As the oldest surviving business enterprise associated with Matthew Boulton, The Birmingham Assay Office is proud to support the new Lunar Society Heritage Trail for the city of Birmingham, which will be officially launched on Thursday, 20th February at 6.30pm at the Lunar Society History Lecture at the University of Birmingham. This yearâs speaker is Lucy Bamford, Keeper of Art at Derby Museum, who will be lecturing on the life and work of the artist Joseph Wright of Derby.
The Lunar Society City Centre Walk and Guide to 18th
century Birmingham highlights the leading role Birmingham played in the creation of the modern world through the scientific discoveries, shared conversations and informal meetings of a remarkable group of friends, who called themselves the Lunar Society.
The group was so-called because it met on evenings when the moon was full to give its members enough light to find their way safely home.
The group comprised some of the outstanding minds of the day. It was jointly founded by two extraordinary polymaths: metalware manufacturer and steam engine pioneer Matthew Boulton (who founded the Birmingham Assay Office in 1773), and physician and poet Dr Erasmus Darwin. Other members included Unitarian minister and discoverer of oxygen Joseph Priestley; physician and mathematics tutor to US President Thomas Jefferson, Dr William Small; steam engineer and inventor James Watt; pottery manufacturer Josiah Wedgwood; clockmaker and geologist John Whitehurst; Quaker arms manufacturer Samuel Galton; glass manufacturer and chemist James Keir; physician and botanist Dr William Withering; unorthodox educationalist Thomas Day and agricultural innovator Richard Lovell Edgworth.
The new trail will provide visitors to the city and local residents with an introduction to the Lunar Society and 18th
century Birmingham by following in its membersâ footsteps.
The city centre walk takes in the surviving historic sites most closely associated with the Societyâs members, together with the places where one can still see examples of their work and influence. Highlights include Birmingham Assay Office, St Paulâs Square, St Philipâs Cathedral, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, the Library of Birmingham, and the city centre canal network.
The out-of-town guide focuses on the sites associated with the Lunar Society which can be visited by the public. These include the iconic Soho House (home of Matthew Boulton), Edgbaston Old Church (burial place of Dr William Withering), St Maryâs Church, Handsworth (burial site for Boulton, Watt and Murdock) the Soho steam-engine Foundry in Smethwick and, perhaps less obviously, Sarehole Mill and Aston Hall which have links with Matthew Boulton, James Watt and their sons.
The Trail is co-sponsored by Birmingham Museums Trust and the modern Lunar Society. It is the first of four new heritage trails which will explore aspects of the cityâs history, and has been supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of Birmingham Museum Trustâs Birmingham: its people, its history
gallery project. The remaining trails will be launched over the coming months and focus on author JRR Tolkien, architect AWN Pugin and the Jewellery Quarter.
Michael Allchin, Chief Executive and Assay Master at the Birmingham Assay Office said: âAs the last remaining business enterprise directly associated with Matthew Boulton, we are delighted to support the launch of the new Lunar Trail for Birmingham and we are immensely proud of our important Lunar Society heritage.â
Chris Rice, author of the trail, said: âAlthough most people think of Birmingham as a Victorian city, the Georgian era is perhaps even more important in its historic development. I hope the trail will enable people to better appreciate this extraordinary significance, but just as importantly provide them with a pleasant walk around the city centre and introduce them to some of the fabulous heritage sites elsewhere in the city.â
Dr Ellen Mcadam, Director of Birmingham Museums Trust, commented: 'Events in Birmingham shaped world history. Brummies are justly proud of their city and the Birmingham History galleries in the Museum and Art Gallery have been a huge success. We are happy to support the Lunar Society Trail, which will encourage visitors and locals to explore the past that lives on in the streets of the city.'
Lunar Society Chairman, Waheed Saleem, commented: âThe Lunar Society is delighted to be co-sponsor of the Lunar Heritage Trail. The modern Lunar Society was re-established in the 1990s and was inspired by the original aims and aspirations of our 18th
century forbears. As well as informing people about Boulton, Darwin and the other members of the original society, therefore, I hope the new trail will also encourage citizens to get involved in activities and debates that will benefit the common good of our great city.â
The Lunar Trail will be available in a free, colour leaflet format from Birmingham Welcome Centres and other heritage attractions across the city.