Matthew Boulton and the Soho Mint: copper to customer

Tungate, Susan (2011). Matthew Boulton and the Soho Mint: copper to customer. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.


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Matthew Boulton (1728-1809) is well known as an eighteenth-century industrialist, the founder of Soho Manufactory and the steam-engine business of Boulton and Watt. Less well known are his scientific and technical abilities in the field of metallurgy and coining, and his role in setting up the Soho Mint. The intention of this thesis is to focus on the coining activities of Matthew Boulton from 1787 until 1809, and to examine the key role he played in the modernisation of money. It is the result of an Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded collaboration with Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, where, after examination of their extensive collection of coins, medals, tokens and dies produced at the Soho Mint, .research was used to produce a catalogue. A close visual study of the artefacts has been combined with evidence from contemporary archival material, and information from secondary sources, to provide a synthesis of the processes involved in making coins, and Matthew Boulton’s working practices in the eighteenth century.

The thesis describes processes involved in making the 600 million coins, medals and tokens made at Soho Mint during Boulton’s lifetime. Chapter one briefly discusses his eighteenth-century background and the reasons for setting up the Soho Mint. In chapter two Boulton’s involvement in the copper and iron industries are discussed, including the importance of his contributions to both industries. He needed large amounts of copper and specialized iron products such as steel to make his coins at Soho Mint. In chapter three the technical aspects of minting are discussed, including Boulton and his team’s contribution to developing new techniques. The final chapter details how materials and products were transported, commissioned, and designed.

The second half of the thesis is a sample catalogue of items produced at the Soho Mint prior to Boulton’s death in 1809. Fuller catalogues of Soho Mint products have been produced for several institutions as a result of this research, for use by museum curators, historians and professional and amateur numismatists. Only a selection of this aspect of the research is included, because of the word limitations for PhD theses.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of History and Cultures, Department of History
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General)
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain


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