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Finished With Engines: Irish Sea Shipping is now closed to new updates - J.H. Luxton Photography - Transport, Industrial History, Regional Photographs UK & beyond

SS Great Britain - Brunel's Masterpiece

Photographs  John H. Luxton 2012

These photographs of Brunel's S.S. GREAT BRITAIN were taken on Saturday June 16, 2012. It is probably nearly a decade since S.S. GREAT BRITAIN previously featured on Irish Sea Shipping.

The ship, from which all subsequent screw propelled ocean liners were subsequently developed, was returned to Bristol for preservation back in 1970. The past 42 years have seen the ship restored from rusting hulk to provide an insight into ocean passenger travel in 1843. A visit to the ship is highly recommended.       

Replica of the original six bladed propeller.
Visitors have access to the bottom of the Great Western Dock. This is a sealed environment in which a dehumidifier reduces moisture in the atmosphere to just 20% arrest to hull corrosion. The hull plates were made at he Coalbrookdale Foundry at Ironbridge. Visible in the hull are the scuttling holes created to deliberately sink the vessel whilst she was used as a storage hull in the Falkland Islands as well as the crudely plated great crack in the hull.. Looking up from the bottom of the dry dock visitors can see through glass sheets which surround the vessel and seal her in the dry dock. Above these sheets there is a shallow layer of water which makes the ship appear afloat in the dock when viewed from the dock side. 

The two bladed retractable screw displayed with the original rudder displayed in the museum. The retractable rudder was fitted in 1857 and would be raised when the ship was operating only under sail.

Whistle from the SS GREAT EASTERN which ended her days on the Mersey as a visitor attraction operated by Lewis's department store.

The glass panels which provide an airtight seal to protect the hull and the covering of water viewed from the dockside.
The weather deck was available for passenger promenading in good weather, though only first class passengers were allowed to use the area above the stern a painted line demarcating the first class area. Located on deck in the third class area were chicken coops and a livestock stall to accommodate cattle to provide passengers with fresh eggs and milk.

The first class galley and food storage  and preparation areas. The ship carried livestock provide for an ample supply of fresh meat, eggs etc during a voyage as there were no refrigeration facilities back in the mid 19th Century.

The butcher can be seen at work in the picture far right. One wonders what today's hygiene inspectors would make of these facilities today?

The first class promenade deck well illuminated from deck lights and windows in the transom stern I.K. Brunel can be found seated there. Some first class cabins are located each side of this area.
Unlike modern ocean passenger ships the cabins, even first class, are very small and the berths incredibly narrow anyone on the large side would have experienced discomfort whilst trying to sleep!First class lounge
First class bathroomFirst class heads (toilet)First class cabin
The engine room extends the full height of the ship from keel to weather deck. It contains a replica of Brunel's original four cylinder engine which was linked to the propeller shaft by a chain linkage.
The surgeon's cabin.An army officer in a first class cabin

The first class dining room could accommodate up to 360 passengers. The tramcar style flip over seats were provided to allow passengers to face inwards for entertainment when the saloon was not being used for dining.

Steerage accommodation was very basic and offered either in cabins which held four passengers or in berths in open areas. Separate catering arrangements were provided (right)

The foc'sle area remains partially unrestored - this allows visitors to view part of the ship in the condition in which it was when returned from the Falkland Islands as well as providing for a view of a cross section of the ship's decks.

Stairs and companion ways - left.

Views of the ship from the dockside - below.

The quayside around the vessel on the starboard side of the ship has been dressed with various artefacts so as to depict a typical dock side view of a ship preparing to depart.

For more information on the S.S. GREAT BRITAIN visit the official web site at:


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