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Meet the Volunteers: Kevin Meredith

Kevin dressed as a quaker in Steerage class


From guiding people around the ship, improving access to the library Collection to helping with our educational activities, meet the people making a difference and find out what it's like to volunteer at Brunel's ss Great Britain.

Kevin Meredith, Costumed Volunteer - Quaker

'So, what makes an apparently sensible person volunteer to don heavy wool and cotton costume for a day’s shift as a Quaker in Steerage? Because Steerage is the heartbeat of our wonderful ship! Yes, it is like a teenage lad’s bedroom, and hot enough to grow prize winning tomatoes but that's what it was like... It's noisy, sweaty and secretive, a microcosm of the real world. There are many people who  marvel at the transformation in Brunel' ss Great Britain over the years, but Steerage is mysterious and wonderful.

There are many tales of life as you would really see it, and through access to a Quakers' voyage diary I have the privilege of being able to bring to life the reality of Steerage. However I am also able to learn from the stories of past passengers. I can reveal tales of human endeavor to succeed, of heroic failure, of how advances in the technologies of travel and communication  are part of the Victorian experience.  This is where you can come to learn about how passengers coped – for better or worse with sixty days at sea – about an onboard party culture, about excess and privation, justice and discipline at sea, the births in the berths... and the solitary orange!

We may live in a world of smart phones and tablets now, but in Steerage you can try out the hand held devices of our forebears by writing your name with dip pen and ink. Or you might want to sweep out the bunks, or try to beat me at chess. Intrigued? Then come along to Steerage and see Victorian life at its most personal and fascinating. Even after 173 years our ship still has the ability to surprise!

I really enjoy dressing in costume as a steerage Quaker because it gives me a feeling of "being there" and therefore to really give 100% to the role. This makes it far easier to enrich the experience of the visitor as you can weave a story for them with all sorts of real events, usually from a starting point that is totally unexpected to them.'


Our volunteers play an important part in all that we do. Having our volunteer team provides more opportunity for visitors to engage with a person, ask questions and to learn more.

If you are interested in volunteering at Brunel's ss Great Britain, please visit our volunteers page for more information and news. The opening of our new museum in 2018 will create new roles and opportunities. More information on how you can get involved will be updated soon.

Read more blogs written by our volunteers: