Pieces of charcoal

Watt, James

3 Pieces of charcoal

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 are four pieces of charcoal. The largest, burned from a stick some 2½” in diameter, has a hollow in one end, suggesting that it was used in conjunction with a mouth blowpipe also present in the workshop drawers. It was common to place small work on a charcoal block for heating; not only is the charcoal a poor conductor of heat, but the charcoal itself burns away providing additional heat and combining with excess oxygen in the flame to form, in the first place, carbon monoxide, so providing a reducing atmosphere.


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