The Smethwick Engine - Built to James Watt's Design in 1779


James Watt’s collaboration with Matthew Boulton began in 1774 when Watt brought his ideas and a prototype beam engine to Birmingham. The first commercial engine was designed in 1775 and over three years engines of increasing sophistication were designed, built and used successfully. The Smethwick Engine was the first engine to add expansive use of steam, a further improvement in efficiency, to Watt’s designs of separate condenser and valve gear. All successful early steam engines were beam pumping engines and Watt carried out tests on the Smethwick Engine, using it with expansive working. He wrote to his engine installers to fit this new operating system. This became the standard design for Boulton & Watt
pumping engines for nearly twenty years.

Keywords: James Watt, Matthew Boulton, Steam engine, Oldest steam engine, Industrial Revolution, Thinktank, Birmingham Museums

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The Lunar Men

Led by Erasmus Darwin, the Lunar Society of Birmingham was formed from a group of amateur experimenters, tradesmen and artisans who met and made friends in the Midlands in the 1760s. Most came from humble families, all lived far from the centre of things, but they were young and their...


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