Youngsters in Birmingham are taking part in special lessons in schools to learn more about the city’s adopted son, the inventor James Watt.

Watt arrived in the city in his late 30s and is buried in St Mary’s Parish Church in the Handsworth area. This year – 2019 – marks the 200th anniversary of his death.

The schools work is one of the activities being supported by the James Watt 2019 project, co-ordinated by the Lunar Society, with the backing of a number of funders, including the National Lottery.

Rachel Hunter Rowe from Mrs History – the consultancy delivering the schools workshops in Birmingham – told us more about her work.

She said: “It’s a really exciting opportunity … for the schools in Birmingham to get a better understanding really of who James Watt was and the work he did here.

“We’re hoping to get across the idea of the sort of values that James Watt had – his determination to see his projects through – but also a great range of the things that he was involved in: not just the steam element of it, but many of his other inventions and areas of science and engineering.

“And we’re also going to be talking to children about teamwork…. James Watt was very much obviously at the forefront of the things that he was doing, but there were a lot of people around him – such as Matthew Boulton from Handsworth and other members of the Lunar Society – and how they really helped support him and get him his work out there and become the success that he was.

She added: “Birmingham has got so many different sites that are related to James Watt – one of the schools we’re working with is in Handsworth and it’s right where the Soho Manufactory was.

“Hopefully we’re going to leave that school knowing a greater understanding who James Watt was and what he was was able to actually offer to the 18th century and to the world of inventions and engineering.”

She added: “In the handling sessions in the schools  … (children are) going to have an opportunity to get their hands on lots of different materials and objects that relate to 18th century life – and also to some of the other areas of invention and interests that James Watt had…. We’ve got some very interesting materials that they can look at – and we’ll also be discussing inventions such as his copying machine.

“We’re also going to be producing resources that will be on the website – the JamesWatt2019 website – that can be downloaded.”

Top image: The Soho Manufactory in Birmingham, set up by Watt’s business partner, Matthew Boulton.