Business Records of James Brown

Scope and Content

Records relating to James Brown

Administrative / Biographical History

James Brown was born in Dundee in 1790. Early in life he met James Watt and took a position at Soho engineering works, Birmingham. He accompanied James Watt the younger in the Caledonia steam vessel, the first steamer to ascend the Rhine as far as Coblenz, in 1817. In 1821 he acted as chief engineer of the James Watt, towing the Royal Sovereign, with his majesty George IV, into Leith harbour. As the London agent of Boulton,Watt and Co in the 1820s he secured a considerable business for the company, particularly with the post office. He played a prominent role with various steam packet companies and designed many vessels, including the first steam vessels introduced by the government for carrying mail, and also the first steam engines used by the navy. As head of the Drawing Office and London Department he schemed lines and arrangements of the first fleet of steamers between Edinburgh and London, and Gravesend and London. From 1840-61 he was a partner of Boulton, Watt and Co.


Records are arranged chronologically according to provenance.

Access Information

By appointment. Access to records in a fragile condition may be restricted.

Other Finding Aids

Catalogue available in the Searchroom

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies can be supplied for educational use and private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents. Permission to publish material from the Archive must be sought in advance from the University Archivist. Responsibility for obtaining copyright clearance rests with the applicant.

Custodial History

The records were gifted to Heriot-Watt College in 1932, by the family of James Brown. They were subsequently inherited by Heriot-Watt University, as the College's successor body


Not expected

Related Material

Records, publications and artefacts relating to James Watt (GB 582 HWUA JW)

Birmingham City Archives: Letter books, ledgers, cash books, journals, order, pattern, casting, engine, fitting and wages books, inventories etc., 1762-1895 (Reference: Boulton & Watt Collection)

Birmingham City Archives: Letters to Boulton & Watt from Peter Ewart, 1790-1833 (Reference: Boulton & Watt Collection)


  • William Charles Henry, MD FRS GSA Biographical Notice of the late Peter Ewart Esq., [1767 - 1842]published by the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, Manchester, 1844.