Isambard Kingdom Brunel was arguably Britain’s greatest engineer. Every project with which he was concerned, forced human achievement to a higher level. One of his most revolutionary feats was the construction of an iron-hulled, propeller driven steam ship ‘Great Britain’. This was larger and more luxurious than any ship ever built at that time. On 15thMay, there was a Civic Society tour of the completely reconstructed ship. The ship lies in the same Bristol dry-dock in which it was originally built in 1843. We experienced the opulence of the first class lounge and dining room, as well as the cramped, dark, smelly rat infested quarters of the third and fourth class (or ‘steerage’) passengers. None of us felt agile enough to climb the rigging which was a possibility! After this excellent tour was over, we descended below the water line to find out about the specially devised air conditioning system which preserves the hull from rusting.
An exciting addition is the new ‘Being Brunel’ museum opened this year. This uses every trick of modern technology to present insights into Brunel’s remarkable life and achievements.
The ship and the museum, together with a beautiful day and a decent lunch at the Harbourside Kitchen as well as the comfortable coach journey there and back, made a very enjoyable day out.