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19th February 2014
A new Birmingham heritage trail leaflet will be launched at 6.30pm on 20 February 2014 at the Lunar Society History Lecture at the University of Birmingham.
The Lunar Society City Centre Walk and Guide to 18th century Birmingham highlights the leading role Birmingham played in the creation of the modern world through the scientific discoveries, shared conversations and informal meetings of a remarkable group of friends, who called themselves the Lunar Society. The group was so-called because it met on evenings when the moon was full to give its members enough light to find their way safely home.
The group comprised some of the outstanding minds of the day. It was jointly founded by two extraordinary polymaths: metalware manufacturer and steam engine pioneer Matthew Boulton, and physician and poet Dr Erasmus Darwin. Other members included Unitarian minister and discoverer of oxygen Joseph Priestley; physician and mathematics tutor to US President Thomas Jefferson, Dr William Small; steam engineer and inventor James Watt; pottery manufacturer Josiah Wedgwood; clockmaker and geologist John Whitehurst; Quaker arms manufacturer Samuel Galton; glass manufacturer and chemist James Keir; physician and botanist Dr William Withering; unorthodox educationalist Thomas Day and agricultural innovator Richard Lovell Edgworth.
The new trail provides visitors and local residents with an introduction to the Lunar Society and 18th century Birmingham by following in its members’ footsteps.
The city centre walk takes in the surviving historic sites most closely associated with the Society’s members, together with the places where one can still see examples of their work and influence. Highlights include St Philip’s Cathedral, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, the Library of Birmingham, the city centre canal network, Birmingham Assay Office and St Paul’s Square.
The out-of-town guide focuses on the sites associated with the Lunar Society which can be visited by the public. These include the iconic Soho House (home of Matthew Boulton), Edgbaston Old Church (burial place of Dr William Withering), St Mary’s Church Handsworth (burial site for Boulton, Watt and Murdock) the Soho steam-engine Foundry in Smethwick and, perhaps less obviously, Sarehole Mill and Aston Hall which have links with Matthew Boulton, James Watt and their sons.
The Trail is co-sponsored by Birmingham Museums Trust and the modern Lunar Society. It is the first of four new heritage trails which will explore aspects of the city’s history, and has been supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of Birmingham Museum Trust’s Birmingham: its people, its history gallery project. The remaining trails will be launched over the coming months and focus on author JRR Tolkien, architect AWN Pugin and the Jewellery Quarter
Chris Rice, author of the trail, said: ‘Although most people think of Birmingham as a Victorian city, the Georgian era is perhaps even more important in its historic development. I hope the trail will enable people to better appreciate this extraordinary significance, but just as importantly provide them with a pleasant walk around the city centre and introduce them to some of the fabulous heritage sites elsewhere in the city.’
Lunar Society Chairman, Waheed Saleem, commented: ‘The Lunar Society is delighted to be co-sponsor of the Lunar Heritage Trail. The modern Lunar Society was re-established in the 1990s and was inspired by the original aims and aspirations of our 18th century forbears. As well as informing people about Boulton, Darwin and the other members of the original society, therefore, I hope the new trail will also encourage citizens to get involved in activities and debates that will benefit the common good of our great city’
Dr Ellen McAdam, Director of Birmingham Museums Trust, commented: 'Events in Birmingham shaped world history. Brummies are justly proud of their city and the Birmingham History galleries in the Museum and Art Gallery have been a huge success. We are happy to support the Lunar Society Trail, which will encourage visitors and locals to explore the past that lives on in the streets of the city.’
The Lunar Trail will be available for free from Birmingham Welcome Centres and other heritage attractions across the city. You can also download the guide: Lunar Society City Centre Walk
For further information on the Lunar Society Trail contact Chris Rice on 07808 887183 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
To book tickets for Lunar Society History Talk visit www.lunarsociety.org.uk
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