Brunel's SS Great Britain
A maritime archive housing a wealth of materials relating to engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the SS Great Britain and Bristol's naval...
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Brunel's SS Great Britain information
Bristol's pride and joy is the mighty, innovative steamship, the SS Great Britain, designed by engineering genius Isambard Kingdom Brunel in 1843. The ship's interior has been impeccably refurbished, including the galley, the surgeon's quarters, the dining saloon and a working model of the original steam engine (weighing 340 tons and measuring three storeys high). The highlight is the 'glass sea' on which the ship sits, enclosing an airtight dry dock that preserves the hull and allows visitors to view the screw propeller.
The SS Great Britain was one of the largest and most technologically advanced steamships ever built, measuring 98m from stern to tip. The ship has had a chequered history. Between 1843 and 1886, she served her intended duty as a passenger liner, completing the transatlantic crossing between Bristol and New York in just 14 days. Unfortunately, enormous running costs and mounting debts led her towards an ignominious fate: she was eventually sold off and subsequently served as a troop vessel, quarantine ship, emigration transport and coal hulk, before finally being scuttled near Port Stanley in the Falklands in 1937.
Happily, that wasn't the end. The ship was towed back to Bristol in 1970, and has since undergone an impressive 30-year restoration programme. It's resulted in a multisensory experience: prepare to stroll the deck, peep into luxury cabins, listen to passengers' stories and catch a whiff of life on board. Tickets remain valid for a year.