Soho Manufactory


The Soho Manufactory (grid reference SP051890) 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 1853.[1]

The Soho Manufactory in 1800.


In 1756, Edward Ruston leased land on Handsworth Heath from the Lord of the Manor. He deepened Hockley Brook, and built a rolling mill powered by it.[2]

In 1761 (or 1764[2]) the "toy" manufacturer Matthew Boulton and his business partner John Fothergill leased the site including a cottage and the 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.[3]


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 enginesEdit

In 1782, it became the first site with a Watt steam engine with the sun and planet gear.[4] 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 1853 and the site subsequently used for housing.[2]

Cultural referencesEdit

In the 1990s the television archaeology programme Time Team excavated the foundations, in some of the local back gardens. (Series 4, Ep. 3, 1997)

The Manufactory is featured on the Bank of England £50 note along with Matthew Boulton, James Watt, and the Whitbread Engine.[5]

See alsoEdit


  • A History of Birmingham, Chris Upton, 1993, ISBN 0-85033-870-0
  1. ^ "Preserving the History of Handsworth". Retrieved 22 August 2014.
  2. ^ a b c Thomas T. Harman (1885), Showell's Dictionary of Birmingham: A history and guide, arranged alphabetically: containing thousands of dates and references to matters of interest connected with the past and present history of the town – its public buildings, chapels, churches and clubs – its Friendly Societies and Benevolent Associations, philanthropic and philosophical institutions – its colleges and schools, parks, gardens, theatres, and places of amusement – its men of worth and noteworthy men, manufactures and trades, population, rates, statistics of progress, &c., &c., Cornish Brothers, p. 287, Wikidata Q66438509
  3. ^ "Pubs of Winson Green in Birmingham". Midlands Pubs. Archived from the original on 15 November 2011. Retrieved 25 October 2011.
  4. ^ "INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION: A DOCUMENTARY HISTORY". Adam Matthew Publications. Retrieved 21 March 2015.
  5. ^ "Steam engine heroes grace new £50 banknote". Channel 4. 30 September 2011. Retrieved 13 March 2015.

External linksEdit

  • Early photograph: Search for "Soho Manufactory early photograph" from Birmingham Images
  • Other engravings: Search for "Engraving soho staffordshire" at Birmingham Images
  • Elevated view: Search for "Button and Silver Plate Works" at Birmingham Images

Coordinates: 52°29′56″N 1°55′35″W / 52.49888°N 1.92630°W / 52.49888; -1.92630