Was This The Best Ship in the World? Bristol SS Great Britain by Brunel

Was This The Best Ship in the World? Bristol SS Great Britain || The Travel Tester || #Bristol #SSGreatBritain #Britain #England #Maritime #Museum #SteamShip #Brunel
The Travel Tester steps aboard -and goes aloft- the Bristol SS Great Britain and discovers the life and works of engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

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When Nick and I got invited to the Bristol SS Great Britain, we didn’t know much about this ship that once was called “the greatest experiment since the Creation” when it launched in 1843. It was the first ever iron ship that crossed the Atlantic, the longest passenger ship in the world from 1845 to 1854 and ended up travelling for more than a million miles, circumnavigating the globe 32 times!

The ship is now fully restored and in dry dock, and you can walk all around, under, up and even inside of it. It is full of live actors and fun, interactive exhibits and a visit will definitely teach you everything there is to know about engineering, life and work on a ship and what it really takes to follow your dreams!

Get Your SS Great Britain Bristol Tickets Online in Advance from the Visit Great Britain Shop.

 

BRISTOL SS GREAT BRITAIN VISIT

Was This The Best Ship in the World? Bristol SS Great Britain || The Travel Tester || #Bristol #SSGreatBritain #Britain #England #Maritime #Museum #SteamShip #Brunel

 

The Travel Tester - The Anticipation

Who Built the Bristol SS Great Britain?

Isambard Kingdom Brunel was Britain’s greatest engineer. He was even voted the second Greatest Briton of all time, after Winston Churchill! You wouldn’t perhaps know it, but many of his inventions are still part of our everyday lives and landscape.

Brunel built several dockyards, the Great Western Railway (which linked Bristol and London), a series of steamships (including the first propeller-driven transatlantic steamship called ‘The Great Western’), and numerous important bridges, tunnels and viaducts. His designs revolutionized public transport and modern engineering. Even though not all of his projects were super-successful, they did often contain innovative solutions to long-standing engineering problems.

Brunel definitely didn’t have an easy life, and he died on 15 September 1859, aged 53, following a stroke. He was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery in London.

 

Was This The Best Ship in the World? Bristol SS Great Britain || The Travel Tester || #Bristol #SSGreatBritain #Britain #England #Maritime #Museum #SteamShip #Brunel
You can recognize Brunel easily by his massive top hat

 

Being Brunel: The Man Who Built The World

If you’re still asking: ‘why was Isambard Kingdom Brunel important?’, then you have to visit the newly built “Being Brunel” exhibition, which is located on the site of the SS Great Britain. Here, you can explore the life and legacy of engineer Brunel as it brings together the world’s most significant collection of one of engineering’s greatest minds.

You start off in the “Shakespeare Room”, which looks like Brunel’s dining room of his home at 18 Duke Street in London. The room featured paintings of scenes from various Shakespeare’s plays, that’s how it got its name. Isambard and his wife Mary used the room to entertain their family and friends, but also influential acquaintances who could help Brunel get his projects off the ground.

The next sections of the museum focus on Brunel’s innovative engineering (‘Brunel the Engineer’), his entrepreneurial spirit (‘Brunel the Entrepreneur’), Brunel as famous engineer in the celebrity zone (‘Brunel the Celebrity’) and his extraordinary artistic designs (‘Brunel the Artist Designer’).

Finally, you get to a special part of the exhibition, because you’re able to visit his mind in an immersive audio-video experience that let’s you see the world through Brunel’s own eyes.

When you return ‘to the real world’, you walk through the structurally restored Grade II listed Duke Street London Dock Office from 1850, which was based in Brunel’s home, and the Great Western Steamship Company’s Bristol office.

 

Was This The Best Ship in the World? Bristol SS Great Britain || The Travel Tester || #Bristol #SSGreatBritain #Britain #England #Maritime #Museum #SteamShip #Brunel

Was This The Best Ship in the World? Bristol SS Great Britain || The Travel Tester || #Bristol #SSGreatBritain #Britain #England #Maritime #Museum #SteamShip #Brunel
The part where you get to step into his mind is behind this massive head of Brunel!

 

Was This The Best Ship in the World? Bristol SS Great Britain || The Travel Tester || #Bristol #SSGreatBritain #Britain #England #Maritime #Museum #SteamShip #Brunel
Fits.

 

Was This The Best Ship in the World? Bristol SS Great Britain || The Travel Tester || #Bristol #SSGreatBritain #Britain #England #Maritime #Museum #SteamShip #Brunel
There are so many Isambard Kingdom Brunel facts and objects in the museum, that you probably didn’t know!

 

Was This The Best Ship in the World? Bristol SS Great Britain || The Travel Tester || #Bristol #SSGreatBritain #Britain #England #Maritime #Museum #SteamShip #Brunel
Discover the Brunel engineering skills… and have a go yourself!

 

Was This The Best Ship in the World? Bristol SS Great Britain || The Travel Tester || #Bristol #SSGreatBritain #Britain #England #Maritime #Museum #SteamShip #Brunel
Learn all about Brunel ship builder’s talents

Was This The Best Ship in the World? Bristol SS Great Britain || The Travel Tester || #Bristol #SSGreatBritain #Britain #England #Maritime #Museum #SteamShip #Brunel

 

 

The Travel Tester - The Experience

See The SS Great Britain Inside & Out

Now, of course you’re interested in what kind of ship the SS Great Britain actually was.

Designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel for the Great Western Steamship Company, the SS Great Britain was was built as a transatlantic service between Bristol and New York. At launch, she was the largest ship in the world and also the first ever screw-propelled and iron-hulled steam ship, something that was revolutionary at the time.

During the crossing of the Atlantic in 1845, the ship carried 252 First and Second Class passengers and 130 crew members. Because of the proppellor, the time of crossing was ‘only’ 14 days!

While the first few voyages showed great technological ability, they were not a great financial success and they had far fewer passengers than anticipated. After the ship ran aground on the sands of Dundrum Bay in Northern Ireland in 1846, the engines were so badly damaged that she was sold on to Gibbs, Bright & Co. in 1852. They adapted the ship and used it to carry emigrants to Australia, which turned out to be very successful.

With a new upper deck added and a new engine fitted, she could now transport 750 passengers in three classes! Over the next 24 years, the ship made 32 voyages and carried over 16.000 emigrants to Australia.

After having served as a passenger ship for 30 years, the SS Great Britain got converted to carry cargo (such as coal) between England and the West Coast of America from 1882 to 1886.

After that, the ship’s life ended in 1933. There was a short rescue attempt, but when that failed, it was abandoned and left to rust away, until it was brought back to life again in 1970 by naval architect Ewan Corlett and restored to her Victorian hey-day. Brunel’s ss Great Britain was re-launched as one of the world’s most important maritime museums in 2005, after a £11.3 million restoration process.

Let’s walk around, under and inside of the ship now, shall we?

There is an interactive map on the website of the SS Great Britain that’s quite handy.

 

The Dockyard

The dockyard has been here since 1839, when directors of the Great Western Steam Ship Company needed a dock where they could construct their new transatlantic liner. it was the first ever dock in the world where all the modern shipbuilding processes came together on one site.

 

Was This The Best Ship in the World? Bristol SS Great Britain || The Travel Tester || #Bristol #SSGreatBritain #Britain #England #Maritime #Museum #SteamShip #Brunel
Learn all about the SS Great Britain history in the dockyard!

 

Was This The Best Ship in the World? Bristol SS Great Britain || The Travel Tester || #Bristol #SSGreatBritain #Britain #England #Maritime #Museum #SteamShip #Brunel

 

The Dry Dock

The iron hull of the SS Great Britain is very vulnerable to corrosion, so to keep the air as dry as possible, the dock has been sealed by a huge water-line glass plate. Beneath the plate, the air is kept dry by a giant dehumidifier. It’s so amazing how they’ve done this. When you walk down to the hull of the ship, you almost feel like you’re under water.

The Dry Dock is Grade ll listed and the surrounding dockyard area and buildings recreate exactly how preparations for the departure of the ship must have looked like back in the days!

 

Was This The Best Ship in the World? Bristol SS Great Britain || The Travel Tester || #Bristol #SSGreatBritain #Britain #England #Maritime #Museum #SteamShip #Brunel

Was This The Best Ship in the World? Bristol SS Great Britain || The Travel Tester || #Bristol #SSGreatBritain #Britain #England #Maritime #Museum #SteamShip #Brunel
You can see the giant dehumidifier below the ship

Was This The Best Ship in the World? Bristol SS Great Britain || The Travel Tester || #Bristol #SSGreatBritain #Britain #England #Maritime #Museum #SteamShip #Brunel

Get Your SS Great Britain Bristol Tickets Online in Advance from the Visit Great Britain Shop!

 

 

The Dockyard Museum

If you’re interested in the history of the SS Great Britain, then this part of the museum is for you! You can walk through the different time zones and see many objects from the ship, such as paintings, photographs, letters and other items that tell the story of the ship.

At the end of the Dockyard Museum, you pick up a card with one of 36 characters from the ship’s history and follow in their footsteps. Along the way, you learn all the facts and activities based on the ship’s records and personal diaries. As you wander through an authentic Victorian setting, you discover how your character lived.

 

Was This The Best Ship in the World? Bristol SS Great Britain || The Travel Tester || #Bristol #SSGreatBritain #Britain #England #Maritime #Museum #SteamShip #Brunel
Explore the Brunel SS Great Britain as one of the crew members or passengers

 

Was This The Best Ship in the World? Bristol SS Great Britain || The Travel Tester || #Bristol #SSGreatBritain #Britain #England #Maritime #Museum #SteamShip #Brunel
Life on board the HMS Great Britain wasn’t easy!

 

The Weather Deck & The Promenade Deck

When you enter the ship from the museum, you’ll get to the weather deck. This space was divided into different areas for passengers travelling first, second and third class. From the skylight in the centre of the deck, you can see the engine wheel turning.
The Promenade Deck was a playground for the passengers who were able to pay for first class, luxury travel. From here, you can explore the cabins that are located on either side of the Promenade Deck. Here you will meet some of the passengers who travelled first class on the SS Great Britain between 1845 and 1875.

 

Was This The Best Ship in the World? Bristol SS Great Britain || The Travel Tester || #Bristol #SSGreatBritain #Britain #England #Maritime #Museum #SteamShip #Brunel
As meat went off easily on these long journeys, large numbers of live animals were carried for food. This made the ship look a bit like Noah’s Ark!

 

The Cabins

Of course, there was quite a difference between the accommodation of the First, Second and Third class passengers on the ship. On board, all the rooms have been decorated with lots of detail, there are sounds and there is movement everywhere, so you can really imagine what it must have been like to be on-board the ship during a crossing, very cool!

 

Was This The Best Ship in the World? Bristol SS Great Britain || The Travel Tester || #Bristol #SSGreatBritain #Britain #England #Maritime #Museum #SteamShip #Brunel
Some of the rooms for Second Class passengers. Including a monkey.

 

Was This The Best Ship in the World? Bristol SS Great Britain || The Travel Tester || #Bristol #SSGreatBritain #Britain #England #Maritime #Museum #SteamShip #Brunel
Third Class must have been noisy with so many people packed onto each other (left). Nothing like the First Class! (right)

 

Was This The Best Ship in the World? Bristol SS Great Britain || The Travel Tester || #Bristol #SSGreatBritain #Britain #England #Maritime #Museum #SteamShip #Brunel
Yes, you get to dress up as well, no worries!

 

The Kitchen

Can you imagine cooking for 600 people while at open sea? I can’t, but somehow they managed! The kitchen was actually quite impressive! Especially for First Class passengers, dinners were amazing as you can see on the pictures below.

 

Was This The Best Ship in the World? Bristol SS Great Britain || The Travel Tester || #Bristol #SSGreatBritain #Britain #England #Maritime #Museum #SteamShip #Brunel

Was This The Best Ship in the World? Bristol SS Great Britain || The Travel Tester || #Bristol #SSGreatBritain #Britain #England #Maritime #Museum #SteamShip #Brunel

Get Your SS Great Britain Bristol Tickets Online in Advance from the Visit Great Britain Shop!

 

 

GOT MORE TIME?

Go Aloft at the Brunel Ship Bristol!

The SS Great Britain used both sails as steam power at the same time, which really was a technological innovation at the time. This saved them on the cost of fuel and allowed the ship to cross the Atlantic in half the time of contemporary ships.

The sailors who worked on board had to operate and maintain the rigging and the sails, which was a dangerous business as you can imagine! They had to climb up the ‘ratlines’ (the ladders on either side of the mainmast) and out along the ‘yards’ (the horizontal beams attached to the mast) …with no safety equipment and in any type of weather.

Sounds scary?

Well, good news. You can have a go at it yourself now!

Of course, unlike the Victorian sailors, you do get a safely harness and a helmet to climb the 25 meter high rigging, so no worries. Nick and I gave it a go and while Nick was definitely less scared as I was, we both managed to reach the top and get back down in one piece. Nick was even braver than I was, because not only did he climb the mast, he also set foot on the horizontal beam, which stretched out another 9 meters, ahh!!

If you’d like to give it a try, let the staff at the museum know. Two people can climb at once and this experience is free for people under 18 (you have to be 10 years minimum to climb), everyone else pays £10 on top of their ticket price. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so if you’re up for it, I’d give it a go!

 

Was This The Best Ship in the World? Bristol SS Great Britain || The Travel Tester || #Bristol #SSGreatBritain #Britain #England #Maritime #Museum #SteamShip #Brunel
Before, when we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into…
Was This The Best Ship in the World? Bristol SS Great Britain || The Travel Tester || #Bristol #SSGreatBritain #Britain #England #Maritime #Museum #SteamShip #Brunel
First, you get a security lesson and everything gets checked
Was This The Best Ship in the World? Bristol SS Great Britain || The Travel Tester || #Bristol #SSGreatBritain #Britain #England #Maritime #Museum #SteamShip #Brunel
Nick goes first!
Was This The Best Ship in the World? Bristol SS Great Britain || The Travel Tester || #Bristol #SSGreatBritain #Britain #England #Maritime #Museum #SteamShip #Brunel
I was way too much of a chicken to do this. It’s REALLY quite high, you guys!
Was This The Best Ship in the World? Bristol SS Great Britain || The Travel Tester || #Bristol #SSGreatBritain #Britain #England #Maritime #Museum #SteamShip #Brunel
I did it!

 

Brunel Bridge Bristol (Clifton Suspension Bridge)

If you have a bit of time, it’s definitely worth it to visit one of Brunel’s biggest projects: the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

This iconic bridge, crossing the River Avon, was designed by Brunel in 1829. At the time it had the longest span of any bridge in the world, but his original design was rejected. An improved version, complete with Egyptian-influenced sphinxes and hieroglyphs, was accepted.

Sadly the project was abandoned due to a lack of funds and the bridge was not completed until 1864, after Brunel’s death.

At the end of the bridge, there is a small museum that’s free to visit and will tell you a bit more about the bridge and Brunel.

 

Clifton Suspension Bridge - Brunel, Bristol || The Travel Tester || #Bristol #SSGreatBritain #Britain #England #Maritime #Museum #SteamShip #Brunel
The Epic Bristol Brunel Bridge
Clifton Suspension Bridge - Brunel, Bristol || The Travel Tester || #Bristol #SSGreatBritain #Britain #England #Maritime #Museum #SteamShip #Brunel
The architect is happy. Also because we got ice cream…

Clifton Suspension Bridge - Brunel, Bristol || The Travel Tester || #Bristol #SSGreatBritain #Britain #England #Maritime #Museum #SteamShip #Brunel

Clifton Suspension Bridge - Brunel, Bristol || The Travel Tester || #Bristol #SSGreatBritain #Britain #England #Maritime #Museum #SteamShip #Brunel
Gorgeous views from the Brunel Bristol Bridge

 

The Travel Tester - The Verdict

If you’re interested in (maritime) history, engineering or just want to imagine what it was like back in the days, this living museum truly is a must-visit. The displays are comprehensive, it’s great for kids (of any age), there is a lot of to see and do and the people dressed in Victorian clothing make the whole experience unique. You can easily spend several hours here and the ticket includes unlimited return visits for a year, so I would highly recommend a visit next time you’re in Bristol! 

 

The Travel Tester - Practical Information

Getting to the SS Great Britain is easy. the nearest train station is Bristol Temple Meads and it is within walking distance from the city centre.

Get Your SS Great Britain Bristol Tickets Online in Advance from the Visit Great Britain Shop!

For more information, check out the website of SS Great Britain

 

The Travel Tester - Tour Suggestions

Here are some suggestions of tours to do in Bristol and in the area:

 

The Travel Tester - Packing Tips

 

The Travel Tester - Save on Pinterest

Was This The Best Ship in the World? Bristol SS Great Britain || The Travel Tester || #Bristol #SSGreatBritain #Britain #England #Maritime #Museum #SteamShip #Brunel

 

 

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