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