James Watt and the First Commercial Steam Engine – A History Lesson from Angle Ring
James Watt, a Scottish inventor, and mechanical engineer is most famously known for his invention of the first commercial steam engine in 1776. Though he was born in Greenock in Scotland on the 19th January 1736, he placed his roots in the midlands in the late 1770s to continue his development of the world’s first commercial steam engine.
The site on which ‘Watt’s Bloomfield engine’ was built, is now proudly occupied by our steel bending company, Angle Ring!
A little history
The steam engine that Watt designed was invented to pump water from coal mines and was installed at the then Bloomfield Colliery in Tipton
(now the premises of Angle Ring). The Bloomfield Colliery was one of the largest coal mines in the country at that time, but it was facing serious
flooding problems. The water was preventing the miners from extracting coal, which lead the owners of the mine looking for a solution.
Watt’s steam engine was the answer to the problem, with the engine consisting of a cylinder, a piston, and a steam condenser. Revolutionary, the engine used steam to power a piston, which pumped water from the mine. This engine was significantly more efficient than the existing Newcomen engine (also used to pump water out of mines), and it was also much simpler to construct and maintain. The first steam engine installed at Bloomfield Colliery proved to be a great success, and it was quickly adopted by other coal mines throughout the country.
Initially, Watt’s developments in Scotland produced results from his model tests to justify a patent in 1769, but Watt soon found serious limitations in scaling up his small models to full size engines that were required for Bloomfield.
And because the cylinders could not be made accurately enough for his system to work, Matthew Boulton, a Birmingham businessman, took
over the funding of the development. Boulton brought Watt to Birmingham with a promise that he knew suppliers who could provide suitable components to build the full-scale working engine.
From Scotland to the Midlands
The move to Birmingham was successful in the building of the first commercial steam engine (now known as the parliament engine), and Watt’s invention revolutionised the world of engineering and played a major role in the Industrial Revolution. The steam engine enabled factories to be built in areas where water was not available, and it also made it possible to power machines with steam. Watt’s invention led to the development of new industries, and it also had a significant impact on transportation.
The steam engine installed at Bloomfield Colliery was a landmark in the history of engineering and paved the way for the development of many new technologies. Watt’s legacy continues to inspire engineers and inventors to this day, and his contributions to the world of engineering will always be remembered.
Angle Ring’s Connection to James Watt
The site of Watt’s Bloomfield engine is now occupied by Angle Ring, on Bloomfield Road, and in 2019 the company sponsored a plaque in
commemoration of 100 years since the death of James Watt.
Daniel Barnshaw, Managing Director of Angle Ring Company comments: “We’re very proud that our factory sits on such a historic
location. As an engineering company who have developed a lot of our own metal bending machinery and tooling on site, we find it quite fitting to continue innovating in the very same spot that James Watt developed the very first commercial steam engine.
“Whilst we are very proud of our own history at Angle Ring, which dates back over 70 years, we are also keen to acknowledge the influence our local area had on the industrial revolution, and how developments like the Parliament Engine shaped technological developments for centuries to come!”
The plaque was unveiled on 13th March 2019 by Dr Jim Andrew and is fixed to the office block of Angle Ring, it is not however in the usual blue colour but instead is orange to the reflect our distinguishable brand.
When you are next passing, why not take a look?