Shena Mason (1938-2014) was a founder member of Birmingham Heritage Forum and a local history author. After a long career associated with the Birmingham jewellery trade, she worked for Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery on the development first of the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, and then on Soho House. She has written guide-books to Soho House, Blakesley Hall and Sarehole Mill, all of which are available from the individual sites or from the shop at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery. She contributed material to the website: www.revolutionaryplayers.org.uk , and a chapter on the Russell family to Joseph Priestley and Birmingham, ed. Malcolm Dick (Brewin Books, 2005, price £11.95).
Shena Mason's first book, Jewellery Making in Birmingham 1750-1995, the most detailed history of the Birmingham jewellery trade to date, was published by Phillimore in 1998. It is now out of print, but a few copies are still available at The Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, price £25, and it may be found in libraries.
Her book: The Hardware Man's Daughter: Matthew Boulton and his 'Dear Girl', was published by Phillimore & Co. Ltd. in November 2005.
The early Birmingham industrialist, Matthew Boulton, who lived at Soho House, had two children, Anne (1768-1829) and Matthew Robinson Boulton (1770-1842). Very little was known about Anne, but after extensive research in the Boulton papers in Birmingham City Archives, Shena Mason has pieced together her life, and looks in depth at her health, education, interests, friendships, and travels to London, Cornwall and Derbyshire. The book traces her doomed hopes of marriage to James Watt Junior (later of Aston Hall) and, towards the end of her life, the establishment and running of her own household. It is a snapshot of 18th century life, crowded with famous and less-famous characters whose experiences and opinions are related in their own words. The 288-page book is lavishly illustrated in colour and black and white. Many of the illustrations, including the portrait of Anne which appears on the front cover, have never been published before. It is available, price £25, from Soho House Museum, bookshops or online from: www.Phillimore.co.uk
Matthew Boulton: Selling what all the World Desires
Edited by Shena Mason
August 2009 marks the bicentenary of the death of the Birmingham pioneering industrialist Matthew Boulton (1728-1809), a man who, with his partner the engineer James Watt, did much to put his native city and his country on the new industrial map of the world in the second half of the eighteenth century. But Matthew Boulton was already a well-established businessman before he met Watt, with what was at the time the world’s largest metal wares factory, the Soho Manufactory, producing and exporting a wide range of jewellery, buttons, buckles, trinkets, large silverware, ormolu, coins and medals. As an employer he put in place some ground-breaking systems including one of the earliest workers’ sickness insurance schemes, while as a founding member of Birmingham’s Lunar Society he was in at the birth of some of the period’s radical scientific ideas.
Matthew Boulton’s life, work and achievements are celebrated in this book, published by Yale University Press in association with Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery to accompany the Museum’s outstanding Matthew Boulton bicentenary exhibition at the Gas Hall Gallery, May-September 2009.
The book is intended to be a reference book far beyond the date of the exhibition. It contains chapters by a number of scholars working in the field of Boulton studies, together with a full listing of the over 400 objects in the exhibition itself, and is lavishly illustrated in colour throughout with the most comprehensive collection of Boulton-related images ever gathered in one place, many of them published here for the first time.
Contributing authors and their chapters are:
A LOST LANDSCAPE - Matthew Boulton’s Gardens at Soho
Phillada Ballard, Val Loggie and Shena Mason
Published by Phillimore Co. Ltd. July 2009 £16.99
Review by Philip Aubury NDH MIHort.:
When you see Soho House today, boxed in on all sides by the urban sprawl of Birmingham, it is hard to imagine it set in over 200 acres of garden, parkland and farm. ‘A Lost Landscape, Matthew Boulton’s Gardens at Soho’ is a fascinating read. Brilliantly researched and engagingly written by Phillada Ballard, Val Loggie and Shena Mason, it takes readers through over 200 years of history and brings to life a very different place.
As a Brummie, a life long gardener and having a keen interest in history this is a perfect read but any reader will get drawn into this story of great endeavour. Just how did Matthew Boulton (1728 – 1809), one of Britain’s greatest industrialists, manage to start with a few acres of leased land and end up with a large elegant house, the largest manufactory in the world and all set in 200 acres of garden and parkland?
The introduction by Shena Mason, ‘Matthew Boulton and Soho’ uses the quote “A chearfull pleasant Spot” sets the scene. But the area was far from pleasant being open heathland with poor soil in the parish of Handsworth with the Hockley brook and its pools to power his manufactories. Water power, especially in the summer, was unreliable so with his partner James Watt they developed steam power not only to power Matthew Boulton’s manufactories at Soho but to power the whole world......(read the full review here)