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Saving Brunel’s historic Dock Office building

One of Bristol’s oldest and most significant harbour-side buildings has been safeguarded thanks to funding from AIM Biffa Award which has allowed the ss Great Britain Trust to undertake structural work and restoration.

Built in 1840, the Dock Office building was the gateway to the Great Western Dockyard, then one of the most modern and well-equipped shipyards in Britain. Isambard Kingdom Brunel worked with the Great Western Steamship Company to build the ss Great Britain which became the largest, fastest and most efficient ocean liner in the world. The great engineer spent time working in the building’s Drawing Office, with its wide oriel window looking out over the Floating Harbour.

Over the last three months, local contractor K P Wilton and Son has undertaken important structural restoration, including specialist joinery work on the building’s historic windows. This work has been funded thanks to a £117,180 grant from AIM Biffa Award as part of the Heritage Landmarks Scheme. It paves the way for the Dock Office building to become part of Being Brunel: the national Brunel project which will see a new museum open in February 2018.

The £7.2 million national Brunel museum will see a new building with a Victorian style façade replace demolished 1940s structures. However, it is the Dock Office building that will take centre-stage with curators, architects and designers recreating Brunel’s London office environment as well as the Bristol Drawing Office and boardroom inside.

Above: artist impression of how the Drawing Office might look as part of the new national Brunel museum (Easy Tiger Creative).

Matthew Tanner, Chief Executive of the ss Great Britain Trust said: “The Trust is delighted that the generous support from AIM Biffa Award has literally saved this historic building by funding vital structural restoration. We are excited that the next era of the building’s history will allow us to bring Brunel’s story to life for visitors who will be stepping inside for the first time as part of a new museum in 2018.”

Gillian French, Head of Grants at Biffa Award said: “We’re really thrilled to be part of such an exciting project, which helps to demonstrate how the Landfill Communities Fund can help preserve important parts of our national heritage.”

Prior to the second stage of restoration commencing in 2017, visitors have the opportunity to see inside on special tours. The first will be for Bristol Doors Open Day, followed by a series of further tours. To find out more about these and other tours and events, sign up for the ss Great Britain newsletter at

Above: carpenter restoring one of the Dock Office's historic windows.


For more information and images, and to set up interviews, please contact:
Dominic Rowe, Communications Officer, tel. 0117 926 0680 ext 219; email
Paul Chibeba, Head of Marketing, tel. 0117 926 0680 ext 309; email

Editor’s notes

About Brunel’s ss Great Britain

  1. 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.
  2. 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’ 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 of the Year, 2007

UK Museum of the Year 2006


About Biffa Award

Since 1997, Biffa Award has awarded grants totalling more than £156 million to thousands of worthwhile community and environmental projects across the UK. The programme administers money donated by Biffa Group Ltd through the Landfill Communities Fund.

The fund helps to build communities and transform lives through awarding grants to community and environmental projects across the UK, as part of the Landfill Communities Fund. Biffa Award have pledged £1.5m over three years to the Association of Independent Museums (AIM), supporting conservation, improving access for the public and showing the importance of Britain’s outstanding industrial heritage as part of the National Heritage Landmarks Scheme.

Landfill Communities Fund

The Landfill Communities Fund (LCF) is an innovative tax credit scheme enabling operators (LOs) to contribute money to organisations enrolled with ENTRUST as Environmental Bodies (EBs).  EBs use this funding for a wide range of community and environmental projects in the vicinity of landfill sites.  LOs are able to claim a credit (currently 5.7%) against their landfill tax liability for 90% of the contributions they make.

Since its inception in 1996, over £1.3billion has been spent on more than 51,000 projects across the UK.  For further information, please visit or see HMRC’s general guide to landfill tax.