5 Jun 2018

Volunteering at Soho House

Hi I’m Jack, I’ve been a volunteer at Soho House Museum for a couple of years now. I was inspired to volunteer by an open day held at Soho House which highlighted volunteer opportunities at all of Birmingham Museums Trust’s sites.

It is such a privilege to be a volunteer here where the sense of history is ever present and the staff are so friendly and supportive. It is such an important site, in my opinion, for four reasons:

  • It was the home of the famous entrepreneur and ‘natural philosopher’ Matthew Boulton from 1761.
  • It is a Georgian Grade II* listed building.
  • It was one of the most important sites of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th Century.
  • It is the ‘spiritual’ home of the Lunar Society of Birmingham.

I volunteer for one day a week and try to get involved in many different things: I help keep the site tidy; I do a little gardening when there is time; but my main role is as a guide to the House. I am retired, but my background as a Chartered Engineer and Scientist means I am naturally drawn to tales of the Soho Manufactory (built in 1764), the Boulton and Watt steam engine business (James Watt appeared on the scene in 1774) and the Lunar Society. However, the beauty of the role is that I can tailor tours on various themes, particularly if it is a small group with a particular interest. I can talk on: the artworks of the house; the silver, silver plate and ormolu wares; revolution and enlightenment; and I can ‘bore for Birmingham’ on the Lunar Society. My fellow volunteer Gillian is brilliant on the Georgian period, social and family history. There is a seemingly endless archive to enable continuing research.

Volunteer Jack at Soho House

Gillian Volunteer

We get some very good reviews on Trip Advisor such as “…Soho House is of International and National significance. As such it is the most important Neoclassical Enlightenment house in England, and ...deserves to be known the World over”.

The time period (1761-1809) Boulton lived here means there are links with cataclysmic events such as the American and French Revolutions, Napoleonic Wars and with famous individuals/ E.g. Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Admiral Lord Nelson visited, the great Scottish engineer Thomas Telford was around in the Midlands at this time and Boulton’s famous Astronomical Clock was ‘loaned’ to Catherine the Great in St Petersburg. This is my favourite object in the house and I am pictured here with it.

Volunteer Jack at Soho House

Finally, the Birmingham region as a whole needs to be much more ambitious on heritage. There is enough of interest to think about a World Heritage Site status with Soho House, Soho Foundry, Brindley Canal, Galton Bridge, surviving Boulton & Watt steam engines and the Jewellery Quarter to name a few!

If you are interested in volunteering for Birmingham Museums then take a look at the current volunteering opportunities we have available across all our sites.