Soho Manufactory

Soho Manufactory

The Soho Manufactory in 1800.

The Soho Manufactory (grid reference ) was an early factory which pioneered mass production on the assembly line principle, in Soho, Birmingham, England, at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. It operated from 1766-1848 and was demolished in 1863.[1]


  • Beginnings 1
  • Production 2
    • Steam engines 2.1
  • Later 3
  • Cultural references 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


The factory was established by the "toy" manufacturer Matthew Boulton and his business partner John Fothergill. In 1761, they leased a site on Handsworth Heath, containing a cottage and a water-driven metal-rolling mill. The mill was replaced by a new factory, designed and built by the Wyatt family of Lichfield, and completed in 1766. The cottage was later demolished and Boulton's home (Soho House) was built on the site, also by the Wyatts.

Water was drawn from Hockley Brook.[2]


The Soho Manufactory c. 1860.

The Manufactory produced a wide range of goods from buttons, buckles and boxes to japanned ware (collectively called "toys"), and later luxury products such as silverware and ormolu (a type of gilded bronze).

Steam engines

In 1782, it became the first site with a Watt steam engine with a sun and planet gear.[3] It was also home to the first steam-powered mint, whose presses were subsequently used at the first Birmingham Mint.


In later years, the Manufactory was served by canal at Soho Wharf, at the end of the short Soho Branch of the Birmingham Canal Navigations' Soho Loop.

The manufactory was demolished in the middle of the 19th century and the site used for housing.

Cultural references

In the 1990s the television archaeology programme Time Team excavated the foundations, in some of the local back gardens. The Manufactory is featured on the Bank of England £50 note along with Matthew Boulton, James Watt, and the Whitbread Engine. [4]

See also


  • A History of Birmingham, Chris Upton, 1993, ISBN 0-85033-870-0
  1. ^ "Preserving the History of Handsworth". Retrieved 22 August 2014. 
  2. ^ "Pubs of Winson Green in Birmingham". Midlands Pubs. Retrieved 25 October 2011. 
  3. ^ "INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION: A DOCUMENTARY HISTORY". Adam Matthew Publications. Retrieved 21 March 2015. 
  4. ^ "Steam engine heroes grace new £50 banknote". Channel 4. 30 September 2011. Retrieved 13 March 2015. 

External links

  • Digital Handsworth (photographs of Birmingham) - Early photograph - when in website, search for Soho Manufactory early photograph
  • Digital Handsworth (photographs of Birmingham) - Other engravings - when in website, search for Engraving soho staffordshire
  • Digital Handsworth (photographs of Birmingham) - Elevated view - when in website, search for Button and Silver Plate Works