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Grave of Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Kensal Green Cemetary, London W10, UK
associated engineer
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
date  20th September 1859
era  Victorian  |  category  Grave of Engineer  |  reference  TQ232825
Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the engineering polymath who modernised Victorian transportation and transport infrastructure, is buried in Kensal Green Cemetery in west London. He shares a vault with his father, the engineer Sir Marc Isambard Brunel. The grave, with its plain headstone, is one of the simpler of the many memorials to Brunel.
Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-59) was born in Portsmouth, Hampshire, on 9th April 1806. He was the third child and only son of Frenchman Sir Marc Isambard Brunel (1769-1849). Brunel junior completed his education in Paris from the ages of 14 to 16, before returning to England to become an apprentice to his father.
Both Brunels were distinguished engineers and worked on the design and construction of the first Thames Tunnel, completed in 1843, for which Sir Marc was knighted in 1841. It was the only project that they worked on together.
Isambard went on to become Engineer to the Great Western Railway, and designed many railway structures (bridges, viaducts, tunnels and stations) that are still in use today. He is known for his steamships, docks, aqueducts and pumping stations. He also designed a prefabricated hospital that was transported to the Crimea, where Florence Nightingale (1820-1910) cared for soldiers wounded in the Crimean War (1853-56).
However, the rigours of hands-on engineering led to health problems for Isambard and Sir Marc. Both men died from strokes, in London, 10 years apart.
Isambard suffered a stroke on 5th September 1859. He was a heavy smoker, seen in photographs with cigar in hand, and may also have had a kidney problem (Bright's Disease). He died at home at 18 Duke Street, Westminster, 10 days later and was buried on 20th September in the family vault at Kensal Green cemetery.
The Brunel family’s gravestone is a dressed rectangular block of white marble. It marks the graves of Sir Marc and his wife Dame Sophia Brunel (1775-1855). Buried with them are Isambard, his wife Mary Elizabeth Brunel (1813-81), his two sons Isambard (1837-1903) and Henry Marc (1842-1903), his daughter-in-law Georgina (1836-1911) and nice Lilian (1875-1929). Isambard junior was a barrister-at-law and Henry was a civil engineer.
Part of the inscription under Sir Marc’s name reads “he has raised his own monument by his public works” — a sentiment that could apply just as well to Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
Kensal Green Cemetery opened in 1833 as London’s first commercial cemetery. It is designed in Greek Revival style, mostly by John Griffith (1796-1888), Surveyor to the General Cemetery Company. It covered 22 hectares originally and had sections for Anglicans and non-conformists.
Brunel’s achievements are commemorated in a memorial window at Westminster Abbey, erected in 1868 on north side of the nave. It was designed by Norman Shaw. In 1952, it was moved to the south side of the nave.
Research: ECPK
"Brunel, Isambard Kingdom (1806–1859)" by R. Angus Buchanan, in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, online edition January 2011
"Sir (Marc) Isambard (1769–1849)" by Alan Muir Wood, in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, online edition May 2005
reference sources   DNBIKB

Grave of Isambard Kingdom Brunel