Roll of thin lead

Watt, James

1 Roll of thin lead, 2¾” wide

This item is part of the contents of the workshop that Scottish engineer James Watt developed at his home, Heathfield, at Handsworth, Birmingham, from c.1795 through to his death in 1819. Although Watt is best known for his work on the steam engine, his workshop contains a wide variety of objects from many different projects, from chemistry to sculpture-copying.

The description of the item was written by Edward Collins, the land agent responsible for Heathfield when the workshop was given to the Science Museum in 1924. Collins could not always identify what he was looking at, but always described what he saw clearly. This has allowed his descriptions to form the basis of subsequent research.

This is a roll of thin sheet lead. This material may have been wanted for mechanical purposes, or it may have been intended for making white lead (lead acetate), used for making paint, although had Watt wanted this in quantity he would probably have bought it as a commercial article. The process of making white lead involved rolling lead thin (to increase the surface area acted upon), rolling the sheets up, and placing them in vinegar.


James Watt's Garret Workshop
Object Number:
Major J.M. Gibson-Watt