Once in a while we all down tools and get out of the workshop for a day. Last month, on Dean’s suggestion – and fittingly for a bunch of ironworkers – we had a ‘Brunel Day’ in Bristol.
Our first stop was Bristol’s dockyard and Brunel’s historic iron-hulled ship the SS Great Britain which was launched in 1843. At that time no one had ever designed such a huge ship, or had the vision to build it of iron. Brunel fitted her with a 1000hp steam engine and a screw propellor. We really enjoyed snooping around the cabins, staterooms and kitchens – there were some ingenious benches in the First Class Dining Saloon – very simple mechanics, but the backs levered so that you could either sit facing the table for eating or into the room for the dancing. They were a thing of beauty! Rick operated the replica screw propellor in the Dockyard Museum. The dry dock was impressive, the ship’s curators have to keep the dock as arid as a desert in order to protect the iron hull from rust.
After lunch and a few jars in the Cottage Inn in the harbour we headed up to Brunel’s Clifton Suspension bridge. Bristol’s most iconic landmark is one of the oldest surviving iron suspension bridges in the world – Brunel was only 24 when he was commissioned to design it and it took 33 years to complete. One of the bridge guides met us to give a tour with a potted history while we watched the sun set down the Avon Gorge. It was a fantastic day off and we had a great time immersing ourselves in local engineering history, we are so lucky to have these landmarks right on our doorstep here in the West Country.