
Inside both these books are slips bearing a note to the effect that, on 3 Feb. 1896, they were delivered by Samuel Timmins into the hands of George Tangye, who had acquired the Boulton & Watt collection with Timmins’ support the previous year. It is not known how or when Timmins acquired these records. Tangye added them to the Boulton & Watt Collection. However, after the records came to the library, the main body of what remains of the letter book was moved to the Matthew Boulton Papers, a single sheet remaining in the Boulton & Watt Collection, in the blue box numbered as Vol. 552. The pattern book however remained in the Boulton & Watt collection, where it was numbered as Vol. 168A, and frequently referred to as "the sword hilt book." Both these books have been placed with the Additions, as their provenance is unknown and no other records of Boulton & Scale survive.
Related MaterialMS 3147 – Boulton & Watt.
The whole of the Boulton & Watt collection is relevant to Matthew and Matthew Robinson Boulton, but the following sub-fonds contain large numbers of original documents by them:
MS 3147/2, Legal Records
MS 3147/3, Correspondence & Papers
MS 3147/4, Production Records
MS 3147/11, Miscellaneous Non-Engine Business Material

MS 3219 – Papers of James Watt and Family.
In particular the following sub-fonds:
MS 3219/4, Papers of James Watt
MS 3219/6, Papers of James Watt Jr.

Small Collections removed from the Boulton & Watt collection:
Letters to John Southern from Matthew Boulton, James Watt etc., 1789-1815

MS 3069, Matthew Boulton legal papers (includes papers on the Soho robbery, 1802)

Small Manuscript (MS) Collections.
The following is not a complete list of the Small MS collections that form part of the Archives of Soho, but a list of those which are particularly relevant to the Matthew Boulton Papers. Separate lists are available for many of these collections.

MS 131, Newscuttings and ephemera

MS 1149, Photographs and Illustrations of the Soho Foundry and Manufactory, and of Boulton, Watt and Murdock - Material from W. & T. Avery Ltd.

MS 1682, Architectural drawings of Soho House, drawings of mints and mint engines

Other Collections in Birmingham City Archives

The following is a list of other material in Birmingham City Archives that particularly relates to the Boulton & Watt collection. This list is not comprehensive.

Boulton & Fothergill.
MS 49/1-9, Invoices for buttons etc. from 1760s

Boulton Family.
Lee Crowder Collection – Matthew Robinson Boulton, Anne Robinson Boulton and Miss M. A. Boulton [ref. no. 124], papers [ref. no. 134]

Keen – Mrs. Ann Boulton, Matthew Boulton [ref. no. 356]

MS 1432, Archives Division Correspondence 1935-196, contains several items relating to various members of the Boulton family including John Boulton (D/10), Matthew Boulton and various correspondents and business connections (B&W/12, H/8, P/5, R/3, R/10-11, S/11, W/1), Matthew Robinson Boulton and various subjects (R2, 4, S/9)

EP 125/11/1/1, copy of Hugh William Boulton’s death certificate, 1847; abstract of Matthew Ernest Boulton’s title to his estate in Handsworth including Soho House, 1901; copy of Matthew Piers Watt Boulton’s marriage certificate, 1845;

Matthew Boulton.
Baker – letter concerning failure to employ J. Harris, 1806 [ref. no. Misc. 2/32]

Edwards, Son, Bigwood & Mathews – ref. no. 39, 40

MS 59/18, Photograph of funeral token, 1809

MS 1083, Lease, 1799

MS 1149/49-56, Portraits, Views of memorial in Handsworth Church, etc.

MS 1544, Photocopy of will, 1809

MS 1633/1, Letter to Samuel Tertius Galton about land values at Soho, 1806

MS 1658/1, Unpublished biography, circa 1930

MS 1677/5/9, Photocopy of survey of estates in Birmingham following enclosure of Bimringham
Heath, 1802

MS 1758/1, Charles Startin’s marriage settlement, 1790 [Boulton was a trustee]

MS 1821, Photographs of copy letters for needle orders [1784]

MS 1912, Copies of accounts with Timothy Hollis of London, merchant, 1861, and lettera bout a book sale, 1803

Matthew Piers Watt Boulton.
MS 122, Building lease, Handsworth, 1849

MS 1353/1-2, Deed of sale of land in Soho Park

Matthew Robinson Boulton.
MS 158/1, Deeds re Aston Hall, 1823

MS 430, Letter from W. W. Pole of the Royal Mint, 1815

MS 916, Deeds, 1819

621983 - Collection of Letters written by Boulton, Watt and Others, photostat copy of original stored at Birmingham Assay Office, shelved on the open shelves in the Wolfson Centre.


Much of the Matthew Boulton Papers has been microfilmed by Adam Matthew Publications as part of Industrial Revolution: A Documentary History. They were filmed prior to the Archives of Soho project:

Series 1, Part 1: Lunar Society Correspondence
Series 1, Part 4: Subject Material: Albion Mill to Steam Engines
Series 1, Part 7: Subject Material and Individual Correspondents including Garbett, Rennie, Southern and Wilkinson
Series 1, Part 9: Journals, Notebooks and Diaries of Matthew Boulton
Series 1, Part 10: Incoming Letters A-J

All the above films are available in the Archives Research Room. Researchers should be aware that the books describing the first series of films are all misleadingly titled "The Boulton & Watt Archive" on the spine, even those parts which describe films made from other collections.


The number of publications concerning the steam engine, James Watt and Soho is huge, and includes many works that have drawn directly on the Boulton & Watt collection. Researchers are referred to the "Select Bibliography for the Archives of Soho" (at the end of this list) and the collection of "Boulton and Watt Pamphlets" available in the Archives Research Room.

The most significant work on Boulton published during the project was Sir Nicholas Goodison’s revised edition of Matthew Boulton: Ormolu (London, 2002).
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