Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Inside Brunel's great iron ship - SS Great Britain

The 'great' may have been quietly dropped out of beleaguered Britain (will it exist at all after the Scottish referendum?) but Brunel's iron ship, the biggest ship ever built at the time, the first to be powered by both sail and steam, is still Great in every sense of the word.  I haven't seen it since they finished the restoration, so was eager to see the ship with all six masts erected and the interior re-constructed.  The SS Great Britain was launched in 1843 and finally scuttled in the Falklands in 1937 - in service for almost a hundred years.  Money was raised to bring it back to Bristol in 1970 and return it to the dock where it had been built.


Bristol dock is the place to see tall ships.  The ship below is the Kaskelot, between television appearances.


First glimpse of the SS Great Britain is the gilded stern with gallery windows and gilding like the old 17th century sailing ships.

They've very carefully restored only sections of the ship - leaving the hull below the waterline in the same condition it was in when the ship was a hulk rescued from the Falkland Islands.  The iron plates have been 'conserved' leaving the holes visible.

The original wooden rudder is on show.

Up on deck, the length of the ship is amazing!

She was very impressive under sail (and steam) as this 19th century painting shows.  I would have loved to have been sailing on her then!


She was very roomy below decks too, though even the First Class cabins were very small.  Only the First Class toffs could stretch their legs on the promenade deck, or eat in the plush dining room.


First class cupboard - whoops - Cabin!
There was a massive kitchen with several huge ovens for bread, cakes and roasts.  The crates of cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, ducks and geese on deck were destined to end up here.


There was even a fully equipped doctor's surgery, complete with leeches.


It was a fantastic experience - unlike some tourist trips - and worth every penny.  If you want to know what it was like to be a passenger on board one of those ocean going sailing ships this is brilliant.  You can explore all the different decks to your heart's content and even climb the rigging up to the crow's nest.  That'll be me - next time!


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