Flat pieces of brass

Watt, James

4 Flat pieces of brass, in paper

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.

These items comprise four strips of brass sheet, wrapped in paper endorsed in ink, by an unknown hand: “James Watt Esqr Heathfield Birmingham”. The strips appear to have been used for the trial of a range of lacquer finishes of differing tints. (It was common to tint the lacquer applied to brass instruments.) On one strip the tint varies continuously along its length, an effect that might have been achieved by heating one end so that the lacquer towards that end was partially carbonised.


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