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Discovery Talks

Brunel's SS Great Britain

Crew of ship at San Francisco 1883-85

Various dates and various times

Find out what life was like on board the SS Great Britain for passengers and crew, with these volunteer led talks. 

Discover what the Victorians did for work and play; find out about the tasks they performed, what living conditions were like on board and what they did with their free time.

Talks will last approximately 20 minutes and are included in the price of admission.

The Seaman’s tale


More dates coming soon

Seamen operated and maintained the ship’s sails, working aloft in all weathers. Find out more about this hard and dangerous job, and find out what sailors did in their spare time.

The Idler’s tale


17 November 2019

Idlers were the men and women who looked after the ship and her passengers. Discover the duties of the surgeon, the stewards and stewardesses, and find out who looked after the animals on board.

The Engineer’s tale


More dates coming soon

Working in the ship’s engine room was hot and dangerous work. Find out more about the engineers, firemen and trimmers whose job it was to keep the engine running and the furnaces burning.

The Captain’s tale


More dates coming soon

This talk covers stories of the Captains who sailed this famous ship 32 times round the world. Discover what it was like to be the master of this unique vessel - hear stories of success, failure and tragedy, and learn why the SS Great Britain was eventually abandoned in the Falkland Islands 8,000 miles from home.

Gold Talks


11, 26, 27 November 2019

3 December 2019

These talks tell the story of the first Australian voyage and recount the experiences of some of the passengers on board whose individual tales include murder, mystery, life changing success and spectacular failure.

Dry Dock Tour


More dates coming soon

Hear about how the Dry Dock was originally used and how it’s a key part of Bristol’s heritage.

Brunel's Big Idea


More dates coming soon

Discover Brunel's big idea to transport passengers from London to New York via Bristol, and how it led to the construction of two revolutionary ships and a pioneering dockyard.

Surgeon's Tale


5, 8, 19, 20, 21 November 2019

Find out about the crew responsible for the good health and hygiene of all those aboard the SS Great Britain.

Incredible Journey


7, 9, 18, 25, 28 November 2019

2, 5 December 2019

Find out about the SS Great Britain’s epic 84-year final voyage back home to her birthplace.

Women of the SS Great Britain


6 November 2019

Women made up less than 20% of the passengers who travelled on the SS Great Britain during her working life, however their stories are no less fascinating or inspiring than their male counterparts. This talk explores the experiences of some of these women who travelled or worked aboard Brunel’s famous ship.

Great Western - Brunel's Best Ship?


4 December 2019

Between 1835 and 1859 Brunel designed 3 steamships: Great Western, Great Britain and Great Eastern. Whilst each vessel contributed to the science of ship building during the 1800’s they all had different levels of success during their working lives. This talk explores the origins and career of Great Western and poses the question was Brunel’s first ship actually his best?