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The Ship

Experience the sights, sounds and smells of life on board!

Sitting proudly on her glass ‘sea’, Brunel’s SS Great Britain dominates Bristol’s historic waterfront. Dressed with flags and ready for departure, just as she looked at her launch in 1843, she welcomes visitors to come aboard and explore.

The ss Great Britain

The ship has been painstakingly restored to recreate life on the world’s first great luxury liner. Step back in time through scenes so life-like you’ll feel as if you’re intruding!

Weather Deck

Girls playing quoits on the weather deck

The upper deck looks today much as it did in 1845, when the very first passengers went aboard at the start of their voyage to New York. The deck space was divided into different areas for passengers travelling first, second and third class. Only passengers travelling first class were allowed to cross a white painted boundary line into an area behind the mainmast specially reserved for their use. Look out for the large glazed skylight in the centre of the deck where you can see the great engine wheel turning. 

Are you brave enough to climb the rigging? Step into the shoes of a Victorian sailor and climb the huge mainmast of the SS Great Britain. Learn more.

Promenade Deck

The Promenade Deck was a playground for the passengers who were able to pay for first class, luxury travel. Here they could walk, dance, flirt and socialise without having to get wet or windswept on the upper deck. As you explore the cabins, located on either side of the Promenade Deck, you will meet some of the passengers who travelled first class on the SS Great Britain between 1845 and 1875.

Dining Saloon

Eating and drinking was a big part of life on board. As soon as passengers got over their sea-sickness they came here to enjoy the best that the ship’s galley could offer.


Steerage, also known as third class, is where most passengers lived during the voyage to Australia. It was the cheapest accommodation and located on the lower decks in the forward end of the ship. Accommodation was certainly cramped but the biggest problem for most people was not the food or beds, but the noisy neighbours!

Galley, Stores and Bakery

The SS Great Britain often carried more than 600 passengers and crew. The galley staff had to be able to keep all of those stomachs full without the opportunity to buy any extra supplies during the voyage. 

Forward Hold

The forward hold looks today much as it did in 1970, when Ewan Corlett and his salvage team brought the SS Great Britain back from the Falkland Islands. This is one of the best places to see important features of the ship’s structure.


The engine seen today is a full-scale working model constructed using modern lightweight materials. Visitors can see the engine turning, hear the sounds of stokers shovelling coal, and also smell the engine room and its oil and coal. 

Learn more about the history of the engine.