Boulton, Watt & Murdoch - the golden boys statue in Birmingham

The statue of Boulton, Watt & Murdoch was unveiled on Broad Street back in 1956 outside of the Register Office. Was in storage from August 2017 to April 2022. Now in Centenary Square.


Where is the statue of Boulton, Watt & Murdoch?

Outside of Symphony Hall, Centenary Square, Westside, Birmingham, B1 2DR

 

In brief

The statue of Boulton, Watt & Murdoch was made by William Bloye was commissioned in 1939 (for a Civic Centre scheme), but wasn't installed outside what was then the Birmingham Register Office (later the House of Sport) on Broad Street until 1956. The bronze statue was gilded but faded over the years. It was regilded to it's original appearance in 2006. The Arena Central redevelopment started in 2015, and by August 2017, the statue and plinth were moved into storage ahead of the building of the Westside Metro extension to Centenary Square. It did not return in 2019, due to the Symphony Hall foyer refurbishment which was completed in 2021. The statue returned to a new spot ahead of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games at the end of April 2022.

Boulton, Watt & MurdochBoulton, Watt & Murdoch in their old spot outside of the House of Sport on Broad Street (June 2009). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

Boulton, Watt & Murdoch statue - history

The gilded bronze statue of Matthew Boulton, James Watt and William Murdoch was by the sculptors William Bloye and Raymond Forbes-Kings and it stood on a plinth of Portland stone, (formerly) outside the old Register Office on Broad Street in Birmingham (later the House of Sport after the Register Office moved to Holliday Street).

 It is known locally as The Golden Boys after its colour, or The Carpet Salesmen after the partially-rolled-up plan of a steam engine which they are examining.  

All three men were members of the Lunar Society.  

Sponsored by an £8,000 bequest from Richard Wheatley in 1939, and £7,500 from the City Council, it was unveiled in 1956, from preliminary designs drawn up in 1938.  

The statue was restored and re-gilded, and replaced in its old position in September 2006. 

Boulton, Watt & MurdochBoulton, Watt & Murdoch in their old spot outside of the House of Sport on Broad Street (June 2009). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

The House of Sport was demolished behind the statue for the Arena Central development at One Arena Central / Five Centenary Square, during 2015-16.

Boulton, Watt & MurdochBoulton, Watt & Murdoch, during the demolition of the House of Sport for One Arena Central on Broad Street (October 2015). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

The statue was removed to storage in August 2017, ahead of the building of the Westside Metro extension to Centenary Square.

Boulton, Watt & MurdochOne last view of Boulton, Watt & Murdoch outside of One Arena Central before they went into storage (August 2017). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

While the revamped Centenary Square reopened in the summer of 2019, the statue did not return, apart from the plinth without Portland stone panels (by 2020).

Boulton, Watt & MurdochEmpty plinth outside of Symphony Hall in Centenary Square (December 2020). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

This was due to the spot chosen was outside of Symphony Hall, and couldn't come back until the new foyer was built between 2019 to 2021.

By St George's Day in April 2022, the Portland stone plinth was back up, this was all part of the Public Realm works ahead of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Boulton, Watt & MurdochReturn of the Portland stone plinth of the Boulton, Watt & Murdoch statue to Centenary Square (April 2022). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

The statue was lowered into place on the 29th April 2022 in Cententary Square.

Boulton, Watt & MurdochReturn of Boulton, Watt & Murdoch statue to Centenary Square (April 2022). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

By the end of May 2022, the paving around the golden statues has been completed, and the barriers have now been removed.

Boulton, Watt & MurdochBoulton, Watt & Murdoch statue to Centenary Square (May 2022). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

Boulton, Watt & Murdoch - further details

On the front of the Portland stone plinth it has the names, their year of birth and death:

1728 - Matthew Boulton - 1809

1736 - James Watt - 1819

1754 - William Murdoch - 1839

Boulton, Watt & MurdochBoulton, Watt & Murdoch in their old spot outside of the House of Sport on Broad Street (April 2009). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

At the back of the Portland stone plinth is the follow information, which we have transcribed for you:

This memorial unveiled by Sir Percy H. Mills B.T. KBE, September 14 1956 commemorates the immense contribution made by Boulton Watt and Murdoch to the industry of Birmingham and of the world. The conception of Richard Wheatley, a leather goods manufacturer of this City coupled with his generosity and a contribution by the City Council enabled these statues to be executed by W. Bloye sculptor.

Boulton, Watt & MurdochBoulton, Watt & Murdoch in their old spot outside of the House of Sport on Broad Street (June 2009). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

Early in 2011, this (then) new information sign was installed outside of the Boulton, Watt & Murdoch statue. It has been transcribed for you below:

William Bloye's statue of three of Birmingham's most famous figures was commissioned in 1939 but was not installed in this location until 1956.

The statue was originally intended to form part of an ambitious new Civic Centre complex - the only parts of which were built were Baskerville House and the Hall of Memory in Centenary Square.

The bronze statue was originally gilded but this gradually faded over the years. It was regilded in 2006 to return it to its original appearance.

Boulton, Watt & MurdochBoulton, Watt & Murdoch in their old spot outside of the House of Sport on Broad Street (January 2011). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

There will probably be a new information sign installed in Centenary Square once it returns, in the aftermath of Black Lives Matter, and Boulton, Watt & Murdoch's slavery links. Time will tell what the Council puts on it.

Project dates

24 Apr 2022 - On-going

Passions

History & heritage, Civic pride, Art; Culture & creativity

Contact

Your Place Your Space

Jonathan Bostock

0121 410 5520
jonathan.bostock@ yourplaceyourspace.com