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Build contractor appointed for Being Brunel

Being Brunel illustration

The ss Great Britain Trust has appointed regional construction company, Beard, to build the national Brunel museum as part of Being Brunel.

Beard will work with Alec French Architects to construct a new harbourside building that will connect to the historic Grade II* listed Dock Office via a first-floor walkway.

The new building has been designed to reflect the façade of original buildings that would have flanked the ss Great Britain as she was constructed in her Dry Dock in 1840, enhancing the historic accuracy of the dockyard. Beard will construct a steel-frame exhibition hall containing multiple gallery spaces and a mezzanine level, as well as a cafe.

Due for completion in February 2018, Being Brunel will be a major new museum and visitor experience that will become the national centre of expertise in the life and works of Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The museum is part of the £7.2million Being Brunel project, funded by individuals, companies and charitable trusts including major support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

The contract to build the Being Brunel museum follows Beard’s recently completed visitor centre at the iconic Clevedon Pier in Somerset, a historic landmark which is the only operating Grade I Listed seaside pier in the UK.

Mike Day, Being Brunel Project Manager for the ss Great Britain Trust, said: “The appointment of Beard and the start of construction work is a major milestone for the project. It’s also an incredibly exciting moment, with the striking new building set to take shape over the coming months in place of derelict corrugated metal structures that were recently removed from the harbourside.”

Mike Hedges, Construction Director for Beard Bristol said: “It’s a tremendous honour to be involved in the preservation of Brunel’s great legacy through this fantastic interactive new museum which, when completed, will bring Brunel’s genius and extraordinary mind to life. This is a complex project where our construction team will be working within a historic dockyard alongside the iconic ss Great Britain and Grade II* listed Dock Office.”

Brunel's ss Great Britain will remain fully open while the new museum is built. Visitors will see the new building taking shape, along with interpretative information panels and artist impressions, during their visit. Further information about Being Brunel, the national Brunel project is available at




For more information, interview requests and images, please contact:

Dominic Rowe, Communications Officer, tel. 0117 926 0680 ext 219; email

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Editor’s notes

About Brunel’s ss Great Britain

Brunel’s ss Great Britain is the world’s first great ocean liner and the most innovative steam ship of her time. Launched in 1843, this iron-hulled steamship revolutionised travel and set new standards in engineering, reliability and speed. Today, Brunel’s ss Great Britain is Bristol’s no.1 visitor attraction (as voted by the public on Trip Advisor) and home to the Brunel Institute, housing one of the world’s finest maritime and Brunel collections.

Please note, the attraction is ‘Brunel’s ss Great Britain’, the ship herself is the ‘ss Great Britain’, the charity which manages and maintains the ship is the ‘ss Great Britain Trust’. The ‘ss’ is written in lower case.

Brunel’s ss Great Britain has won over 30 major awards covering heritage, tourism, conservation, access, education, venue hire and customer service; including:

  • 3* in Michelin Guide to Great Britain, 2012
  • Rough Guide to Accessible Britain, 2010
  • England’s Large Visitor Attraction of the Year, 2007
  • UK Museum of the Year 2006


About Beard Construction

Beard is an award-winning construction company which operates across the South of England. With offices in Oxford, Swindon, Bristol and Guildford, the company undertakes design and build, new build, restoration and refurbishment on a range of projects, including complex projects, up to £12 million for public and private sector organisations. Established in 1892, the family-owned company has significant expertise in building for the healthcare, arts and culture, commerce and industry, education, ecclesiastical, elderly care, sports and leisure and defence sectors.

Media contacts: Liz Coyle-Camp and Candice Bealing, E=MC2 Public Relations; tel. 01747 871752; email:


About Alex French Architects

Alec French Architects is a well-established, award winning Bristol based Architectural Practice. The practice draws on the experience of its directors, Mark Osborne, Nigel Dyke & Robin Gray who are actively involved in the design and execution of projects from inception to completion.  We have been involved in significant projects throughout the south west including Horizon House, Aardman Animations HQ, City Hall Bristol, ss Great Britain visitor facilities and Quakers Friars. Our current work continues our commitment to the cultural, civic, and commercial health of Bristol with prominent projects such as Wapping Wharf, Bridge Quay, Redcliffe Wharf and Underfall Yard.


About the Heritage Lottery Fund (HFL)

Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife.