Penarth Dock, South Wales - 150 years - the heritage and legacy  
Penarth Dock, South Wales - the heritage & legacy . . .

Index to Volume Seven - The People - Dock Family Trees - Engineers, Artisans & Doers . . .

Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-1859)

Brunel (centre) at Milford, watching Steamboat Operations

1852 Building on his success with the Great Britain, Brunel turned to a third ship in 1852, even larger than her predecessors, intended for voyages to India and Australia. The SS Great Eastern (originally dubbed Leviathan) represented cutting-edge technology for her time: almost 700 ft long, fitted out with the most luxurious appointments and capable of carrying over 4,000 passengers.

1855 When he was already working on building the SS Great Eastern amongst other projects, Brunel accepted the task in February 1855 of designing and building a temporary, pre-fabricated hospital to the requirements of the War Office, that could be shipped to the Crimea and erected. In 5 months he had designed, built and shipped the pre-fabricated wood and canvas buildings that were erected, near Scutari Hospital where Nightingale was based, in the malaria-free area of Renkioi.

His designs incorporated the necessity of hygiene, providing access to sanitation, ventilation, drainage and even rudimentary temperature controls. They were feted as a great success, some sources stating that of the 1,300 (approximate) patients treated in the Renkioi temporary hospital, there were only 50 deaths. In the Scutari hospital it replaced, deaths were said to be as many as 10 times this number. Nightingale herself referred to them as "those magnificent huts." Brunel not only designed the buildings but gave advice as to the location of placing.

The art of using pre-fabricated modules to build hospitals has been carried forward into the present day, with hospitals such as the Bristol Royal Infirmary being created in this manner.

1856 Subscribed £50 to the Smith Testimonial Fund, commemorating the work of F. P. Smith in promoting the screw propeller.


above - 'Brunel (centre) at Milford, watching Steamboat Operations.' - [512]

1859 Brunel suffered a stroke, just before the SS Great Eastern made her first voyage to New York. He died ten days later at the age of 53 and was buried, like his father, in Kensal Green Cemetery in London. He left behind his wife Mary and three children: Henry Marc Brunel (1842–1903), Isambard Brunel, Junior (1837–1902) who went in to Law, and Florence Mary Brunel (c.1847–1876). Henry Marc enjoyed some success as a civil engineer.

Many of Brunel's original papers and designs were gathered in the Brunel Collection at the University of Bristol. The collection has now been moved to the new Brunel Institute, a joint project of the University and the SS Great Britain Trust.' [016]

1843 - Mr. Brunel. - 'The loss of this eminent engineer has been threatened us, but we are delighted to say that sanguine hopes of his early recovery may be entertained. It appears that while endeavouring to amuse his own or some friend's children, by pretending to pass money from his mouth to his ear, he slipped a half-sovereign, which stuck in his trachea, and the danger to his life has in consequence been most imminent for several days.' - The Builder Vol. 1 [461] 13th May 1843. [20170810]

1843 - Mr. Brunel. - 'It was on Saturday night that the intelligence fell in our way that all was safe, as regarded the late peril to the life of this eminent engineer, and we threw up our hands to God immediately. It was truly appalling to think of the sacrifice of a valuable life in such a manner, and in playing with children too ! but the shield of the innocent has been thrown over him, and we trust he may live many years to the pleasure of his own family circle, and the distinguished ornament of his profession.' - The Builder Vol. 1 [461] 20th May 1843. [20170810]

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