The most precious survivor of Britain's merchant maritime heritage, the steamship Great Britain, rescued and taken back to Bristol from the Falkland Islands in 1970, has been saved from ruin by a big seven-million pound (ten-and-a-half million dollar) grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. This will go a long way towards the estimated ten-million pounds(fifteen-million dollars) required to restore and preserve her from her present sad state of deterioration in her original dock at Bristol where parts of the vessel have rotted away.
The SS Great Britain, designed by the great engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, was the largest and most powerful ship of her age when launched in 1843.The first propeller-driven iron ship to cross the Atlantic, she was the fore-runner of all the great liners and described as "the Mother of all modern vessels".
After a chequered 45-year career as passenger liner, emigrant clipper, troop ship and converted sailing windjammer, she ran into trouble rounding Cape Horn and was forced to take shelter in Port Stanley, Falkland Islands. Too expensive to repair, she was sold to the Falkland Islands Company, who used her as a storage vessel for wool until 1937, when she was beached in Sparrow Cove for 33 years. She was miraculously rescued and brought back to Britain by the SS Great Britain Project in 1970, as an educational resource and National Monument for current and future generations.
Early in her career, she ran aground in Ireland in 1846, and was sold by the Great Western Steam Ship Company to the Liverpool firm, Gibbs, Bright and Company, making 32 voyages in 20 years carrying emigrants to Australia and the first ever English cricket team there in 1861.Between 1855 and 1857, she took troops to the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny. It was on her third trip as a windjammer, carrying Welsh coal to San Francisco, that she came to grief around Cape Horn.
Her curator, Matthew Turner, says:" The SS Great Britain is one of most historic ships in the world. The lottery grant is a major step forward in the fight to preserve her for future generations".