The Heritage Lottery Fund – supported by funding from the National Lottery – has awarded £99,000 to celebrate the life of James Watt.

The money will be spent in the Birmingham area, where the inventor spent the latter part of his life.

Next year – the 200th anniversary of Watt’s death – will see:

  • a major exhibition at the Library of Birmingham (featuring internationally significant archival material and artefacts);
  • a schools programme;
  • talks;
  • tours;
  • films and performances;
  • a heritage trail;
  • and a community engagement programme focussed on Handsworth where Watt lived for 30 years until his death in 1819.

The project will be led by The Lunar Society – founded by Watt and others – in association with History West Midlands, Birmingham City Council, The Library of Birmingham, Birmingham Museums Trust, the Centre for West Midlands History at the University of Birmingham, Assay Office Birmingham, the Jewellery Quarter Development Trust, Handsworth Parish Church, St Paul’s Church and Legacy WM.

The Rt Hon Jacqui Smith, chair of the Lunar Society, said: “As well as enabling people to become familiar with Watt and his achievements, we will be looking to the future and asking how Watt’s ideas link to present day science, technology and innovation.

“Engaging with communities and young people and working with some great partners will bring Watt back to life to influence the future as he shaped the past.”

Vanessa Harbar, head of HLF West Midlands, said: “We are delighted to support this project.”

Born in Greenock in Scotland in 1736, Watt moved to Birmingham in 1775 to enter into partnership with Matthew Boulton (1728-1809) to manufacture an improved steam engine.

Find out more about Watt’s life in Birmingham here.

And listen to Dr. Malcolm Dick talk about the plans for celebrations in Birmingham

For further information about the Watt Bicentenary programme contact Chris Rice on 07808 887183 or email rice200510@yahoo.com

Frozen in time: The workroom of James Watt at his home at Heathfield Hall in Handsworth, Birmingham. It was photographed in 1901 - having been undisturbed since Watt's death in 1819.
Frozen in time: The workroom of James Watt at his home at Heathfield Hall in Handsworth, Birmingham. It was photographed in 1901 – having been undisturbed since Watt’s death in 1819. Picture courtesy of The Library of Birmingham.
Heathfield Hall (sometimes referred to as Heathfield House) was a house in Handsworth, (now part of Birmingham) which was built for the engineer James Watt.
Heathfield Hall (sometimes referred to as Heathfield House) was a house in Handsworth, (now part of Birmingham) which was built for the engineer James Watt. Picture courtesy of The Library of Birmingham.

Top picture: Part of the Watt statue at Handsworth, Birmingham.