The Screw Steamship 'Great Britain'

The Screw Steamship "Great Britain" — “the first large vessel built of iron, and also the first one to use the screw propeller.” “Painted by Joseph Walter, drawn on stone by G. Hawkins.” Source: Muir's Bygone Liverpool, Plate 40.

Text accompanying the engraving

WITH this vessel a new era in shipbuilding and marine engineering began. She was the first large vessel built of iron, and also the first one to use the screw propeller instead of paddles. She was designed by Mr. Patterson, the designer of the famous Bristol steamship "Great Western," and was constructed by Mr. Thomas R. Guppy, C.E., at the works of the Great Western Steamship Company of Bristol. Her dimensions were — length, 322 feet, beam 50½ feet, depth 32½ feet, tonnage 2984. Her engines were 1000 horse-power, the diameter of her six-bladed propeller was 16 feet, and her speed was 12 knots per hour.

Although launched in July 1843 she was not ready for sea until December 1844, owing to the weight of her machinery and fittings immersing her in the dock to such a depth as to make it impossible for her to pass out.

She left Liverpool on her first voyage on July 26, 1845, with forty-five passengers, and arrived at New York on August 10, 1845. Her last voyage as an Atlantic liner was in the year 1852, when she accomplished the homeward journey from New York in 10 days 23 hours. She was then transferred to the Australian trade, and was the first large steam vessel to perform that voyage. She left Liverpool on her first voyage to Australia on August 21, 1852, with 600 passengers, and reached Melbourne on November 10, 1852, her average speed from the Cape of Good Hope being 284 miles per day. Originally, this vessel carried six masts, as shown in the engraving. When she entered the Australian trade the number was reduced to four; and in the year 1882 her engines were taken out, another mast was removed, and she was converted into a full-rigged sailing-ship. The last voyage of this famous, but not always fortunate, ship was commenced at Liverpool in the year 1886, and during it she put into the Falkland Islands much damaged by heavy weather, and was abandoned by the underwriters as a constructive total loss. She was then sold to the Falkland Islands Company, and is still afloat and in use as a coal-hulk at Port Stanley, Falkland Islands. Her owners were, first, the Great Western Steamship Company of Bristol; secondly, the Liverpool and Australian Steam Navigation Company (Messrs. Gibbs, Bright and Co., of Liverpool, managers) ; thirdly, Messrs, Anthony Gibbs, Sons and Co., of London; and lastly, the Falkland Islands Company. [41]

Related Material on this site

Related Material outside the Victorian Web

  • S. S. Great Britain (outside the Victorian Web)
  • Formatting and text by George P. Landow. You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the Internet Archive and the University of Toronto and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.


    Muir, Ramsay. Bygone Liverpool illustrated by ninety-seven plates reproduced from original paintings, drawings, manuscripts, and prints with historical descriptions by Henry S. and Harold E. Young. Liverpool: Henry Young and Sons, 1913. Internet Archive version of a copy in the University of Toronto Library

    Last modified 14 January 2013