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I'm travelling to the UK from Australia and wanted to visit a number of sites of scientific history.

One at the top of my list is Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

I understand there are 10 surviving structures you can visit. I know you can visit his ship in Bristol - the SS Great Britain.

But can you visit a museum with a display about his life and works?

My question is: Are there any museums or sites in England honouring Isambard Kingdom Brunel?

  • 3
    At the SS Great Britain in Bristol there is also a museum which is obviously mostly about the ship, but also has plenty of information on Brunel himself (I think - I last visited as a child...). Also looks like they're building a Brunel museum in Bristol, but it's not open yet. – Muzer Apr 5 '17 at 12:41
  • Brunel University in Uxbridge, West London has a couple statues of the man himself and some historic explanations here and there. – JoErNanO Apr 5 '17 at 13:09
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    I think he's mentioned at the National Railway Museum (which is really worth a visit if you like trains, and is free) – pjc50 Apr 5 '17 at 13:52
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    There's a lot more than 10 surviving structures - those are just the Telegraph's "10 best" – CMaster Apr 5 '17 at 14:02
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    The city of Bristol seems to have adopted Brunel as a local hero. As well as the SS Great Britain, there is the Clifton suspension bridge and Temple Meads station - and the so-called Brunel Mile walk between the station and the ship. There are plaques and homages throughout the city. Not quite an open air museum but not far off. The bridge also has a small museum showcasing its construction and its creators. – jl6 Apr 5 '17 at 16:38
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Very near the site of the "Oldest Tunnel in the Oldest Underground in the World", in Rotherhithe in south east London, you can find the Brunel Museum, which, well, is not just 'a display' about his life and works, but an entire museum about his life and works.

The Brunel Museum is open every day 10:00 until 17:00.

[...]

Entry to the Brunel Museum is £6 and £4 for concessions. Children under 16 accompanied by parent or carer enter free of charge. Entry to Great Eastern launch ramps is free.

Brunel Museum Railway Avenue Rotherhithe London, SE16 4LF

Telephone: +44 20 7231 3840 Email: info@brunel-museum.org.uk

  • 2
    This museum is very nice, but it's worth mentioning it's quite small and is focused mainly on Brunel's early work particularly on the Thames Tunnel (which they occassionally have walking tours of). Isambard's father led on this, not Isambard himself, and I seem to remember the museum felt very much curated by someone who preferred Brunel Senior's work to that of his more famous son! Definitely worth a visit though – user568458 Apr 5 '17 at 15:19
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    The "Museum of the Great Western Railway" in Swindon, despite not having "Brunel" in its name, might have more on some of the works Isambard is more famous for (I've not been, but it's described as telling his story). They even had an opera about him last year... – user568458 Apr 5 '17 at 15:23
15

In terms of a comprehensive museum, not yet.

However, if you are travelling in 2018 (or reading this reply in the future) then there will be a new museum called 'Being Brunel: the national Brunel project' opening in Bristol in a year's time.

The ss Great Britain Trust has today been awarded £4.78m by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for Being Brunel: the national Brunel project. The new museum, set to open in Bristol early 2018, will celebrate and explore Brunel, one of the world’s greatest engineers and designers.

The attraction will feature galleries and interactive experiences set in reconstructed buildings that reflect the original Victorian waterfront panorama. Brunel’s Drawing Office, a Grade II listed building, will be restored to become part of the new museum. Link

You can read more about the project here: http://www.ssgreatbritain.org/about-us/being-brunel

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@jl6's point in the comments is a good one, but deserves to be expanded upon (Brunel has been adopted as a local hero in Bristol). He's one of the few historical figures we've got who didn't directly get rich from the slave trade). See for example Isambard Kingdom Brunel, famous engineer and his work at Bristol (local tourism/history site) for a few more things to spot on the way between the main sites. The bridge has a visitor centre/small museum and tours, but unfortunately the limited tours of the vaults below the tower are mostly sold out this year.

Some of the best views of the bridge are from the western tip of Spike Island, only a mile on foot from the SS Great Britain. Trains from London via Bath bring you into Brunel's Temple Meads station along Brunel's GWR, but you may want to take stopping services to see some of the key features along the way.

5

You can see what items of the Science Museum's collection are on display, and in which museums, using their collection search. Putting in "Brunel" gets a few results, presumably as part of exhibits that discuss the man further.

http://collection.sciencemuseum.org.uk/search?q=brunel

4

In Swindon, you can find the museum of the Great Western Railway of whom Brunel was a chief engineer. As well as the story of the railway itself, it tells the story of how society thanks to the railway, and of Brunel's key role in the whole enterprise.

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There's also the worlds oldest Wrought Iron railway bridge still in use: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windsor_Railway_Bridge

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