This ship is now on display in the original drydock where it was launched in 1843. The drydock itself was in use until 1977. The ship has the most incredible history and is one of those stories that is almost to incredible to believe. She is the first all iron hulled ship powered by a propellor and at 320ft and over 3200 tons was over 1000 tons bigger than anything else at the time.
She was being built as a bigger successor to the Great Western which was a oak plank & iron strap paddle wheeler but after seeing the propellor powered SS Archimedes in the river Brunel decided the SS Great Britain not only would have an iron hull but would go the propeller route.
As can be seen in some of these shots the SS Great Britain really was large and still leaves one with that impression as you walk around her. The SS Great Britain finally went into service in 1845 and for some period of time had the transatlantic record crossing record of 14 days between New York and Liverpool. After only 2 seasons of service she ran aground off the coast of Ireland where she sat for a year before being refloated by Brunel himself. After repairs here owners went bankrupt and she was sold into service for taking immigrants to Australia at 700 passengers per trip and she served in this role for 30 years with two brief periods as a troop ship.
During the 1880s she was converted to all sail and served as a bulk hauler of coal and finally after a fire in 1886 at Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands she was sold there as a floating storage an quarantine facility. She was finally scuttled in 1937 and even then some of her iron was scavenged by HMS Exeter's crew to repair Battle of the River Plate damage.
Ultimately the SS Great Britain was salvaged in 1970 and was placed on a salvage pontoon and towed back to her original Bristol home port on the River Avon for conservation and to be setup as museum.