Among the wealth of documents in the Matthew Boulton Papers, detailing the development of the steam engine, designs for silverware, and ideas about the nature of electricity, there is hidden another, more personal story, a story not told before: the story of Matthew Boulton's beloved daughter, Anne. Anne Boulton (1768-1829) was her father's 'Fair Maid of the Mill'. The Birmingham industrial pioneer and his daughter wrote to each other often when he was away from home, and their warm, affectionate and sometimes funny letters give us an insight into their relationship, but Anne's story is also pieced together, like a jigsaw puzzle, from fragments in other people's postscripts. Her health, mobility problems, education, interests, clothes, friends, travels, love-life and household are all to be found in this gossipy book, which throws the spotlight for the first time on the family life of the Boultons and also provides a fresh perspective on the character of Matthew Boulton himself.
From the thrills of Matlock to the gory miseries of tooth transplants, and from James Watt's wife's opinion of the Cornish to the necessity of mastering the minuet, the book is packed with detail of 18th-century life, much of it described by the individuals in their own words. The result of extensive research in the "Matthew Boulton Papers" in Birmingham City Archives, the book also brings us face to face with Anne for the first time, in the shape of a previously unpublished portrait of her as a young girl.