- This is one of the last tickets ever issued for a journey on the SS Great Britain. It allowed Ian Bell to travel on the ship across Bristol Harbour from the Y Shed to the Great Western Dockyard on Sunday 19 July 1970.
- This short journey was the last the ship would ever make. It allowed the SS Great Britain to return to the same dock that it was launched from on 19 July 1843. It returned exactly 127 years after it had left.
- The ticket was issued by Charles Hill of Bristol Limited. The company were ship builders and at the time owned the Great Western Dockyard. This is ticket number 7; we are currently unsure how many tickets were produced for this final trip.
- Issued on the 16 July 1970, it states that the holder must “Bring this pass with you – you will not be able on board without it”. The lines on the ticket show that is has been folded up, probably so that it would fit into a pocket or wallet.
Back into Bristol
Getting the SS Great Britain back to Bristol was a difficult task. Its hull was badly rusted and cracked in one place. A pontoon (floating platform) was used to bring it across the Atlantic Ocean from the Falkland Island. However, for the final part of the journey into Bristol Harbour the ship had to travel without it, due to the narrow River Avon and harbour entrance.
The ship arrived at Avonmouth near Bristol in June 1970 and was placed into a dry dock. There a crack in the hull was sealed up using quick drying concrete and then the ship was ready to travel up the river back into Bristol harbour.
On the 5 July 1970, the SS Great Britain began its journey up the River Avon, with the help of three tugboats. One at the front pulling the ship along, another at the back to help slow it down, and the third on hand to help if needed. As these boats towed the ship up the river, crowds of people lined the banks. Dave Sidwell, who was working on one of the tugs on the day, recalled what it was like “We could see people all lining up on the bridge, and on the Portway and on the tow path and they were shouting and cheering and there were more and more people and we suddenly realised this was something special.”
The SS Great Britain was towed under the Clifton Suspension Bridge, this was an iconic moment as it was the only time it ever sailed under the completed bridge. When the ship left in 1845, the bridge designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, was unfinished.
The ship safely negotiated the Cumberland Basin and entered the harbour. However, the water in the harbour was not deep enough on that day to return it to the Great Western Dry Dock. As a result, the SS Great Britain was moored up by the Y Shed to wait for a higher tide.