Discover James Watt at Kinneil House

jameswatt-fromvictorianbook1Andrew Carnegie described him as “one of the finest characters that ever graced the earth”.

The Scots inventor James Watt – the man who turned the steam engine into the powerhouse of the industrial revolution – will be celebrated at a special event at Kinneil House, Bo’ness, this month.

The engineer did early work in an outhouse workshop at Kinneil. The humble building stands to this day. Watt was working in partnership with the businessman Dr John Roebuck, co-founder of the Carron Iron Company, who then lived at Kinneil.

On April 23 and 24, 2016, a costumed interpreter will be at Kinneil House to tell visitors about Watt’s story and his links with the area.

Some of the rooms inside the mansion will also be open for free tours from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. (last admission 3.30 p.m. each day). Kinneil House boasts some of the best renaissance wall paintings in Scotland.

The event has been organised by Historic Environment Scotland in conjunction with The Friends of Kinneil charity.

Ian Shearer from The Friends of Kinneil said: “James Watt was one of Scotland’s greatest innovators. His development of the steam engine into a true industrial workhorse changed the world.

“Many people know about Watt, but less about his early experiments at Kinneil and his links with John Roebuck, coal and cast iron. We hope this open weekend will make people more aware of his legacy and the important role Kinneil played in his rise to prominence. Visitors will also get a chance to see inside Kinneil House, which is steeped in history and boasts amazing renaissance wall paintings.”

He added: “Our Watt Weekend is part of a series of events being run over the next few years to mark the genius of James Watt, 250 years after he improved the steam engine with the addition of a separate condenser.

“Earlier in 2016, a reception was held on Watt’s birthday in the Scottish Parliament. Other events will take place up to 2019, which will mark both the 250th anniversary of the condenser patent and the 200th anniversary of Watt’s death.”

Amy Mack from Historic Environment Scotland said: “We’re pleased to be working with The Friends of Kinneil to celebrate the genius of James Watt.

“We hope people will come along to Kinneil House on April 23 and 24 and ‘meet’ the man himself – played by a costumed interpreter. Visitors will also get the chance to tour inside Kinneil House, and hear wonderful stories about this imposing building which dates back to the 16th century.

“Both open days are free of charge to attend, and there’s no need to book – although children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult. We’ll start performances from our costumed interpreter and tours at 1 p.m. sharp, with a last admission at 3.30 p.m. both days – so don’t be late.

“Kinneil Museum, right beside Kinneil House, will also be open both afternoons. Again admission is free.”

The Watt Weekend is supporting this year’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design.

johnmuir-logo1The Kinneil event is also part of a roster of activities organised to mark John Muir Day, and the second anniversary of the opening of the coast-to-coast John Muir Way (which passes Watt’s Cottage at Kinneil).

To find out more about wider events in the area, keep in touch through the Kinneil website – www.kinneil.org.uk and through social media:  www.facebook.com/kinneil and www.twitter.com/kinneil

You can also find more about James Watt online at www.kinneil.org.uk/jameswatt and www.twitter.com/watt2019

** The Watt Weekend is part of a series of free open days at Kinneil in 2016.

You can also see inside Kinneil House for free on:

  • Friday, May 13, 2016 (from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.) – as part of a wider Night at Kinneil House and Museum;
  • Sunday, June 26, 2016 (from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.);
  • Saturday, August 27, 2016 (from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.)
  • Saturday, September 17, 2016 (from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.)
  • Sunday, October 30, 2016 (from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.)

More details at www.kinneil.org.uk/freein2016



  1. The Friends of Kinneil was set up in 2006 to promote Kinneil Estate and Nature Reserve in Bo’ness. The charity organises Kinneil House open days and other events for members and visitors. (No. SC038368) To find out more, visit http://www.kinneil.org.uk
  2. Falkirk Community Trust manages Kinneil Museum and the surrounding Kinneil Estate on behalf of Falkirk Council. Find out more at falkirkcommunitytrust.org
  3. On 1st October 2015, Historic Scotland and RCAHMS came together to form a new lead public body charged with caring for, protecting and promoting the historic environment. The new body Historic Environment Scotland (HES) will lead on delivering Scotland’s first strategy for the historic environment, Our Place in Time. The body cares for Kinneil House using the existing Historic Scotland brand. Historic Environment Scotland is a registered Scottish Charity. Scottish Charity No. SC045925. You can keep up to date with news from Historic Environment Scotland and register for media release email alerts at historic-scotland.gov.uk/news
  4. Images of Kinneil House and Estate are available on request. Email: publicity@kinneil.org.uk
  5. Kinneil House and Estate are on the western edge of Bo’ness in central Scotland, just off the A904 and A993 and are part of the Frontiers of The Roman Empire World Heritage Site. The John Muir Way also runs through the site. For satellite navigation devices, use the postcode EH51 0PR.
  6. Media enquiries: Maria Ford, The Friends of Kinneil, tel. 01506 510629; email: info@kinneil.org.uk . More contact details at kinneil.org.uk/friends