Albion Dockyard Project FAQs

Frequently asked questions
July 2023

The SS Great Britain Trust is consulting on ambitious plans to create a new future for the Albion Dockyard. Read the project plans to find out more.

These FAQs answer some of the questions from recent discussions and consultations. Please do take part in our consultation and let us know what you think.

Q. How will you save the Grade II listed dry dock?

The SS Great Britain Trust saved the dock in 2018 when it was abandoned and derelict. The plans brought forward by the Trust preserve a working shipyard while also saving the whole dry dock as a place for people to visit and discover. The dock will become a space to open conversations with city communities about Bristol’s ship-building history over the past 200 years.

Q. Why continue ship building on the harbour?

Bristol has a harbour which is used by a range of shipping as well as being an important place for leisure, residence and business. It’s vital to have a local facility for repairing and servicing larger vessels like the Thekla and the Balmoral, which wouldn’t fit into the Underfall Yard or the Marina. Keeping this dock in operation also creates opportunities for young people in Bristol to undertake apprenticeships. The shipping industry is still a major global employer. which needs a skilled workforce.

Q. Why construct PS Great Western?

The PS Great Western was the older sister to the SS Great Britain. Like her sister ship, she was a Bristol-built technology that was a world first.

Brunel worked with a group of Bristol entrepreneurs and ship builders to design and build her in a dockyard (now lost) at Wapping Wharf. She was the first paddle steamer built to cross the Atlantic on a regular, highly successful service.

Following her first crossing in 1837 she became a celebrity on both sides of the Atlantic. She travelled between Bristol Channel and New York for 10 years, and it’s likely that she used the Albion Dock for repairs at least once. The story of PS Great Western is closely linked to the SS Great Britain, Brunel and Albion Dock.

Recreating this pioneer ship in the Albion Dock will add a magnificent new spectacle to the harbour’s heritage landscape. Together, the heritage dockyards, the two historic ships, and the working Albion Dockyard will have a critical mass for tourism and education, especially the STEM education needed to inspire the next generation of engineers and entrepreneurs.

Q. The plan includes a working forge – won’t this be noisy, hazardous, and polluting, especially for neighbours?

The historic dockyards needed lots of different trades and workshops to build timber and iron ships. The project will recreate some of these as a way to bring history to life for visitors. This will be on a small scale for craft demonstrations during daytime visitor hours.

It’s likely that the smithery will use a small induction forge, specified to minimise emissions and risk. Design for the smithery building will specify fire retardant materials. There will be appropriate measures in place to manage its safe use in the context of a visitor attraction.

Q. Why is the swivel bridge being moved? Will the public be able to see it?

Brunel’s Swivel Bridge is fragile and needs long term specialist conservation. The SS Great Britain Trust has the right expertise to do this work. It was originally built in the Albion Dockyard, so its history is strongly linked to these docks.

In a location spanning the end of the Albion Dry Dock, the bridge will for the first time be prominently seen by locals from across the harbour as well as by harbour users and visitors to the heritage site. In returning the bridge to working order, occasional scheduled “swings” will become local spectacles best freely viewed from Hotwell Road. Additionally, there will be free public access and tours during a number of heritage and ‘Open Doors’ events as well as for the Great Bristol Half Marathon.

Q. Will the project impact views of the harbour, or access to the harbourside? How will you preserve and enhance the public views of the harbour?

The project will develop only land inside the boundaries of existing business premises. It will improve views around the floating harbour by adding new interpretation to help people understand the heritage. The project also includes plans for working with community artists to develop public art on the site boundary in Hanover Place. The project will maintain all existing access routes.

Q. This development is likely to attract more visitors, in more cars, putting pressure on parking and transport services. What will the project do to manage this impact?

The SS Great Britain Trust favours sustainable transport options:
The Trust is in talks with local authorities to expand Metrobus to a 7-day service, which links with Park & Ride services and Bristol Temple Meads station.
There will be enhanced cycle storage for visitors.
Better signage will improve the walking routes from Temple Meads station and local ferry stops.
The Bristol City Council car park next to the site will remain open, without expansion.

Q. Will the expanded attraction be open over longer hours?

Visitors will continue to enjoy the heritage museums during the day, from 10am to 6pm. They will be reaching the site more sustainably and benefiting local businesses and economy. There are no plans at present to expand public opening.

Q. Does this development meet the needs of people with disabilities and who may experience barriers to access?

The SS Great Britain Trust is working in partnership with WECIL to make sure that the development improves the experience of people with special access needs. WECIL have commented on early plans, and made recommendations for architects and designers. The development will include a Changing Places Toilet which will be freely accessible to anyone who needs to use it while visiting Bristol’s harbourside.

Q. When will construction work take place? How will you mitigate construction noise and impact on neighbours?

The next step is to make an application for planning permission to Bristol City Council this year. The earliest that work would commence on site would be 2025. All relevant contractors would be registered with the Considerate Constructors Scheme, respecting the proximity of neighbouring properties. With multiple access points to the expanded site, development would be carefully planned and timed.

This FAQ section will be updated during the consultation period in response to comments and questions where possible.

Please do drop us a line if you have any questions or comments: