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SS Great Britain, Bristol

Brunnel’s SS Great Britain, “the ship that changed the world“, is a passenger ship, now a museum ship and an award-winning visitor attraction in Bristol Harbour which attracts 150,000 – 170,000 visitors every year. She was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel for the Great Western Steamship Company’s transatlantic service between Bristol and New York, and was the world’s longest passenger ship from 1845-1854. She was the first iron steamer to cross the Atlantic, which she did in 1845, in the time of 14 days. When launched in 1843, Great Britain was by far the largest vessel afloat. However, her protracted construction and high cost had left her owners in a difficult financial position, and they were forced out of business in 1846 after the ship was stranded by a navigational error.

Today you can experience the sights, sounds and smells of life on board the SS Great Britain in her heyday, take a stroll along the decks and experience the general bustle of the ship getting set to sail. Look down onto the dockside where the cargo is ready for loading. Below decks take a peek at the luxury of the first class cabins and listen in to the conversations recounting stories from passengers aboard. The tour also takes you below the water-line to take a “fish-eyes” view of the world’s oldest iron hull.

The Dockyard Museum tells the ss Great Britain’s remarkable story, from her launch in 1843 through a long career as luxury liner, emigrant steam clipper to a super-sized sailing ship carrying coal to San Francisco. You will discover the story of her rescue from the bottom of the South Atlantic and her final triumphant return to Bristol. Alongside the ship is the Brunel Institute and David MacGregor Library. This world-class maritime library and archive houses thousands of books, documents, plans and objects. Passengers’ original diaries and letters, scale models, and drawings made by Brunel himself are all here. The Institute is open to researchers and members of the public and curators regularly meet visitors to share their favourite items and stories.

Where is she?

In 1970 the ss Great Britain returned to the original Great Western Dockyard where she had been built. It is here you will find her, sitting in the heart of a multi award-winning attraction in Bristol’s historic harbour.

Opening Times

  • Open every day, except 24 and 25 Dec.
  • Open: 10:00am to 5:30pm
    Last entry: 4:30pm (one hour before closing)
    Autumn and Winter
  • Open: 10:00am to 4:30pm (from 28 Oct 2013)

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