The History Department took all of Year 9 to visit the SS Great Britain in Bristol recently.

Designed by the magnificently named Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the ship was by far the largest vessel afloat at the time of her launch in 1843, carrying passengers to destinations all around the world including USA and Australia. After being towed back in 1970 from the Falkland Islands where she had been ignominiously scuttled, the SS Great Britain was returned to the Bristol dry dock where she was built. She is now an award -winning visitor attraction and museum ship.

The Taunton School students enjoyed exploring the wonderfully renovated ship, contrasting the relative luxury of first class with the basic and cramped conditions of steerage and encountering a room smelling of sick and another with a man unfortunately trapped in a toilet. The initial suspicion was that he was self-isolating but the truth is that he has been there for many years now. The realities of C19th travel on the ocean wave were conveyed through the detailed re-creations of, interalia, the surgeon’s and captain’s quarters, a woman giving birth and two others fighting. Meanwhile, in the museum, the highly motivated academics of Year 9 competed furiously for prizes in the quiz competition; they now know their staghorn cleats from their buttstraps. Several also made the most of the opportunity to dress up in period costume with Ben Redrup beating Elle, Chloe and Bella for the award of most convincing Victorian matriarch.

Mark Chatterton
Head of History