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MAKING THE MODERN WORLD
Stories about the lives we've made

story:The Heroic Age

scene:Garret workshop of James Watt

Garret workshop of James Watt
Images with this text:
Interior of Watt's workshop before its removal to the Science Museum.
Garret workshop of James Watt
James Watt's large house, Heathfield, was built for him in 1791 in Handsworth Heath, Staffordshire. After he retired from business life in 1800, Watt began to make use of a garret room as a workshop. His major interest at this time appears to have been developing a machine to copy sculptures (a 'copy mill').
After Watt's death in 1819, the workshop remained locked up and untouched until 1853, when it was viewed by J. P. Muirhead, his biographer. After that it was visited occasionally, but the room remained undisturbed. A proposal in 1864 that the contents should be transferred to the Patent Office Museum came to nothing, but the room continued to be visited almost as a shrine. In 1924 when Heathfield was to be demolished, descendant Major J. M. Gibson Watt, presented the room's contents to the Science Museum.
At the Science Museum an exact reproduction of the garret room was created. Although there are some important pieces of equipment in the workshop, James Watt did not make any of his important discoveries in it as it was only used for 'pottering about' after he retired. Its recreation as a museum piece can perhaps be seen more as an act of veneration, confirming the reputation that had gathered around Watt in the previous century.
Images with this text:
Interior of Watt's workshop before its removal to the Science Museum.
What is in the garret workshop?Lathe
A lathe, used for making metal parts. It is driven by foot pedals underneath a bench and is located by a window to make best use of the daylight.
Sculpture copying machine (reducing)
A machine of Watt's design for making copies of sculptures or medallions at reduced size.
Sculpture copying machine (equal size)
A machine of Watt's design for making copies of sculptures of equal size to the original. Watt had wrapped the pointed iron frame in a padded handkerchief to prevent himself from hurting his head.
Copying press
A press for copying letters and drawings. This was one of Watt's other inventions and was widely used in offices and workshops for many years.
Flutemaking tools
Tools used for making flutes. Earlier in his life Watt made many musical instruments, though he had no ear for music.
Stove
On top of the stove is a frying pan. Watt sometimes cooked his own meals so that he could work without interruption.
Images with this text:
Panorama view of the garret workshop as it appears in the Science Museum.

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