Stannah and Brunel's SS Great Britain feature in Conservation and Heritage Magazine

Accessible history of Isambard Kingdom Brunel

NEW ‘Being Brunel’ museum opens at Brunel’s SS Great Britain

The SS Great Britain Trust mission statement is: ‘To preserve the ship and make her accessible to the public; and to enable people to learn about maritime history and engineering; and the life and works of Isambard Kingdom Brunel.’

Lift provider Stannah share the Trust’s mission and their aim to inspire future engineers by celebrating the achievements of Brunel.

The Mission: to preserve the ship

If you go down to the Great Western Dockyard in Bristol for a day out, you are in for a very special experience. For there, in the original dock in which she was built, is Brunel’s ship the SS Great Britain. The ship was the first of its kind, an iron-hulled screw-propelled passenger liner that was launched in the presence of Prince Albert in 1843  and celebrated as a triumph of engineering.

In 1970 the ship was returned to Bristol following a salvage operation. The ship had been scuttled in a bay off the Falkland Islands and the passion of many enthusiasts brought the ship back to its original dock and then restored her to her former glory, beginning the ongoing process of preserving the ship and making her accessible to the public.

The Mission: to make the visitor attraction accessible to the public

New for 2018 is a warm welcome to ‘Being Brunel’ – a dockside museum housing Brunel never-before-seen artefacts, together with his original offices restored as they would have been in the 1800s.

British lift company Stannah had the privilege of installing a seventh lift at this fully wheelchair accessible site and enjoy their association with the Brunel project.

Alastair Stannah explains:

‘When we were first approached to install lifts on Brunel’s ship we could not help but look at our own company heritage. In 1867, whilst Brunel’s engineering achievements were changing life in Great Britain, my great, great, great grandfather, Joseph Stannah was establishing his lift engineering company on London’s dockside, having been inspired by Brunel. Who would have imagined that 150 years later Stannah would provide a seventh lift to the magnificent new ‘Being Brunel’ museum completing almost total accessibility to every corner of this ever-expanding and fascinating site? We are so proud to be a contributor to the Brunel project.’

The latest lift installed in the ‘Being Brunel’ museum is a Stannah Piccolo lift, particularly suited to its situation between the new building and old buildings in a limited space and providing access to both parts of the Brunel story. The four person, fully automatic lift has a generous platform so it can be used by wheelchair users independently and the lift’s traditional sliding doors allows maximum space for entry and exit on both floors of the museum. The lift is wall mounted within the new section of the building, its stainless steel and light grey finish complimenting the aesthetics of the stairs and landing areas and contrasting with the colourful, decorative interior of the fascinating museum.

With an ever increasing footfall it is vital that all the lifts on site are fully operational at all times. Stannah provide 365 days-a-year lift maintenance to the SS Great Britain Trust’s portfolio of lifts from their Bristol service branch and have done since the first lift was installed. This is crucial to the whole site and helps to meet the Trust's mission for all round accessibility.

The Mission: to enable people to learn about maritime history and engineering: and the life and times of Isambard Kingdom Brunel

Every part of Brunel’s SS Great Britain visitor attraction educates and fascinates with extraordinary stories of adventure and ambition from the perspective of crew, passengers and onlookers. The new museum focuses on every facet of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s life, giving us so much more insight into the life and astounding achievements over his 53 years. Visitors learn about Brunel - The Victorian, The Engineer, The Entrepreneur, The Celebrity and The Artist and Designer.

Inspiring’ Future Brunels’

Stepping back in time to imagine ‘Being Brunel’ is not only a celebration of I K Brunel but also a springboard of inspiration and opportunity for Britain’s emerging young ‘STEM’ (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) students in ‘The Year of Engineering 2018’.

Both The Trust and Stannah share in a passion for the future of engineering:

·         The Future Brunels programme aims to inspire and enthuse young people with science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) throughout their time in secondary school, working closely with industry.

·         The Joseph Stannah Foundation promotes STEM careers via STEM ambassador employees, sponsors Arkwright Scholars through university and invests in engineering apprenticeships.

Brunel is quoted in the museum with the words ‘Be the first engineer and an example for future ones!’

Similarly, in a letter to The Engineer in 1889, Joseph Stannah wrote:

‘It is undoubtedly the duty of every engineer to instruct his share of the rising generation, but it is also his duty to do it in such a way as shall conduce most to the general prosperity of the future.”

Discover just how accessible the visitor attraction is in our SS Great Britain Case Study