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Haynes launches ss Great Britain Manual

Brian Lavery and Rhian Tritton with Haynes manual

Haynes’ new ss Great Britain Enthusiast’s Manual has been launched on board Brunel’s ss Great Britain in Bristol.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s ss Great Britain was a world first when she was launched in 1843. As the world’s largest ship and the first iron-hulled passenger vessel she was hugely ambitious and thousands flocked to her launch in Bristol, with many doubting she would even float. She became a huge success, travelling 32 times around the globe and clocking up nearly 1 million miles at sea.

Author Brian Lavery and Haynes Marketing Manager Sam Bacon presented copies of the new Haynes Manual to the Director of Conservation and Education at the ss Great Britain Trust, Rhian Tritton, on board ship.

The ss Great Britain Enthusiasts’ Manual shows how this iconic ship was created and tells the story of her passengers and crew in compelling detail.

In classic Haynes style the Manual examines the engineering background of this extraordinary ship. The book gives rare insights into the design and construction process that Isambard Kingdom Brunel, his partners and investors went through. Details as to why they chose iron, the innovative screw propeller instead of paddles, and her great size – 322 feet long and 55 feet wide – are all covered. Every decision was brave and ahead of its time.

The ss Great Britain Enthusiasts’ Manual author Brian Lavery said,

“It was a joy to research and pull together the story of such an iconic vessel and one which holds such a fond place in people’s hearts, particularly here in Bristol. I have endeavoured to include something for everyone - to satisfy the curiosity of the casual reader and the thirst for detail of the committed engineering, maritime or Brunel enthusiast.”

Director of Conservation and Education at the ss Great Britain Trust, Rhian Tritton commented:

“We’re very excited to receive the Haynes Manual which is a fascinating read and provides an excellent balance between technology and social history. It is an ideal purchase or gift for anyone interested in the ss Great Britain and the engineering genius of I.K. Brunel in particular and ships and the Victorian industrial age in general. I am sure the book will feature on many lists for Birthdays and Christmas.”

Sam Bacon, Marketing Manager for Haynes Publishing added:

“We’re very proud of the ss Great Britain Manual, which takes the classic Haynes approach to this historic ship, covering both her history and the engineering and design. This is one of a growing range of Manuals which, building on the continued success of the classic Haynes car and motorcycle Manuals, celebrate some of the world’s most iconic vehicles and vessels.”

The ss Great Britain made her inaugural voyage to New York in 1845 and was the world’s first luxury passenger ship. But her New York crossings came to an end when she ran aground at Dundrum Bay, in Ireland in 1846. The resulting high cost of salvage and repair finished off the Great Western Steamship Company and the Great Britain was sold to Gibbs and Bright & Co, to capitalise on the Australian gold rush and carry gold prospectors. 

The voyage from Liverpool to Australia took two months and the resulting isolation of the Victorian passengers has provided us with a wonderful archive of diaries. The Haynes SS Great Britain Enthusiasts’ Manual uses these diaries to paint a vivid picture of life on board ship, the concerts, amateur dramatics and romances that blossomed. 

After working as a troop ship in the Crimean War and Indian Mutiny (Sepoy Wars), she ended her working life moored in the Falkland Islands and used as a storage hulk before being abandoned in 1937. In 1970 an ambitious salvage and rescue operation brought her home to Bristol where today she is conserved and is one of the UK’s top visitor attractions.

The ship’s history is described and illustrated in impressive detail using archive illustrations from the ss Great Britain Trust’s collection and specially commissioned photographs of the ship’s anatomy.

The Author

Brian Lavery is a Curator Emeritus at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, and a renowned expert on the sailing navy. He is widely published and a winner of the prestigious Desmond Wettern Maritime Media Award (2007) and the Society for Nautical Research’s Anderson Medal (2008). He lives in Greenwich, London.

Where to buy

The ss Great Britain Enthusiasts’ Manual is available from all good bookshops, at Brunel’s ss Great Britain, and direct from Haynes at or call 01963 442030, priced £21.99

ISBN: 978 0 85733 105 2