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Brunel's ss Great Britain

The famous iron steam ship ss Great Britain was built in 1843 by the Great Western Steamship Company and was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

This survival of the worlds first steam powered passenger liner was the forerunner of modern shipping. She was also the first ship to have her engines powered by screw propulsion, the iron propeller being sixteen foot long.

When launched she was 322 feet long and was the largest ship in the world designed for luxury passenger travel carrying 252 first and second class passengers with 130 crew. Unfortunately there were fewer passengers than anticipated and financially the first few voyages were not a success. She ran aground in 1846 and was rebuilt as an emigrant carrier, taking people to Australia for the next 24 years. Between 1854 and 1855 she was chartered by the Government to carry troops to and from the Crimean War. She was rebuilt again and chartered again by the Government for a further trooping voyage, carrying the 17th Lancers and 8th Hussars to the Indian Mutiny.

By the late 1870s the ship was showing her age and she was converted into a fast three-masted sailing ship taking Welsh coal to San Francisco. She ran into trouble on her third trip and was forced to shelter in Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands. She had travelled more than a million sea miles. The owners were unwilling to have her repaired and she was sold as a coal and wool storage hulk and remained in Port Stanley throughout the First World War, the coal from her hold used to re-fuel battle cruisers. By 1937 her hull was no longer watertight and she was beached and abandoned. Attempts were made to rescue her in the 1930s and 1960s and finally in 1970 she was re-floated and towed back to Bristol where she is being painstakingly restored in honour of her glorious past.



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