Did you know that before the Birmingham Museums Trust took over from Birmingham City Council, you had to sign a disclaimer when you wanted to take photos around Soho House? My only visit to Soho House was in July 2010. It was the home of Matthew Boulton from 1766 until his death in 1809, so went the year after his bicentenary of his death. The Lunar Society met here in the late 18th C.

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A tour of Soho House in the summer of 2010

Did you know that before the Birmingham Museums Trust took over from Birmingham City Council, you had to sign a disclaimer when you wanted to take photos around Soho House? My only visit to Soho House was in July 2010. It was the home of Matthew Boulton from 1766 until his death in 1809, so went the year after his bicentenary of his death. The Lunar Society met here in the late 18th C.

Soho House

The Birmingham Museums Trust took over from the running of the museum at Soho House which was previously run by Birmingham City Council until 2012. At the time of my visit, I had to sign a form to get permission to take photos inside of the house (which I've not had to do since at other venues). The visit was during July 2010.

Some history.

The house located in Handsworth, was built for Matthew Boulton one of the 18th century's major entrepeneurs. Who ran the Soho Manufactory (taking over Soho Mill in 1761). Originally a cottage was on this site which he had expanded, making several changes. Boulton moved in during 1766 and he became one of the founding members of the Lunar Society. He hired Samuel Wyatt in 1789 to landscape the garden and extend the buildings. In 1796 his brother James Wyatt, made additions to the main front. It is now a Grade II* listed building.

When Matthew Boulton died in 1809, the house passed to his son, Matthew Robinson Boulton and later grandson Matthew Piers Watt Boulton who later sold the property in 1850. Over the years the house had a variety of owners. At one point it was a residential hostel for police officers. Birmingham City Council acquired the house in 1990 and opened it as a museum in 1995. In 2012 the Birmingham Museums Trust took over from the Council for running Soho House.

A map of the Soho area which was taken from Matthew Boulton's Notebook no. 27 dating to 1793 to 1799.

This view of the Soho Manufactory was taken from J. Bissett's Magnificent Directory, dating to 1800.

Below is a watercolour of Soho House painted by Paul Braddon.

The above images were taken from a guide book called "Matthew Boulton Bicentenary Celebrations", published by Birmingham City Council in 2009 (when Matthew Boulton has been dead for 200 years).


Plan of Soho, this map from when Matthew Robinon Boulton owned the estate from 1809 (death of his father) until 1842 (his own death). Including the Soho Manufactory. Soho House is to the right. Below used to be Soho Pool.

The above Public Domain Dedication image taken from the Birmingham Museums Trust Digital Image Resource. Which are Public Domain images free to download.


You can find my full Flickr album on Soho House here: Soho House, Handsworth.

Arriving at Soho House for the July 2010 visit.

There is a blue plaque on the wall for Matthew Boulton from the Birmingham Civic Society, stating that he lived here from 1766 to 1809.

This photo came out a bit blurry, despite some attempts to edit it. Also the man that worked here for the Council came out and sat on the bench. I think I had to sign the form for him.

View from the back of the garden. These garden views were taken after the look around the house.

Same photo as above but a different crop. There is a tea room on the right.

Now for a look around the rooms inside of Soho House.

Breakfast Room

This room would probably have been used by the Boulton family as an informal sitting room as well as a breakfast room. The marble chimney-piece is one of a number that survive throughout the house and dates from the late 1790s.

Drawing Room

The Drawing Room was one of the principal rooms in the house and would generally have been used only for entertaining guests or on other special occasions. Matthew Boulton purchased the japanned chairs for this room in 1798 from the cabinet maker James Newton.

To the left there was a bust of Matthew Boulton.

And to the right was a bust of James Watt.

Dining Room

The Dining Room of Soho House has come to be known as the Lunar Room, named after the Lunar Society who often met here. This eminent group of scientists and manufacturers met at Boulton's home to dine together, and to exchange ideas, discuss their inventions or entertain each other with scientific experiments.

The mirror and fireplace in the Dining Room aka the Lunar Room.

Entrance Hall

This portrait of Matthew Boulton was in the entrance hall.

Matthew Boulton's Study

Matthew Boulton filled his home with scientific instruments, equipment and books. to the left of the fireplace is a diagonal barometer by John Whitehurst of Derby, c. 1775. Above the chimneypiece is a pastel drawing "The Face of the Moon" by John Russell, c. 1795.


This room contains Matthew Boulton's large collection of geological specimens. In 1782 he created a "fossilry at his Manufactory to house his collection, and by 1803 it has been moved to this room, so that he could keep and study his specimens in his house. The mahogany cabinet contains drawers for storing geological specimens and is one of a pair formerly owned by Matthew Boulton.

Housekeeper's Room

This room was the kitchen of the house where the housekeeper would cook for the Boulton family.

They would prepare food on this table.

They would also do other tasks such as cleaning the house and the chimney.

Wine Cellar

Under the house was the extensive cellars at Soho House. They were used for the storage of wine, beer, ale, oil lamps, and some foodstuffs. This area was the wine cellar and still has it's original slate shelving.

This is also near the area used for the Furnace & Heating System. This cardboard cut out of a man showing the kind of tasks that were done down here. I'm not sure if he was carrying a bag of coal or disposing of the household waste?

The stairs from the different levels of the house. We were heading back up into the house.

Ladies Room

At the time I wasn't able to make out what this room was called or used for. There was a chair for a lady to sit on, and a dress on display. The chair was called a Day Bed and was made in 1805, probably for Miss Boulton (Matthew's daughter).

Miss Boulton's Sitting Room

This room was used by Matthew Boulton's daughter, Anne as a small sitting room. Anne Boulton who was born in 1768, spent most of her life at Soho House. She never married, and only moved to a house of her own in 1818 after her brother's marriage, when Soho House became his family home.

A portrait of Ann Boulton in the Sitting Room.

Matthew Boulton's Bedroom

This room became Matthew Boulton's bedroom c 1803, before this it was his library. The house was remodelled in the late 18th century and the handsome marble chimneypiece was probably put in as part of this work. The mahogany bed dates from the 18th century.

There was a portrait of Matthew Boulton in his bedroom. By Carl Frederick von Breda. There is a similar one at the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery (or it is the same one in their collection).

Miss Boulton's Bedroom

This room is displayed as Miss Boulton's Bedroom, although c 1800 she probably had a bedroom across the passage. By the 1780s, fashionable homes had begun to have highly co-ordinated interiors. There is a mahogany side table and japanned chairs, all by James Newton.

Photos taken by Elliott Brown.

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