Bristol’s Albion Dockyard to be transformed with recreation of Brunel’s Great Western

The new attraction is expected to open by 2027

A replica of the world’s first transatlantic ocean liner will be created as part of a new £20 million tourist attraction at Bristol’s historic Albion Dockyard.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s famous paddle steamer The Great Western, initially built in 1838 to take passengers to New York, will be rebuilt to form the centre piece of the site, plans unveiled today (June 8) revealed.

The project will also see the regeneration of the Grade-II listed Albion Dockyard with the working dry dock maintained and the original clocktower reinstated. It is hoped the attraction will be open by 2027.

The project has launched with an initial £600,000 grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. It is hoped this will be the first of several grants, totaling £5million, which will make up a quarter of the funding for the project, estimated at costing £20million.

The project will see the Albion Dockyard - a dry dock next to Brunel's SS Great Britain on the harbourside - conserved and restored

A spokesperson for the SS Great Britain Trust said: “The centrepiece for the Albion Dock will be the recreation of a full-size version of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s first ship, the paddle steamer Great Western, which had been built in Bristol as the world’s first transatlantic ocean liner.


“The new addition will not only create a striking visual presence evoking the city’s role in pioneering global ocean travel, but will share stories of migration, with inclusion and access a priority, connecting historic stories with contemporary experiences”.

The initiative is being supported by Bristol City Council and the West of England Combined Authority (WECA), and is led by the Trust, the charity that currently runs the SS Great Britain and the Brunel Institute.

Matthew Tanner, the chief executive of the SS Great Britain Trust, said: “Today, the Trust is setting out plans for a world class heritage experience that will protect and transform the Albion Dockyard while providing far-reaching benefits for the harbour and the whole region, growing the tourism economy and maritime and shipbuilding industries.

“We’re delighted that we’ve received support thanks to National Lottery players that will make a massive difference for the whole of the West of England region and everyone who lives there, conserving vital maritime heritage and investing in the futures of our young people”.

Expanding the SS Great Britain visitor site is predicted to bring in an extra £8.1 million of money spent by tourism, and provide 189 new jobs.

The Great Western took passengers to New York for eight years before being sold to the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company and was scrapped in 1856 after serving as a troop ship during the Crimean War.


The chief executive of Visit Britain, Patricia Yates, said: “Britain’s heritage is a massive tourism draw and the exciting expansion of the visitor experience over two historic dockyards will boost the West of England’s appeal to visitors and tour operators alike.

“It will create a world-leading maritime museum and living history experience transforming a thriving harbour with the added appeal of one of Britain’s greatest ever engineers to boot.

“A project of this scale and ambition will also be a much-needed hook for international markets, supporting tourism’s recovery, creating jobs and boosting the regional economy”.