Battleaxe in Bristol – enjoyed the SS Great Britain

A couple of days in Bristol, visiting Anna and Gareth – a general catch-up plus a visit to the new house they are buying.  The highlight for me was visiting the SS Great Britain – I hadn’t expected it to be much, but it was fabulous. Battleaxe recommends.

The SS Great Britain photographed at an earlier visit to Bristol in 2016.


The bows above the water-line….
And below…..

     Currently, A & G are living in a rented house on the side of a hill in Clifton. A beautiful area – see previous post – but totally unaffordable. House prices in Bristol are rocketing, and they were lucky to secure a pretty little house on the other side of the river – an area called Windmill Hill. They have not moved in yet, but we had a good poke round.
     On Monday, with Anna, we paid a brief visit to Clevedon – after a previous trip a few years ago – see previous post – Philosopher had commissioned a memorial plaque on the pier for his parents, so we went to have a look at it.
     Then down to the Harbour and along to the Great Britain, sited in the dry dock where it was built in the 1840s.  Battleaxe has actually visited the ship before, when she lived in Gloucestershire with the first Mr Battleaxe. We came down to Bristol and visited the Great Britain in, I guess about 1977, only a few years after the ship was salvaged from the Falkland Islands in 1970. My daughter was a baby….  I don’t remember much about it except that there was not much to see – great expanses of rusty hull.
     40 years later things could not be more different. The ship is viewed in two halves – the above the water section, and the hull, which is kept at a constant temperature and humidity underneath a sealed roof to prevent on-going corrosion. In many ways, visiting the ‘under-sea’ section and walking along the floor of the old dry dock, with the colossal, rust-pitted hull looming and ballooning out above our heads was the most impressive part of the whole thing – the massive feat of engineering involved,  and the lace-like fragility of the structure now.  In addition, imagining the weight of water held at bay by the the huge caisson gate between us and the harbour beyond was a bit scary.

The hull looms above us

    Above the ‘sea’, the body of the ship was painted up as you might expect, and has been fitted out to recreate its days as a grand ocean-going liner just after it was launched in 1843.

    Battleaxe seems to have toured many old ships, and the nearest to the Great Britain we’ve seen before is HMS Warrior, in Portsmouth, another iron combined steam/sail ship, but later, launched in 1860. Warrior is more complete, you can see all over the ship, including the boiler room etc, but Great Britain has undergone a really great re-creation. As well as sights and sounds, it even has smellovision – baking from the bread oven, coke around the engines, and antiseptic in the sick bay. The galley was my favourite – you could see the lids of the pots bubbling up and down on the range, but best of all, a simulated, and very realistic rat that went running across a shelf…

The galley
That rat….
First class dining salon.

         Like all these things these days, it is not cheap, but Battleaxe would totally recommend.
        To finish off, here is Clevedon Pier and Philosopher cleaning the little plaque.


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