The Story of the SS Great Britain’s Launch in 1843
The Bristol launch of the SS Great Britain in 1843 caused huge excitement throughout the nation. Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, travelled on Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s new Great Western Railway from London to Bristol to attend the launch.
Bristolians welcomed him enthusiastically, and tickets for the launch were sold with the advertisement “Prince Albert – To be seen alive!”
Reports from the time vary, but one version of events claims that Mrs Miles, the wife of a local MP, was supposed to launch the ship by throwing and smashing a bottle of champagne on her bow.
As the story goes, Mrs Miles actually failed to hit the enormous ship with her champagne bottle. Prince Albert then threw a champagne bottle from his table and successfully smashed it upon the ship, showering the crowd below with glass.
For 180 years, the SS Great Britain has acted as a beacon of engineering excellence, and the ship is still playing an important role today as it inspires future generations of engineers and entrepreneurs through specialist education programmes and exciting family days out.