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The SS Great Britain in Bristol

by Dean on August 3, 2010

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ss great britain The SS Great Britain in Bristol

Here you will find an extract of a feature article (entitled “Incredible Journey”) written for Heritage magazine.

The article takes a look at the SS Great Britain attraction in Bristol, the ship’s long and often surprising history, plus why it’s a great place to visit…

Visiting the SS Great Britain today it’s hard to imagine the rusted hulk that was rescued from the Falklands. The 322ft-long ‘grand iron lady’ has been painstakingly restored to her former glory and is presented as she would have looked on her launch day.

Rebuilt, repainted and seemingly afloat on a glass sea, which allows visitors to take a stroll around the ship’s hull, the SS Great Britain represents a significant turning point in maritime technology. It boasted the biggest iron hull ever built, a revolutionary six-bladed propeller instead of paddle wheels, unsinkable lifeboats and the world’s most powerful steam engine. Think of her as the Concorde of the 19th century.

She was the embodiment of Brunel’s grand vision. Working for the Great Western Steamship Company, his idea was to extend the reach of the Great Western Railway to New York. Passengers would be able to travel from London to Bristol by train, stay in a hotel overnight, before boarding the luxurious SS Great Britain for the transatlantic journey the next day. All on just a single ticket.

Sadly, the SS Great Britain never carried passengers from Bristol and was never quite the success that Brunel or the GWSC hoped for. Instead, the SS Great Britain sailed from Liverpool between 1845 and 1846, before running aground off the coast of Northern Ireland and bankrupting her owners. Stranded for almost a year, Brunel’s leviathan ship was finally refloated and sold on to Gibbs Bright & Co who had very different plans for her…

The full article was published in the July 2010 issue of Heritage magazine.

Photo by markpeate


Secrets of the Roman Baths

by Dean on August 31, 2009

bathspa crw 6474 Secrets of the Roman Baths

Heritage magazine recently commissioned me to do an article about the history of the Roman Baths in Bath. It appears in the issue on sale in September 2009.

At the heart of the Roman Baths in the City of Bath, 240,000 gallons of hot water bubbles up every day into the ‘Sacred Spring’. This steamy, mineral-rich water is said to have amazing properties. The Celts believed it was where the goddess Sul lived. The Romans bobbed and bathed in it, associating the water with Minerva, their own goddess of medicine and wisdom. While the Victorians not only swam in the water, they drank it, seeking homoeopathic cures to illnesses such as rheumatism, sciatica, lumbago and gout.

Today, the Roman Baths attract more than a million visitors a year. It’s Bath’s premier tourist attraction – a superbly-preserved Roman bathing house patched up by some elegant 19th Century re-engineering.

Take a tour and most of the original Roman building that stood over 1,900 years ago is still accessible. In fact, when you look down from the Victorian-built terrace to the emerald water in the Great Bath below you’re only seeing a small part of the overall site. The Roman Baths are actually six metres below the current street level. The rest stretches out underground, beneath nearby streets and the Abbey churchyard.

Bath and North East Somerset Council are currently updating the Roman Baths to “keep it at the forefront of the competitive visitor attractions industry.” The idea is to look beyond simply showcasing the silent monument and to explore the human stories of the people who used it.

Improvements are ongoing and include: new digital photo displays, more detailed scale models, costumed actors, animated projections, interactive exhibits and virtual 3D reconstructions. Lifts have also been added to boost accessibility. If you’ve already visited, there’s now every reason to go back for another look.