Watt versus Murray, some open questions

Last Wednesday’s Ignite Leeds gave me a perfect excuse to reprise my talk, How to Get Ahead in Business the Boulton and Watt Way.

As ever, I’m grateful to Imran Ali and Craig Smith of O’Reilly for making the event happen, and to the audience at the Rose Bowl for giving me five minutes of their time. If you missed the event, all 15 presentations are now on Slideshare and there are reviews by Phil Kirby on the Culture Vulture and Sarah Harley on Guardian Leeds.

The way James Watt Junior tried to sabotage Murray’s steam engine start-up never gets old. Indeed its issues of openness in business and the rights of wrongs of intellectual property seemed especially relevant to the Ignite audience.

I want to do more with this story, but first I have some more research to do. For instance:

  • Where was Matthew Murray living when Watt’s employees visited him in 1799? His famous steam-heated house Holbeck Lodge, or “Steam Hall”, on Holbeck’s railway triangle is dated to about 1804 so it may not have been there.
  • Where were the cottages from which Watt attempted to steal the letters of defecting staff? Later in the 19th Century there were workers’ cottages on the edge of the Round Foundry complex, roughly on the corner now occupied by Out Of The Woods, but were these completed when Watt was visiting the City?
  • Why was Murray so much better than Boulton and Watt at green sand foundry work? Can we get some green sand and try it out?
  • Who was E. Kilburn-Scott, the engineer who in the 1920s sought to restore the reputations not just of Murray but also of Leeds’ cinematic pioneer Louis Le Prince? Can we take his account at face value or was he too clouded by civic loyalty to give the Birmingham firm a fair hearing?

When I can find the time between my dayjob and other outside interests I plan to spend some time in the library tracking these things down. In the mean time if, dear reader, you have either answers or questions, please let me know.

5 thoughts on “Watt versus Murray, some open questions

  1. I can’t help you with the answers I’m afraid but Kevin Grady at Leeds Civic Trust may be able to. You can reach him here:

    Leeds Civic Trust
    17-19 Wharf Street
    Leeds LS2 7EQ

    Tel: 0113 243 9594

    Fax: 0113 244 8355

    Email: info@leedscivictrust.org.uk

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