SS Great Britain

SS Great Britain Propellor

The SS Great Britain was one of the first large propeller powered vessels.

Up until the SS Great Britain nobody thought much of making ships out of metal. Especially iron, what with its well know lack of floating ability. Isambard Kingdom Brunel reckoned it would work though, and built an enormous ship to prove it.  I wish I’d thought to have given one of my kids the middle name “Kingdom”, but I digress.

Today we went round the first “modern” ship ever built. Instead of using wood, with lots of internal bracing and strengthening, Brunel decided you could make a perfectly workable boat out of metal plate. Moreover, making it really large would mean that you could carry enough coal on board to power the thing on long journeys.

And it worked. The ship had a long history, from carrying 200 passengers across the Atlantic in absolute luxury to carrying 600 would be gold diggers to Australia in conditions that must have been a lot less comfortable.   It ended its days as a gently rusting wool store in a bay in the Falkland Islands. Fortunately, after a lot of fund raising and effort it was brought back to Bristol, its spiritual home, and you can now go around and beneath it.

Well worth the trip. While it is sad to see the state of the vessel now, which must be mostly rust, it is very encouraging to see the work being done to keep it alive, and the imagination shown in making a look round as interesting as possible. They even have an “Isambard Brunel” wandering around in full Victorian dress, sideburns and stovepipe hat that you can chat to.

SS Great Britain Deck

The weather was very kind to us, and I took loads of pictures which will find their way onto these pages over time I’m sure.