ss Great Britain

An original watercolour by Matthew Grayson of
 The ss Great Britain, Bristol, England
Medium : Watercolour, Acrylic and Graphite on board

Original Painting Size : width 420 mm x height 295 mm
(Original finished work to be held in a private collection in Scotland)

The No.1 Artist's Proof was presented to the
 Lord Mayor of Bristol, Councillor Christopher Davies  
at the Mansion House, Clifton, Bristol 8, on Monday 23rd of February 2009.
The proof was donated by Matthew and is now on display as part of the Mansion House's permanent collection [scroll down to see a photo of the presentation] 

25 Signed, Artist's Proofs All Sold
Signed, Limited Edition Prints 
Some still remaining for sale
Unsigned Prints Available
Commercial User Images Available

Isambard Kingdom Brunel commenced the building of the ss Great Britain in 1839 taking four years to complete.

She was launched in Bristol on the 19th of July 1843 by Prince Albert and was called "the greatest experiment since the creation".

At this time, her iron hull made her the largest and strongest ship ever built.

The most powerful maritime engine producing 1,000 horsepower was installed.

Thomas Guppy working closely with Brunel on an idea developed by Brunel’s father designed it.

During her service at sea, the ss Great Britain sailed around the world thirty two times (exceeding 1,000,000 nautical miles at sea).

The ship's first Atlantic crossing from Liverpool to New York was in 1845 where she arrived with a rapturous reception.

The crossing took fourteen days and twenty one hours.

In 1850 The Great Western Steamship Company sold the ss Great Britain to Gibbs, Bright &Co.

Two years later on the 21 st of August, she sailed from Liverpool to Melbourne, Australia carrying six hundred and thirty passengers - a voyage that took sixty days.

On one of her many voyages she carried the first England cricket team to play Australia and the team included Dr E.M. Grace (Dr W.G. Graces' brother) and H.H. Stepbenson.

Gibbs, Bright & Co made several alterations to Brunel's ship to adapt her for sailing to Australia.

These included replacing the original rudder, propeller and engine and they also added a second funnel (removed in 1857).

An addition of another upper deck enabled her to carry up to seven hundred passengers.

After the first thirty years of the ship's service as a passenger ship, she was converted to transport cargo.

In 1882 the engine was removed as well as her funnel, to allow for increased space for stowing cargo.

With the removal of her engine she was dramatically cheaper to run.

Relying on three tall masts and her broad square sails, the ss Great Britain had become known as a 'Windjammer'.

During the period 1882 to 1886 she transported Welsh coal from Penarth or Liverpool to San Francisco.

On her return journeys her cargoes were wheat from the USA prairies and South America sea bird guano which was used as fertiliser.

In 1886, storms off Cape Horn caused serious damage to the ss Great Britain, forcing her captain to seek shelter in the Falkland Islands.

The ship's owners decided that the cost of repairing her in Port Stanley was too expensive which led their insurers to sell her to the Falkland Islands Company.

They employed her for a total of forty-seven years as a floating warehouse for storing coal and wool.

Eventually, in 1933, she became too unsafe for storage and she was towed to Sparrow Cove in 1937 where she remained sadly neglected for thirty years.

On the 13th April 1970 Ewan Corlett, a naval architect, helped organise the rescue operation, which would return the ss Great Britain back to her birthplace.

She was transported on a giant floating pontoon named Mullus 11 and taken by tugboats across the Atlantic travelling eight thousand miles home to Bristol's Great Western Dockyard.

Remarkably, she returned precisely one hundred and twenty-seven years to the day after her launch and one hundred and thirty-one years to the day her keel was first laid in the same dockyard.

From that all-important day, which saw the ss Great Britain return to Bristol to the present day, she has undergone complete restoration and vital conservation work to restore her to the beautiful and awe-inspiring Victorian passenger liner she was on the day of her launch.

Over 170,000 people visit the ss Great Britain annually and the Trust, established in 1970, receives no central or government support, relying on admission ticket sales, venue hire, weddings and civil partnerships and donations for income.
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