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Demolition starts in preparation for new museum

Mr. Brunel preparing for the demolition

Work on Being Brunel, a major new museum and visitor experience that will be a national centre of expertise in the life and works of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, begins this week with the demolition of the vacant 1940s buildings alongside the ss Great Britain.

Demolition of the North Range buildings, which will be carried out by local contractors R.M.Penny Ltd, is expected to be completed in April, with construction work for the ss Great Britain Trust’s new visitor attraction beginning in the summer. As part of the work,  Brunel’s Grade II* Listed Drawing Office where he originally designed and built the ss Great Britain is being restored to how it would have looked in the 1840s.

Being Brunel is due to open in early 2018 and is expected to provide a huge boost to tourism in Bristol; contributing an additional £1m to the city’s annual economy. Visitors will be invited to immerse themselves in the hero engineer’s life and works, learn about his mistakes and celebrate his successes as his story is brought vividly to life with never-before-seen personal possessions, documents and artefacts.

Demolition in action

Details of artefacts:

  • Brunel’s last cigar and cigar case, one of the most iconic symbols associated with Brunel, reflects his passion for fine things. It tells us that he was a member of the Athenaeum Club, and he often wrote about his visits to the club in his diaries. The Athenaeum Club was where Brunel would meet and network with people at the top of their disciplines and top of society across wide areas from authors and artists to scientists. This item is from the Clive Richards Brunel Collection which has become part of the National Brunel Collection.
  • A selection of silverware was gifted to Brunel by the Great Western Railway Company in 1845 as a thank you for his work. This consists of three silver-gilt dessert stands, two silver-gilt sideboard dishes, and a set of six silver-gilt salt-cellars and six silver-gilt spoons. At the time, the gift was worth around £2,100 (today that would be the equivalent to a bonus of £228,570).
  • Brunel’s school report gives us insights to how he was as a child. This 1821 report is from Brunel’s tutor, Mr. Massim, and includes a report and a letter.
  • This daguerreotype (photographic process) portrait of Sir Marc Brunel was taken between 1843-1849 at the ‘Photographic Institution’ Victoria Park, Bath. This provides an insight into the relationship between Isambard and Marc Brunel. This is one of the only (two) photographs of Sir Marc Brunel. It is on loan to ss Great Britain Trust by the Albury Family, who are descendants of Marc Brunel. The daguerreotype also gives an insight into early photographic processes and studios. It was made at the first photographic studio in Bath.

Daguerreotype portrait of Sir Marc Brunel

Matthew Tanner, Chief Executive of the ss Great Britain Trust, said: “This is an important milestone for this new venture, which is one of the most ambitious and exciting projects we’ve carried out since the ss Great Britain was salvaged and returned 8,000 miles from the Falkland Islands.”

The new museum will give unprecedented access to artefacts from the National Brunel Collection, currently cared for at the Brunel Institute, which includes over 14,000 items from the University of Bristol Brunel Collection, the Clive Richards Brunel Collection and the ss Great Britain Trust Collection.

The Being Brunel Corporate Club enables companies to donate to support this exciting project, in return for invitations to exclusive, after-hours events on board the ss Great Britain and recognition within the new museum, which is expected to attract more than 200,000 visitors each year. Businesses who have joined the Being Brunel Corporate Club so far include: Renishaw, The Bristol Port Company, Arthur J. Gallagher Insurance Brokers Ltd, Hollandia UK Ltd, SMC Global Ltd, BAE Systems,Wapping Wharf and Stannah.

To get involved, contact the Fundraising Team at the ss Great Britain Trust or speak to Visitor Centre staff and volunteers, telephone 0117 926 0680 or find out more online at:


More information about Being Brunel: the national Brunel project is available online



For more information, please contact Suzan Uzel at Spirit Public Relations on 0117 944 1415 or

Editor’s notes


Transcript (translated) of Brunel’s school report:



CHEVALIER OF ST.-LOUIS, OFFICER of the University, Doctor of Letters, and Member of the Royal Academic Society of Sciences.


2nd Semester of the Classic Year 1821.

REPORT OF Mr Isambard Brunel Pupil of the Class of Maths and of French.


Place of Compositions.

This Pupil obtained, at Secondary School:

The 1st Prize of Element. Maths.


at the Institute:

the Prize of the Semester of the Class of Maths

The Prize of Elementary Maths

The Prize of French Language, of History, and of Geography (?).

The 2nd honourable mention in Drawing. 2nd division.


Religious homeworks: - Properly fulfilled. -


French Language: - He improved -

Latin Language: - He will deal with it as much as it will be possible. -

Greek Language:

Explanation of authors:

Analysis: - Good -                                Latin Poetry:

History: - Good -

Geography: - Good -

Maths: - Very Good -


Drawing: - Very Good -

German Language: - Very Good, a lot of diligence -

Health: - Good -

Behaviour: - Beyond reproach. - This young man gave to all his teachers the fullest satisfaction, and he provides brilliant expectations for the future.




About Brunel’s ss Great Britain:

  1. Brunel’s ss Great Britain is the world’s first great ocean liner and the most experimental 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.
  2. Please note, for brand continuity, 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’ and the trading branch of the charity is ‘ss Great Britain Trading Ltd.’. The ‘ss’ is always written in lower case or small caps; or in a smaller font size when only capitalisation is available.
  3. 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, 2007

UK Museum of the Year 2006

About the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF):

Heritage Lottery Fund - 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.