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Exploring the SS Great Britain

Last week, one of our Learning and Access officers, Sarah Phillips, visited ss Great Britain in Bristol.
The purpose of the visit was to find out how the ship’s educational work developed and grew.  Today the ss Great Britain is a popular visitor attraction for schools and the public and a valuable resource for learning about Britain’s maritime history.

280 ss Great Britain

The famous engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel designed the ss Great Britain. The ship was a world first when she was launched in Bristol in 1843, a technological marvel in ship design. The ship had a wide variety of roles in her life, from luxury transatlantic passenger liner to transporting Welsh coal. 
During the early 20th century, she was damaged and ended up in the Falkland Islands.  In 1970, she was brought back home and this marked the start of an amazing project to conserve and restore the ship back to her former glory.
Today, the ss Great Britain resides in the Bristol docks.  You can explore the ship, which tells the story of what life was like for passengers when it transported people rather than coal. 
We got the opportunity to go aboard, and enjoyed investigating the nooks and crannies of the ship, including the stables!  The grand dining room looked like it came straight from an Agatha Christie novel. The visit was extremely useful and Wessex Archaeology thanks the staff at ss Great Britain for taking the time to show them around.
If you are looking for research material, you can also visit the ss Great Britain’s recently opened Brunel Institute, which hosts a fascinating archive and library covering maritime history, archaeology and of course the work of the famous engineer Brunel.
To find out more visit the ss Great Britain’s website, or read about our excavations in advance of the new conservation and education centre in 2007.


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