Venture back in time to 1840 and visit Brunel’s drawing office and much more at Bristol’s newest museum Being Brunel.

The new museum opened on 23 March and features some of Brunel's most prized posessions, and items which have never been viewed by the public before.

Get an insight into the way Brunel worked and designed some of the most ambitious engineering projects of the Victorian age, from the iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge to tunnels, railways and ships.

The museum will form part of your ticket for Brunel's SS Great Britain, so you'll now have to set even more time aside to make sure you see all of the exhibits at this historic site.

Being Brunel at SS Great Britain
Source - Brunel's SS Great Britain

Portrait of Brunel in front of the Great Eastern Chains

Possibly the most famous photograph of Brunel, this photograph was taken in 1857, two years before he died. Take a look at the original image up close of Brunel posing in front of the launching chains of the SS Great Eastern, another one of his ships. This photo, taken by pioneering British photographer Robert Howlett, shows Brunel looking composed and in control, contrasting the three-dimensional character you can learn about in the other artifacts throughout the museum. 

Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Sketchbook

This sketchbook includes technical sketches of the SS Great Eastern, doodles and notes from the man himself. The SS Great Eastern was Brunel’s final project and was the largest ship in the world at the time. Consequently, it was too large and expensive to run as a passenger liner and so was not his most successful idea. In this sketchbook you can read about the ship as Brunel would have imagined her alongside his hand drawn images and take a little peak inside his mind.

The Locked Diary

There’s nothing better than having a peek inside someone else’s diary, and Brunel’s is no exception! Although it has now been unlocked for some time, these candid entries continue to help shape our understanding of who Brunel was through the confiding of his dreams, fears and ambitions that he held in his early twenties. Flick through the pages to learn about who Brunel really was, in contrast to his public image of the engineer who knew exactly what he was doing.

Cigar case

Brunel was a big smoker, allegedly smoking 48 cigars a day! So at the museum commemorating his life, it wouldn’t be right not to include a tribute to something he spent so much time doing. Brunel’s cigar case has been personalised with his initials and would have been carried around with him on his 20-hour days.

Being Brunel
Source - Brunel's SS Great Britain

Diary written by Sophia Brunel

Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s talented and educated sister, Sophia Brunel, was fascinated by engineering but was prevented from following this passion because of her gender. However, both her and her brother were both taught to draw by their father, Sir Marc Brunel. In this diary, she details her visits to northern industrial cities including Liverpool and Manchester. Little has survived from the women in Brunel’s life so leafing through her diary gives a unique insight into a woman’s life during this time.

Sophia’s memoir of her father

Filled with touching stories of the relationship between Marc Brunel and daughter Sophia, this memoir narrates the final days of Sir Marc, when he was unable to speak but instead drew in the air with his hands. 

Letter from Sir Marc Brunel

Marc Brunel’s commiserating letter to Isambard was written after he lost the competition to design the Clifton Suspension Bridge. The jovial and playful letter includes a drawing of the suspension bridge reinforced with an ornate 300ft Chinese pagoda – interesting idea.

Regulator clock

Being Brunel will make you feel as though you have travelled back in time to the office where Brunel worked on his designs and it will include the original clock from his London office. Brunel’s regulator clock – or ‘pendulum clock’ – hung on the wall of his office from 1841-1845. This represents a significant time in Brunel’s career that encapsulates the launching of the SS Great Britain and the opening of Bristol Temple Meads train station.

>>> See what else is on at Brunel's SS Great Britain

Brunel SSGB
Source - Brunel's SS Great Britain


Brunel's SS Great Britain
Historic Ship
Brunel's SS Great Britain Bristol

Step aboard the award-winning Brunel's SS Great Britain for a ship shape and Bristol fashion day out!

Clifton Suspension Bridge
Historic Site
Clouds over Clifton Suspension Bridge Bristol - CREDIT GARY NEWMAN

The world famous bridge and the iconic symbol of Bristol, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel in 1831 and completed in 1864 after his death