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Back to the drawing board

With the recent award of over £117,000 from the National Heritage Landmarks Partnership Scheme, we are going to make it possible for you to see where Brunel designed and built the ss Great Britain for the first time ever.


The Grade II* listed Drawing Office, which stands alongside Brunel’s magnificent steam ship, was once his hub of operations; in fact, it was within those four walls that he would have conjured up and proposed the then radical idea of using a propeller rather than paddles on the ss Great Britain.

The building still survives today, having spent some time as our offices, but now it is set to become part of the new visitor experience - Being Brunel: the national Brunel project. It will be restored to how it would have looked in the 1800s.

An office itself isn’t always the most exciting or interesting place; it is the arguments, ideas and decisions that are made inside them that hold the most incredible stories.

The restoration of the Drawing Office’s interior will harness our trademark techniques, such as using sights, sounds and even smells to make it feel like Brunel has only just stepped out, or maybe about to walk back in at any moment.

From the window you will be able to look out onto Bristol’s harbour as it would have looked in Victorian times, meet the office dog (and other animals... all stuffed of course!), see the tools and instruments that Brunel would have used to design his masterpiece and handle authentic  recreations of the hero engineer’s personal items.

The view from Brunel's office onto Bristol's floating harbour.

The grant has been provided by Biffa Award; a multi-million pound fund that helps to build communities and transform lives through awarding grants to community and environmental projects across the UK, as part of the Landfill Communities Fund. The money will allow us to open up this piece of Bristol’s, and indeed Britain’s, illustrious history and bring it vividly to life.

Biffa Award have pledged £1.5m over three years to the Association of Independent Museums (AIM), supporting conservation, improving access for the public and showing the importance of Britain’s outstanding industrial heritage as part of the National Heritage Landmarks Scheme.

We can’t wait for it to be finished so we can invite you into the mad world of a Victorian genius and take you back to his drawing board!