A Mighty Missionary of Civilisation and Progress


Matthew Boulton and James Watt pioneered the development of the steam engine in Birmingham during the late eighteenth century. In the century that followed, the transformative ‘power of steam’ would leave few West Midlands lives and livelihoods untouched.

On 21 August 1829 the case of Freeman vs Ledsam was heard by the Lord Chief Justice at Warwick Assizes. The plaintiff, Thomas Freeman, was a publican of Edmund Street, Birmingham; the defendant, Daniel Ledsam, the owner of a large steam-powered manufactory. Pub and manufactory stood some fifteen yards apart, and therein lay the source of the dispute.

Freeman’s allegation, reported the Leamington Spa Courier the following day, was that ‘the violent motion of the mass of the machinery produced such vibration in his house as to make the glasses jingle upon the shelves of his bar, and to shake the barrels in his cellar so as to deteriorate the quality of his ale, making it thick, sour and muddy’.

KEYWORDS: Steam Engine, Steam, James Watt, Boulton and Watt

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Steam Birmingham