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Can anybody tell me why I was listening to the Today programme on radio 4 when the opening of a new exhibition at the Science Museum in South Kensington London was announced. This exhibition is of James Watt's workshop from his home at Heathfield House Birmingham.
The workshop was was transported to the Science Museum in London in 1920 and it has recently been reproduced faithfully for a new exhibition. What I would like to know is, what it is doing in London in the first place. This is just typical of Birmingham allowing the workshop that helped launch the worlds industrial revolution here in Birmingham to be carried off to London.
Make Love, Not War
Here is the bit from the Observer on sunday. It seems the science museum was very far-looking , and was prepared to buy the workshop. Its a shame it has never been on dispaly before.
The room where Watt worked
When the great inventor James Watt's house was scheduled for demolition in the early 1920s, the Science Museum stepped in and saved his workshop and the thousands of objects it contained. Now it's the centrepiece of a new exhibition
The workshop of James Watt which has been reconstructed for the exhibition James Watt and Our World at the Science Museum. Photograph: Science Museum Photo
It was the attic retreat in which James Watt, Britain's most influential inventor, worked on his hobbies and pet projects for the last decades of his life, ideas that included a machine that could copy sculptures and a roller press that could copy letters. Now the great man's workshop – including its original benches, tools, windows and floorboards – are to be opened to the public as the focus of a new exhibition in London's Science Museum: James Watt and Our World.
Watt was an instrument maker from Greenock, in central Scotland, when, in 1765, he was asked to repair a Newcomen pump, an engine in which steam pushed a piston through a cylinder. Water was then sprayed into the cylinder, causing the steam to condense, creating a vacuum behind the piston which was sucked back to its original position. More steam was then pumped in, and the piston was pushed forward again. Giant versions of this device were used to pump water out of mines.
But it was a vastly inefficient system, Watt realised. So he designed an engine with a separate cylinder in which the steam was condensed. The resulting engine used a fifth as much coal as its predecessor. Watt went into partnership with the English manufacturer Matthew Boulton and together they designed and built hundreds of the improved engines to pump water in mills and mines. Both became rich.
"Watt moved to a large house in Heathfield, outside Birmingham," says Ben Russell, the museum's curator of mechanical engineering. The workshop he built in the attic is still intact, "packed full of tools that include bits of circular saw – the world's oldest tools of this kind – the oldest surviving sandpaper and parts for flutes and violins. He was interested in so many different things."
After his death, Watt's attic became a place of pilgrimage for historians – "the garret and all its mysterious contents seemed still to breathe of the spirit that once gave them life and energy," wrote Watt's biographer JP Muirhead. In 1924, with the house scheduled for demolition, the Science Museum bought the workshop – and more than 8,000 objects inside it. Now Watt's attic of wonders has been restored to its former glory, hopefully to inspire a new generation of inventors
For once I'm not blaming London this, in fact they deserve to be congratulated. It just goes to show how little Birmingham cares about it's history and the fact that it was once the hub of the industrial revolution. If Heathfield House were in London it would never would have been demolished. Neither would Boulton's Manufactory at Soho. I suppose we must be thankful that we still have Soho House.
Make Love, Not War