Soho House

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This article is about the eighteenth-century home of Matthew Boulton. For the private members' club, see Soho House (club).
Soho House from the front
Soho House (middle building); rear view with side buildings, as seen from today's access road.

Soho House is an 18th-century house in Handsworth, Birmingham, England. It was the home of entrepreneur Matthew Boulton from 1766 until his death in 1809, and a regular meeting-place of the Lunar Society of Birmingham.

It is now a museum, run by Birmingham Museums Trust, celebrating Boulton's life, his partnership with James Watt, his membership of the Lunar Society and his contribution to the Midlands Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution.

History[edit]

Matthew Boulton, one of the 18th century's greatest entrepreneurs,[1] acquired the lease of the five-year-old Soho Mill in 1761 and developed it into Soho Manufactory.[2] He expanded the cottage next to it into Soho House, changing it several times. It is faced with sheets of painted slate to give the appearance of large stone blocks. Boulton moved into Soho House when the Manufactory was completed. The Soho Manufactory was demolished in 1863.[3]

In 1766 Boulton became one of the founders of the Lunar Society.[4] In 1789, Boulton commissioned Samuel Wyatt to extend the buildings and fully revamp it and the gardens.[5] Work on extending the building was completed in 1796 following the submission of designs by James Wyatt, Samuel's brother, for the additions of a main entrance front.[3] Wyatt was also responsible for the large dining room, the regular venue for meetings of the Lunar Society.[1] It is a Grade II* listed building.

After Boulton's death, the house passed to his son Matthew Robinson Boulton and later his grandson, Matthew Piers Watt Boulton, who eventually sold it in 1850.[6] It then had a number of owners, and was at one time used as a residential hostel for police officers, before becoming a museum.

Features[edit]

The Blue Plaque

Soho House has been restored, retaining its 18th century Birmingham appearance,[7] with "fine collections of ormolu, silver, furniture and paintings".[8] Of particular note are the displays of silver and ormolu which were made in the manufactory, and the ormolu Sidereal clock made by Boulton and Fothergill, in 1771-72.[8] There is a Blue Plaque commemorating Matthew Boulton on the house.[9] The gardens, once over 100 acres in size but now less than half an acre, contains a walk with sphinxes, dated to around 1795.[10] Part of the garden has been recreated using Boulton’s original planting notes.[8]

Museum[edit]

Soho House is a Heritage Site and branch museum of the Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery, owned by Birmingham City Council. Since April 2012 the Heritage Sites and all other museums formerly run by Birmingham City Council have been run by Birmingham Museums Trust. The curator as of 2007 was Annette French.[11] It hosts exhibitions of local and community interest. Previously free, since April 2011 admission charges apply for entry to the house. It remains free to under 16s. Gardens, grounds and visitor facilities are free to all visitors. Artists-in-residence at the house include Vanley Burke and Barbara Walker.[12]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Country Life. Country Life, Limited. 1997. pp. 140–3. 
  2. ^ Quickenden, Baggott & Dick 2013, p. 20.
  3. ^ a b The Newcomen Bulletin. Newcomen Society for the Study of the History of Engineering and Technology. 1994. pp. 31–2. 
  4. ^ Schofield 1963.
  5. ^ Dickinson 2010, p. 184.
  6. ^ Quickenden, Baggott & Dick 2013, p. 23.
  7. ^ Quinn 2008, p. 114.
  8. ^ a b c "Soho House". Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery. Retrieved 10 December 2013. 
  9. ^ "Blue Plaques". Birmingham Civic Society. Retrieved 10 February 2013. 
  10. ^ National Art-Collections Fund Review. National Art-Collections Fund. 2001. p. 114. 
  11. ^ Transactions. The Johnson Society. 2007. 
  12. ^ Kennedy 2013, p. 148.
Bibliography

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°29′59″N 1°55′22″W / 52.4996°N 1.9229°W / 52.4996; -1.9229