James Watt (1736-1819)

James Watt (1736-1819)

Engineer

James Watt played a leading role in the Industrial Revolution through his development of the steam engine, inventions and discovery of the composition of water. He began working life as an instrument maker and opened his own workshop in the 1760s. He moved to England in 1775 and entered a successful partnership with the industrialist Matthew Boulton at the Soho Engineering Works in Birmingham. James Watt was an important member of the Lunar Society which included Erasmus Darwin, Joseph Priestley and Josiah Wedgwood. He died on 25 August 1819 at his home in Staffordshire. His business and personal papers are part of the Archives of Soho collection held by the Library of Birmingham.

Birth in 1736

James Watt was born on 19 January 1736, the son of James Watt, wright in Greenock and Agnes Muireheid. The entry in the Old Parish Register (OPR) for Greenock Old or West gives the date of baptism as 25 January.

Birth and baptism entry for James Watt

Birth and baptism entry for James Watt (19 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, OPR 564-3/1, page 108

Marriage in 1764

James Watt, merchant in Glasgow, married Margaret Millar, daughter of Daniel Millar, cabinet-maker in Calton on 14 July 1764. The first entry in the OPR for Barony (her parish) is dated 14 July and notes that the couple had been booked for proclamation of banns, proclaimed three times and as no objections had been made were married.

Marriage entry for James Watt - Barony

Marriage entry for James Watt in the OPR for Barony (28 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, OPR 622/60

The second entry in the OPR for Glasgow (his parish) is dated 15 July 1764 and gives his father-in-law’s occupation as wright.

Marriage entry for James Watt - Glasgow

Marriage entry for James Watt in the OPR for Glasgow (19 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, OPR 644-1/250, page 177

Second marriage in 1776

James Watt was widowed in 1772. He married Anne McGrigor on 29 July 1776. The entry in the Old Parish Register for New or Old Kilpatrick (her parish) gives his designation as engineer and his parish as Birmingham in the county of Warwick. Anne was the daughter of James McGrigor, merchant in Glasgow.

Second marriage entry for James Watt

Marriage entry for James Watt in the OPR for New or West Kilpatrick (49 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, OPR 500/2