The combination of a publisher with a long tradition of publishing very effective manuals, and an author with a reputation as one of the most respected maritime historians was bound to produce an outstanding book of a subject that deserves that treatment. There are very few truly revolutionary vessels that have survived in any form, much less as fully restored exhibits.
NAME: SS Great Britain, 1843 onwards, Enthusiasts’ Manual
CLASSIFICATION: Book Reviews
AUTHOR: Brian Lavery
PUBLISHER: Haynes Publishing
BINDING: Hard back
GENRE: Non fiction
SUBJECT: steamers, Brunel, innovation, technology, sailing, iron built, restoration, heritage
DESCRIPTION: The combination of a publisher with a long tradition of publishing very effective manuals, and an author with a reputation as one of the most respected maritime historians was bound to produce an outstanding book of a subject that deserves that treatment. There are very few truly revolutionary vessels that have survived in any form, much less as fully restored exhibits. Those that have are mostly small vessels. Brunel’s amazing SS Great Britain marked the change from sail to steam as the first large steamer to be driven by a propeller and built of iron. When she was launched in 1843, ships were still built of wood, although some used iron to strengthen the hull or to armour it against gunfire. Steam was still rare and the paddlewheel was considered an appropriate system for converting steam power to propulsion. Brunel, as in so many of his projects turned conventional wisdom on its head. In SS Great Britain he built an elegant vessel with a long cutting line. She was equipped with masts and sail, so that with the propeller hidden below the water she looked very much like a fine lined sailing clipper, except for her single tall black funnel amidships. Her iron construction was also visible only on close inspection. During her working life she was modified several times, losing some masts and gaining a funnel. She was eventually laid up in the Falkland Islands and might have faded away. Happily, she enjoyed a second life when a campaign was mounted to bring her back to Bristol to be laid up in her building birth and fully restored. The manual provides a history of the building and operation of SS Great Britain, before continuing on into the second story of her recovery and restoration. In her youth she was a revolutionary vessel charting the course for the design of the steamer that was to change the face of the world in the form of tramp ships, cargo vessels and passenger liners. In her new life she is as revolutionary, with the glass roofed dehumindification chamber, in which she sits, providing a special wow factor as she appears to sail a glass sea. The million pound a year cost of maintaining her is provided by visitors and events, together with the generosity of members and supporters to fund the continuing work. The manual provides clear concise text, supported by some outstanding and lavish illustration. A highly recommended book worthy of its amazing subject.