The history of the firm of Boulton & Watt is interesting for another reason. From 1775 to 1800 they possessed a monopoly of steam-engine construction,1 and, therefore, their output comprises practically all the engines that were erected in Great Britain before the year 1800. The records of the firm contain the dates, power, and owners of all engines erected, therefore it is comparatively easy to discover which trades employed steam-power, and to what extent.
This is important in any history of the growth of capital, since any business that could afford the initial cost of the erection of one of Boulton and Watt's engines must have possessed a large amount of capital. Moreover, the capitalist nature of such businesses is confirmed by the fact that they were able to use power on a large scale, and could afford to lock up their resources in fixed capital. The history of the introduction of the steam-engine into industry falls into two obvious and natural parts. The first of these extends from the earliest Newcomen engine to October 25, 1781, when Watt patented his rotary motion and the second period began.
It is very difficult to find out exactly how many of the old atmospheric engines were in use in England before Watt invented the separate condenser. Newcomen, himself, probably only erected about six or seven. An advertisement in the London Gazette for August, 1716, says, " that there are diverse engines of this invention now at work in the several counties of Stafford, Warwick, Cornwall, and Flint."2 The use of these engines spread rapidly, especially for coal-mines in the Newcastle district. A certain William Brown, of Throckley, on the Tyne, began to erect engines in 1756, at which date, an engine was still " a great rarity," and from 1757-76 Brown personally supervised the erection of twenty-four engines, mostly in the Newcastle district.3
When Smeaton turned his attention to steam- engines, he attempted to compile a list of atmospheric engines then existing, making a very careful investigation of the one erected by Newcomen, or, probably more accurately, by his partner, Cahey, in 1717, at Austhorpe, where Smeaton lived.4
Smeaton collected a list of a hundred engines that had been erected on the Newcastle coal-field, or near it, since the beginning of the century5 By 176g, he says, that many of these had been worn out and given up, but those that were then in action amounted to fifty-seven, of a probable horse-power of 1,188. Smeaton, however, suspected their performance to be very small compared with their dimensions, and their consumption of fuel to be very great.6
In Cornwall, he says, that there were, in 1770 about eighteen large engines, that is engines with 60 in, cylinders, but these were probably not all the steam-engines then in use in that county, for a Cornish estimate puts the number of engines erected between 1740 and I777 at sixty7 Many of these, like the northern ones, were, no doubt, disused, which would account for the smallness of Smeaton's total.
Moreover, in London, which had had an organized water supply since the fourteenth century, steam- engines were used to raise the water from the Thames or other streams to the houses, and there were about ten engines so employed in 1775.8
These were the main uses of such engines as can be traced. There were several used for returning water to drive water wheels, which, in turn, blew furnaces or drove mills, and at least two engines were exported besides the French one already mentioned. One of these was built at Carron, under Smeaton's direction, and was sent to Cronstadt to help to pump water out of one of Peter the Great's new dry docks, and the other was sent to Rotterdam to drain 7,000 acres that were under water.9
Smeaton and Brindley had each designed some of these engines ; but the latter had soon abandoned engine building, in favour of surveying and canal construction, just as Watt abandoned canals for the steam-engine. Smeaton, however, spent a great part of his energies on evolving a successful and more economical steam-engine, and even before Watt's invention of the separate condenser, had largely improved the performance of the atmospheric engine. His best engines were at a London water works and at a Cornish mine.10
Thus it would appear that the maximum number of engines of the old type working, in 1775, was:
All these were working very expensively and intermittently. The first pumping engines, then, had been of use mainly in mines, which was the purpose for which they had been invented, and they were also being used for pumping water in water-works, in brine works, and to feed streams that drove the water wheels of mills. The rotary engine, on the other hand, could be used for everything, and enabled regular and cheap power to be applied to all industrial undertakings. When it was announced that Boulton was to become a partner in a new and improved steam-engine, in 1771, immediately applications and inquiries for engines were received from Cornish copper mines, the York Buildings Company, which supplied Piccadilly with water, and a mining company in Derbyshire.11
Then, when tile partnership was finally fixed up and they started to get orders, these were the main types of enterprise for which engines were supplied.
The first engine erected was that constructed at Kinneil, and was employed to return the water to the mill, at Soho, and thus to assist in driving the works by water-power.12
The next engines were built at Soho and Broseley, one for the Bloomfield Colliery13 and one for the Broseley iron-works, to blow the bellows, for which purpose the reciprocating engine was also well fitted. Then followed a pumping engine at Hawkesbury Colliery, and one for Messrs. Cook & Co.'s Distillery, at Stratford le-Bow.14
This was the output of the first year, and for these purposes the reciprocating engine was ideal. However, inquiries reached Soho for engines for other purposes. In June, 1775, Samuel Rowe, of Maccles- field, inquired about a "Steam-wheel for the purpose of turning a Silk Mill," which was then bring turned by horse-power. Boulton replies that they have a rotative engine, but, as yet, they cannot be very precise about it.15
John Collet, of the Glass House, London, inquired for a " Steam-wheel applied to the turning of laps and grinding of stones for the polishing of steel work," and was met with the same indefinite answer.16 However, in November, 1776, an inquiry from a Sheffield firm that required a rotary motion is answered by a suggestion, that until the rotary engine is perfected, a reciprocating engine be used to raise the water and drive the machines by water- power, as at Soho itself.17
Thus it appears that not only were the mining and other works that required pumping and blowing engines eager for steam-power, but also the generality of works that already possessed machinery driven by power.
The inquiries increased rapidly from about ten, in 1775, to twenty, in 1776, until in May, 1778, Boulton & Watt were refusing to accept orders for engines to be begun before l779.18
Though inquiries came from all types of industry, the orders which were executed were mainly for mines,19 water works, 20 brine works,21 feeding canals,22 distilleries23, and feeding water-wheels24 In February, I777, Watt gives a list of engines then working:
|Cylinders||Place||Pump||Height of Water Raised|
|18 inch||Soho..||18.5 inch||24 feet|
|50||Bloomfield Colliery(14 miles from B.)||14.5||85-112 yards|
|38||New willey,Shropshire||Blows two large iron furnances|
|*18||Stratford-le Bow Essex||15 inch||36-38,as tide effects it|
|(Not finished, but will be going next week)|
*Only one which bums Newcastle coal25
These types of engine, then, provided the main business of the firm until the invention of the rotary engine, with its " sun and planet motion," in 1781. The largest number of engines, however, was erected in Cornwall, where the necessity for them was greatest.
The difficulties which the copper miners had to overcome, and the dangers attendant on the flooding of the mines by water, had had a very discouraging effect on the enterprise of the Cornish mining adventurers, and many mines were allowed to go out of work because those who held shares' in them decided not to throw good money after bad. In this position they were naturally unwilling to spend large sums on new engines, whose success in clearing the water was, at any rate, doubtful, if not impossible. Thus, though Boulton & Watt received inquiries from Cornwall, the orders did not mature. In 1776 they decided to erect one engine free of charge, to be sold to the adventurers if successful.26
This was, therefore, done on an adit in the Chacewater mine in 1778, and, proving entirely successful, brought an immediate rush of Cornish orders, with which the firm were largely occupied for the next three years, erecting five engines in 1781 for the Consolidated Mines27 The engines erected before the end of 1782 were all reciprocating engines, and Boulton compiled a statement of engines, and their conditions, in September 1782 which is of importance and worth quoting in full :
|Position of Engine||Purpose||Remarks||Present Income £||Total income when at work|
|United Mines||Pumping (Copper mine)||At work, but B.&W have gioven up their share of the savings for 6 months from April last.|
|WhealUnion, now Castle Addit Mine||"||" "||300||300|
|Ting Tang, now Scorrier||"||was £200, is now £150.Will be at work in a month||150||150|
|Hallamanin||Pumping(Copper mine)||Will be work in a month or six weeks||-||120|
|Wheal Chance||"||On account of the poverty of the mine B.&W have abated one third of their share of the savings||400||600|
|Whl. Treasury||"||At work||-||150|
|Whl. Crenver||"||at work||200||200|
|Poole||"||At work and pays from May||400||400|
|Whl Virgin in the West||"||In the same state with Whl.Virgin mines||-||100|
|Poldice||"||Can only be set t owork when the consolidated mine set to work||-||1,500|
|Consolidated Mine Whl. Virgin||"||towork to the price of copper is advanced and the price of coals lowers by a certain of being supplied||-||2,500|
|Polgooth||"||Engines not yet begun to be erected||-||200|
|Gregory Mine||Pumping(? mine)||This eengine will pay better in a year or or two than it does now||100||100|
|Hawkesbury Mines||Pumping (Coal Mine)||Ar work||217||217|
|Chapman'sNewcastle-on Tyne||"||At work||73||73|
|Reynolds Ketley||Blowing Iron Works||at work||240||240|
|Hull||Water Works||At work||20||20|
|Penryndee, Carnarvonshire||Copper mine||At work, but wants repairing||100||100|
|Shadwell, London||Water Works||At work||84||84|
|Chelsea, London||Water Works||At work||130||130|
|Scott's two engines, Shrewsbury||Pumping (Colliery)||The large engine has been removed and will be reduced from £120 to £50||50||50|
|Colclough' Engine||Pumping (Colliery)||Engine now erecting||-||84|
|Walker's engine,Holmes Iron Works, Rotherham||Blowing iron works||''||-||50|
|Wanlockhead, Edinburgh||Pumping Colliery||At work||100||100|
|Wren's nest, Dudley||"||At work||70||70|
Moreover, In addition to those engines from which they expected to derive an annual revenue, there were several that had been sold outright, and those for John Wilkinson, for which he was to pay in coals only 28 These engines can be traced in the letter lmoks and engine book of the firm : 29 Bloomfleld Colliery, Tlpton, Staffordshire.
Pumping (Colliery). At work. John Wilkinson's engines. 1. New Willey' 30 2.Snedshill 3.Bradley 4. Snedhill, Shropshire.
Cooks & Co., Distillery, Stratford-le-Bow, Essex. Pumping water. At work. Richmond Water-works, Surrey. Pumping water. At work. Perier's engine, Paris Water-works, France. Pumping water. At work. Coleville's engine, Torrybourn, Scotland. Pumping (Colliery). At work. Salmon's engine, Lawton Salt Works, Cheshire. Pumping brine. At work. Birmingham Canal Company : 1.Smethwick Feeding the canal. At work. 2. Spon Lane Feeding the canal. At work
Thus in 1782 the distribution of Boulton & Watt's steam-engines was not very great The London water companies had adopted it of necessity, as had the Cornish copper miners. Engines were also working in isolated pits in the Scotch, Shropshire, and Staffordshire coal-fields. While at the iron works of Johp Wilkinson, the Reynolds, and the Walkers, in Shropshire and Yorkshire, they were being used for blowing the furnaces, and by their increased power were making a complete success of iron smelting with coal.
However, with the satisfaction of the Cornish demand, the orders began to fall off again. From the above list of Cornish engines it is obvious that the chances of many further mines in Cornwall being set to work was small. Moreover, Boulton & Watt only received payment as .long as the engines worked and used coals, and, therefore, they had to be careful not to erect so many engines that the copper market would be flooded. However, in January, 1782, Boulton hopes to make a profit by the Cornish engines alone 31
The circumstances were less favourable since Boulton & Watt were not anxious to erect engines at coal-mines, as the method of payment depended on the price of coal, and as coal at the pit-head was very cheap, the savings were correspondingly small 32 This reduced the sphere of the steam-engine to water-works, and there were comparatively few of these outside London.
Manchester and Salford did not possess a water works company till 1808,33 while Birmingham had to wait till 182634 for public water-works. There was no great demand for engines for public water works, and the small engines which were to supply private houses with water, were " small Gimcrack things," that hardly repaid erecting, for there was no standardization, and they had to be sold outright. The use of the engine for furnaces and forges was also very limited, for, as yet, the great majority of the iron was smelted by small capitalists still using wood as fuel, and who worked in localities where such power as was necessary could easily be obtained from streams and water-wheels.
It looked as though the making of steam-engines was not to be the profitable business it had promised to be. The rotative engine was patented, in 1781, and of the five or six methods of producing rotary motion mentioned in the specification, the one which Watt decided to adopt was one which had been invented some time before, but only included in the patent at the last moment. 35 It was known as the Sun and Planet motion, because an arrange ment of two wheels, one rotating round the other, was utilized to avoid using the crank, which, though well known for centuries, had been patented by one Washborough, who was also endeavouring to build an engine. 36 Even though he had spent so much time over the rotary engine. Watt was more interested in it for scientific reasons than from hope of profit. When difficulties were growing in Corn wall and closing the mines. Watt wrote to Boulton : "My inclination and feelings would lead me to abandon both Cornwall and Wheal Virgin forthwith, and to attend to and amuse myself with these rotative machines, etc., but it would be dropping the substance to catch at the shadow : I have a very mean opinion of the rotative profits, and the trouble with each of them must be at least double that of an engine which raises water." 37
Boulton, however, was more hopeful. In April, 1782, orders for engines had practically ceased, but Boulton was confident of their success, if only the mills would take up the engine. 38 He was ready with an answer to Watt's complaints that mill engines were all small ones, and suggests that mills offer a more permanent source of business " than these transient mines," and the difficulty of small engines could be curtailed " by mailing a pattern card of them and confining ourselves to those sorts and sizes." 39 This is the beginning of standardization in engineering, and an important step forward in the firm's history.
Applications for mill engines soon began to come, among them was a steam corn-mill required for the Commissioners of the Victualling Office, to be erected at Portsmouth, and a scheme for dry ing gunpowder by some steam machine.
As orders for rotatives at this date were coming in very slowly, Boulton conceived the idea of a steam corn-mill, in London, to advertise the new engine. This was in 1783, but the London capitalists were averse from the undertaking, and the engine firm had to find the greater part of the capital. 40 However, sufficient shareholders were got together, and a charter of incorporation applied for, but owing to the strenuous opposition of the millers, it was refused. Boulton made out their case in a letter to Matthews, which is interesting as showing the attitude of a trade, which was perfectly satisfied with the power it was already using (i.e. wind and water), to the new steam-power. He says, " it seems the millers are determined to be masters of us and ye publick. Amongst other arguments that may be urged on our part are ye following, viz. :
" (I) That we are limited in our capital, in our Warehouse room, and in the number of our Millstones, which shows we do not aim at that unbounded power they are so much inclined to.
" (2). -
" (3). That Mills which are near Town, and have water carriage, cannot be much affected by our plans.
" (4) That one porter Brewery burns much more than half the Coals which all our three engines will do, and makes as much or more smoak than all of 'em will do, from the difference of their and our method of burning coal.
" (5). That putting a, stop to Fire-engine Mills, because they come in competition with water mills, would be as absurd a measure as stopping navigable canals, because they interfere with the Farmers and Wagoners. The agreement extends also against wind and tide Mills, or any other means whereby corn can be ground in London, for that is ye grievance these millers complain of.
" (6). That the same argument would extend to the stopping machines, whereby men's labour is saved, because it might be argued that men were thereby deprived of a livelyhood, and may, with as much propriety, be extended to the annihilating of water mills them selves, and thus go back to the Grinding of Corn by human labour." 41
In spite of the goodness of their case, the vested interests of the millers were too strong for the steam-engine firm, and the charter of incorporation, having been refused, the Albion Mill was floated as an ordinary partnership. The interior machinery of the mill was designed and fitted up by the famous engineer Rennie. Watt was doubtful about the venture, as he feared that it would be a loss unless a good manager was obtained. 42 However, the mill was eventually set to work, in spite of difficulties with the workmen, who preferred to take orders from Watt rather than from Rennie 43
As soon as the mill began to buy corn, the corn market became very confused. To start the mill, they required 1,500 quarters of wheat, and " the report of the Albion Mill buying soon ran round the market, and raised the price 1s, per quarter at least." 44 The farmers, however, were pleased with the mill, and brought their corn and wished to exchange it for coals. 45 In May, 1786, the mill was finally set to work, and the London millers were much frightened at its doing so well. The effect of this on the Corn Market was curious, causing a fall in price to 35s. and 36s. per quarter. 46
However, the mill was not a real commercial success, though it succeeded in demonstrating the capabilities of Watt's double rotative engine, and in attracting many orders from the London districts. It is possible that in time the mill might have been a success as its trade was, for the period, immense.
In a week it could grind sufficient for the weekly consumption of 150,000 people. 47 But just as its prospects began to brighten, it was burnt down by incendiaries on March 3, 1791. The main cock of the water cistern was fastened, the hour of low tide chosen, and the mill was burnt to the ground 48
The orders that now began to come m more and more rapidly, were for engines to be used in all kinds of industry, and all over the country. The whole output of the firm is included in its letter- books and engine books, and the following lists are the result of a careful study of these papers.
It must be borne in mind that the output of Boulton & Watt represents the entire steam- engine building of the country, if not of the whole world ; the pirated engines, that caused the firm so much anxiety and litigation, were not great in numbers, and the atmospheric engines, even as improved by Smeaton, were costly and inefficient, 49 and ceased to be erected, 50 The following tables throw a light on the capital of many trades, though caution is needed in making deductions from them, mainly owing to the fact that nearness to coal-fields and price of coal were important factors in many cases. 51
|County||Cottone Mills||Canals||Colleries||Water Work Distrilleries||Copper Mills||Foundry & Forge||Corn Mills||Breweries||Potteries||Rolling Mills||Starch, oils ect,||Totals|
|Chesire||I 14||I 14|
|Cornwalll||21* 420||21 420|
|Derbyshire||I 20||I 20|
|Essex||I 5 **||I 5|
|Middlesex||4 73||I 20||I 4||6 97|
|Northumberland||I *20||I 20|
|Nottinghamshire||2 9||2 9|
|Shropshire||2 49*||8 261||10 301|
|Staffordshire||3 71||I *20||6 74||2 16||12 181|
|Surrey||I 5||I 10||3 26||5 41|
|Warwickshire||I *20||I 20|
|Worcestershire||I 10||I 10|
|Yorkshire||I 10||2 83||I 7||400|
|2 9||3 71||5* 100||7 93||22*440||17 428||2 34||I 4||2 16||2 17||32 26||66 1238|
Note E= Engine HP= Horse Power * Horse Power estimated ** Used to pump water from the Thames but for the use of a distillery
|County||Cotton Mills||Wool &Worsted Mills||Rope &Flax||Bleachery||Calico Printing||Dyehouses||Canals||Collieries||Water Works||Corn Mills||Foundries and Forges||Paper Mill||Salt and Lead Mines and Works||Glass and Pottery||Distilleries||Breweries||Tannery||Oil, Colour, Drug, Tobacco,Sugar,White Lead||Totals|
|Surrey||1,4||2,32||1,10||1 36||1,14||1,10||2, 28||9,184|
|Totals||47 ,736||2,60||3,64||1, 12||1,4||2,32||11, 52||22 220||3,91||6, 68||9, 150||1 10||3 28||2 22||5 114||11 , 91||1, 6||14 149||144, 2009|
|County||Cotton Mills||Wool and Worsed Mills||Bleachery||Calenderersand Glaziers||Canals||Colliery||Water Works||Corn Mills||Forge and Foundry||Lead Works||Glass and Pottery||Distillery||Brewery||Shot Mill||Colour, Laboratory, White Lead Oil Mills||Total|
|Cheshire||3 , 52||1, 24||4, 68|
|Durham||1, 24||1, 8||2,32|
|Gloucestershire||1,12||1, 5||2, 17|
|Lancashire||29, 523||2, 40||2, 34||1, 16||1, 6||35,619|
|Leicestershire||1, 8||1, 8|
|Middlesex||1, 12||1, 15||3, 57||3, 38||2, 18||10, 140|
|Northamptonshire||1, 12||1, 12|
|Northumberland||1, 8||3, 60||1, 16||5, 84|
|Oxfordshire||1, 13||1, 13|
|Shropshire||1, 20||1, 20|
|Staffordshire||1, 12||1, 30||1, 32||3, 74|
|Surrey||1, 10||1, 4||2, 14|
|Warwickshire||1, 20||1, 16||2, 36|
|Wiltshire||1, 5||1, 5|
|Yorkshire||4 68||1, 20||1, 12||6, 100|
|Kent||1, 20||1, 4||2, 24|
|Totals||35 637||7 120||1 8||2 34||1 12||4 38||3 60||3 57||1 16||2 40||3 52||2 46||1 20||5 52||1 4||8 100||79 1296|
|Place of Erection||Cotton Mills||Flax Mills||Canals||Colleries||Corn Mills||Foundry and Forge||Copper Mines||Distillers||Breweries||Glass Works||Water Works||Total to 1775||Total to 1795||Total to 1800|
|Anglesey||1 3||1 3||1 13|
|Flint||1 49||1 49|
|Glamoragan||2 12||3 204||1 20|
|Monmouth||1 20||1 20|
|Argyll||1 8||1 8||1 8|
|Clacmannan||1 10||1 14||1 14||1 8|
|Edinburgh||1 10||1 32||1 16||1 10||3 58|
|Falkirk||1 20||1 20|
|Fife||1 2||1 20|
|Forfar||1, 20||1, 14||1, 14||1 14|
|Haddington||1, 14||1, 14||1, 14|
|Lanark||2 42||1 12||1 30||1 10||1 8||1 10||1 102|
|Perthshire||1 30||1 30|
|Renfrew||4 44||4 44|
|Ireland||1 3||1 10||1 14||1 10||1 3||3 27|
|France||1 38||1 85||2 123||2 123|
|Spain||2 98||2 98||2 98|
|Total to 1785||2 20||1 38||1 85||4 143|
|Total to 1795||2 11||2 12||4 176||1 3||2 28||11 230|
|Total to 1800||8 128||2 32||2 11||4 32||4 74||9 419||1 3||3 60||1 8||1 16||1 85||36 868|
|E. H.P||E. H.P.||E. H.P.||E. H.P.|
|Cheshire||1 14||7 91||4 68||12 173|
|Cornwall||21 420||21 420|
|Cumberland||3 39||3 39|
|Derbyshire||1 20||3 20||4 40|
|Durham||4 92||2 32||6 124|
|Essex||1 5||1 4||2 9|
|Gloucester||4 84||2 17||6 101|
|Kent||1 3||2 24||3 27|
|Lancashire||20 271||35 619||55 890|
|Leicestershire||2 22||1 8||3 30|
|Lincolnshire||1 4||1 4|
|Middlesex||6 97||25 369||10 140||41 606|
|Northants||1 12||1 12|
|Northumberland||1 20||3 52||5 84||9 156|
|Oxfordshire||2 16||1 13||3 29|
|Shropshire||10 301||14 120||1 20||25 441|
|Staffordshire||12 181||16 248||3 74||31 503|
|Surrey||5 41||9 134||2 14||16 189|
|Warwichshire||1 20||3 23||2 36||6 79|
|Worcestershire||1 10||1 10|
|Yorkshire||4 100||12 247||6 100||22 447|
|Totals||66 1238||144 2009||79 1296|| 289 4543|
|E. H.P.||E. H.P||E. H.P.||E. H.P.|
|Cotton Mills 2-9||47-736||35-637||84-1382|
|Wool and Worsted Mills||2-60||7-120||9-180|
|Rope and Flax Mills||3-64||1-8||4-72|
|Calenders and Glaziers||1-12||1-12|
|Foundry and Forge||17-428||9-150||2-40||28-618|
|Potteries and Glassworks||2-16||2-22||2-46||6-84|
|Salt and Lead Mine Works||3-28||3-52||6-80|
|Oil,Starch, Colour, Drug Tobacco, Sugar, White Lead Laboratory Mills||3-26||14-149||8-100||25-275|
At the beginning of the nineteenth century, then, the use of steam-power in industry was neither universal nor extensive. The total number of engines in Great Britain and Ireland, in the year 1800, was 321, representing a total horse-power of 5,210. Nevertheless, the location and purpose of these 321 engines is of considerable importance. It is a curious fact that they are nearly all employed in comparatively new industries. The newest industry in the country, the cotton trade, used eighty-four engines of 1,382 horse-power. The wool trade that, up to 1731, had been protected by Parliament, used only nine engines of 180 horse power. This was probably due to the fact that the organization of the woollen trade was only just developing out of the domestic into the factory system, and that wool was very liable to snap when spun and woven mechanically 52 On the other hand, the cotton trade was a new thing, and had no great weight of domestic tradition behind it ; it had not been localized in sheep-rearing districts for centuries, and its organization was much less stabilized. Rapid development was easy and power was largely applied.
If we look at the other industries that used steam-power in 1800, it becomes clear that, apart from mines, water-works, canals, and iron-works, the steam-engine was hardly used in industry.
The mines had to use the steam-engine in order to proceed at all, their only alternative being the con stant sinking of new shafts in order to work at levels where drainage was not an all-important problem.
The water works and, in many cases, the canals could not exist without steam-power, for their very existence depended upon the regular raising of large quantities of water to high levels. Steam was the only power that made this possible.
The iron works also had a special reason for needing steam-power, the smelting of iron with coal had made an increased blast necessary. The iron-works were usually situated on the coal and iron seams, where coal was easily obtainable and cheap power from water was not often available. The power to drive the bellows for the increased blast was obviously best obtained from coal-driven steam-engines, and the success of John Wilkinson along such lines was a valuable advertisement and recommendation for the use of the steam-engine in iron-works.
As regards the distribution of the engines geo graphically, it is obvious that the bad state of the roads made it essential for cheap working that the engines should be situated on the coal-fields, or where coal could be easily transported by water, i.e. by canal or coast route. In fact, the only engines built off the coal-fields were those in Cornwall, where coals came by sea, but were always difficult to obtain, 53 and those which surrounded the metropolis itself.
London, of course, had long possessed an adequate coal supply, though It was carefully controlled and regulated by a limited number of coal dealers, who owned the wharves and quays where the Newcastle Fleet unloaded. 54 Otherwise the steam-enginrs were built on the coal-fields. This was the end of many industries, which could easily have used increased power, but were unable to obtain it, owing to their situation away from the coal-fields. 55
This helps to account for the gradual introduction of steam-power. The steam-engines were generally erected in new enterprises near the coal-fields, while the old centres of localized industry continued along traditional lines. Gradually competition added to the numbers of the power-driven works and decreased those of the older type, until the in dustries that needed power were almost all clustered round or on the coal-fields. All this happened before the days of the railway and rapid coal transport. The movement of industry is now rather away from the coal-fields than towards them ; a state of things that is the result of many influences, some social and some purely economic.
It is strange that the position of the steam-engine in its early years lias been so neglected by economic historians, even Mantoux.who claims to have seen the records of tile firm of Boulton & Watt, makes several mistakes in his dates of the earliest application of steam to various trades. 56 Moreover, another historian says that as in 1800 there were only fifty-three steam-engines in Birmingham, Manchester, and Leeds, " the steam-engine only gradually supplanted water as a motive power." This, of course, proves nothing, as there is no comparison made between water and steam-power. 57
At any rate, it is obvious that an adequate and accurate account of the position of steam-power in 1800 is very necessary to give precision to the economic history of that period.
The story of the early progress of steam-power in Industry is easily epitomized. At first it was used as a matter of sheer necessity by the mines ; then later it enabled new methods to be employed in smelting iron and working textile machinery of a new and powerful description : then lastly it replaced other types of power in the rest of the industrial field, wherever coals became cheap.
1. Watt's ever-active genius kept on patenting improvements so quickly that evasions and imitations were incapable of being successfully worked. Seven new patents were taken out before 1785.
2 London Galette for August 11-14, 1716. Vide supra , p. 38.
3. Galloway, Annals of Coal-mining , pp. 260-261.
4. Ib., p.242
5. Farcy, Historical Account of the Steam Engine, pp. 233-4. Galloway, op. cit., pp. 261-2.
6. Farey, op. cit., p. 237.
7. Victoria County History, Cornwall, p549 Quoting Pryce, Mimralogia Cornubiensis.
8. Scott, Early History of Joint-Stock Companies to 1720, Vol. III, pp. 15, 32-3. 35-9. Farcy, op. cit., p. 256. London Bridge Water Company used one engine to pump water from the Thames. York Buildings Company, which numbered water supply among its manifold activities, had an engine in 1725, which was re-erected in 1757. Shadwell Company had two, while rather later in 1770 an engine was erected by the Borough Company. Engines were also tried at Newcastle and York, two of the few provincial citiea with an efficient water supply at this date. Boulton to Watt, January 26, 1775. Muirhead, Mechanica lnventions of Watt, Vol. 11, p. 80. Smeaton had erected an engibe for the New River Company, and Chelsea had two in 1775.
9. Farcy, op. cit., pp.262-96. Three engines returned water to blow furnaces and four to drive mills ; among the latter were two at Coalbrookdale.
10.Smiles, Brindley pp. 148, 152 ; Smeaton ang Rennie, p. 162
11 Smiles, Boulton and Watt, p. 153.
12 Watt's Memorandum of Boulton. Tew MSS.
13. Ib. Boulton to Watt. July 25. 1776. Among the early inquiries there were also a considerable number from distillers, few of which materialized. Tangye MSS.
14. Watt's Memorandum of Boulton. Tew MSS.
15. Boulton to S. Roe, June 29, 1775. Tangye MSS. See also Appendix, pp. a36-7.
16. Boulton to Mr. J. Collet at tha Glass House, Cockspur Street, London, October IS, 1775. Tangye MSS.
17. Watt to Messrs. Proctor & Beilby, Sheffield, November 8, 1776. Tangye MSS.
18. Boulton to Hodgkinson, New Burlington Street, May 8, 1778. Tangye MSS.
19. e.g. J. Scott, Shrewsbury. A coal-mine.
20. e.g. Shadwell Water Works.
21.eg. Mr. Salman, Hassel, nr. Laughton. Cheshire.
22.e.g. Birmingham Navigation.
23. e.g. Messrs. Cooke & Co., Essex.
24. eg. Soho.
25.Watt to Wm. Chapman, Newcastle-on-Tyne, February 22,1777. Tangye, MSS
26. Watt to Jonathan Hornblower, Senior, November 8, 1776. Tangye MSS.
27. Watt: Memmandum on Boulton. Tew MSS.
28. Watt to John Wilkinson, July I7, I777 ; " We will grant to you and your successors out Licenses to use tile two engines now erected at New Willey and the one you propose to erect at Wilson House as well as a devil to be erected where you please during the remaining term of our exclusive privilege upon payment o one shilling yearly when demanded, provided you do not remove them to situations where coals are of much greater value." The payment for his engine at Snedshill he was to make in coals, which, " if they are of no value, you certainly can affordto pay them." TangyeMSS. '
29. See Engine Book, 1774-82. Tangye MSS.
31. Boulton to Matthews, January 11, 1782: "The profits arise every minute . . if can keep the present Cornish Battery of 21 great guns going I have no doubt but I shall soon vanquish all my difficulties." Tew MSS.
32. Boulton to Garbett, February 18, 1776. Tangye MSS
The conduit ceased to flow in 1777. Axon, Annals of Manchester , p. 104, 140
33. British Association Handbook, Birmingham, 1913, p. 183.
34. Watt to Boulton, January 3, 1782. Tew MSS
35. Watt to Boulton, November 19, 1780. Tew MSS
36. Watt to Boulton, January 23, 1782. Tew MSS.
37. Boulton to Watt, April 19, 1782. Tew MSS.
38.Boulton to Watt, December 7, 1788. Tew MSS. Boulton to Matthews, Jan. 11, 1782. Tew MSS.
39.Boulton to Watt, December lq, 1783. Under the law as it then stood liability under partnership was restrained by a special Act of Parliament. Tangye MSS.
40. Thorold Rogers, The Joint-Stock Principle in Capital, Industrial and Commercial History, p. 143
41. Boulton to Matttlew3, April 30, 1784. Tew MSS.
42. Watt to Boulton, March 28, 1786 : " A few hundred a year should not stand in the way if a proper man can be found, such a man as Goodwyn the Brewer, or Galloway or Stonard the Starch maker." Tew MSS
43. Boulton to Watt, April 15. 1786. Tangye MSS.
44. Boulton to Watt, March IS, 1786. Tangye MSS. It is note worthy that the darkness and dirtiness of the inside of the mill were to be counteracted by whitewashing.
45. Boulton to Watt, March 22, 1786. Tangye MSS.
46.Boulton to Watt. June la, 1786. Tangye MSS.
47. Boulton to Watt, May I, 1786. Tangye MSS.
Boulton to Matthews. December 7. 1787. Tew MSS. The mill was a constant drain on the steam-engine firm, and was constantly making calls.
48. The criminals were never discovered. The loss was £10,000, at which Boulton held £6,000 and Watt £3,000
49. Victoria County History, Cornwall, p. 549. In 1782 twenty- one Boulton & Watt engines had been erected in Cornwall, and only one atmospheric Newcomen engine remained, that, too, disappearing in l790
50. Watt to Wllkinson, April 16, 1778. Tangye MSS. Smeaton visited Soho and tried the engine to be erected for the Birmingham Navigation Company, and in consequence surrendered up the building of an engine at Hull to Boulton & Watt. Previously he had been very sceptical about the engine. He said it was too complicated for workmen to erect or manage.
51.A firm that could afford a steam-engine was obviously a capitalist enterprise ; but it should be noted that the superiority of Watt's engine was less important on the coal-fields where coals were of little or no value.
52. Knowles, Industrial ant Commercial Revolutions, p. 50.
53. Boulton to Watt, October I7. 1782. Tew MSS. : " Yesterday..100 Sail of Colliers were expected at Falmouth but was extremely disappointed to see only 25 of them enter the Harbour, and all the rest sail forward to Plymouth. There is not enough coals in the country to carry the mines through the winter." Boulton to Watt. October IS, 1782. Tew MSS. Boulton offers to pay 5s. per weigh in addition to the price to persuade colliers to bring coals to Cornwall. See also Holt and Gngson, MSS., Liverpool Municipal Library, Vol. lo, pp. 259-263
54. Coal crimps are sometimes Factors, selling ship loads of coals by commission ; others are a sort of merchant buying up large quantities and disposing of them to the lesser wholesale dealers. . . . A person who makes any tolerable figure in this way deals for many thousands a year."- A General DescriPtwit of All Trades, I747 . See also Knowles, Industrial and Commercial Revolution, p. 99, note 4. The difficulty of supplying distant places with coals increased in war-time, especially the coast-wise traffic, " owing to many Collier Ships having been engaged by merchants at a high premium to carry goods to Hamburg, etc." The Farington Diary, ed. Greig, Vol. I, p. 259, January 5, 1799.
55.e.g. The woollen and cutlery industries of Essex ; the woollen industry of Gloucestershire and Norfolk the iron industry of the Weald and Hampshire at this date [1773-1800] are all declining.
56. He states that Wedgewood introduced steam in 1790 into his pottery; whereas the dates of Wedgwood's engines are 1782, 1784, 1793, and 1800. While Toynbee, Industrial Revolution, gives 1788 as the date of the application of the steam-engine to blast furnaces. This should be 1776, by J . Wilkinson, at Broseley.
57. Knowlse, , Industrial and Commercial Revolution, p. 73. In Manchester in 1820 there were sixty-six mills all steam driven. The cotton import was 151 million pounds in 1820, in 18oo it was only 55 million pounds. The general centre of the manufacture did not change during these years, therefore it is fair to say that Manchester had at most thirty cotton mills of all descriptions in 1800. At that date, according to the engine books, Manchester had thirty-two steam cotton mills and not twenty- two as stated bv Mantoux and quoted by Knowles. While if the townships includetl in the 1820 estimate of sixty-six are included, the total ill 1800 is thirty-eight. Baines, History of the Cotton Manufacture , pp.363-400