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SS Great Eastern, launch site
Burrell's Wharf Square, Millwall, London
SS <i>Great Eastern</i>, launch site
associated engineer
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
date  launched 3rd November 1857 - 31st January 1858
UK era  Victorian  |  category  Docks/Slipway  |  reference  TQ373784
photo  Jane Joyce
A little inland from the current bank of the Thames' north shore can be found a series of huge timber wooden piles and cross pieces in the middle of a small park. It is thought possible that these are the remains of the launching site for Brunel's last great iron ship.
The SS Great Eastern was huge the largest ship ever built (probably ever conceived of) at the time. She was 211m long and 25.3m wide, increasing to 36.5m wide over the paddle boxes. She had a gross weight of 19,220 tonnes, a displacement of 27,820 tonnes and could accommodate 4,000 passengers. She was not surpassed in length for 41 years or tonnage for 48. It must have been an incredible sight to see her taking shape on the riverside.
Too large to be propelled by a single screw, she was powered both by screw propulsion and paddles. She also had six masts for sail. When the time came to launch her, nothing of a comparable weight had ever been moved across land by man.
The hull was constructed over six years in the shipyard of John Scott Russell, which was certainly located near this site. Reputedly, 3 million rivets were used in the process. To fit her in she had to be built on land, as no dry dock was large enough Scott Russell had to expand out of his yard on Burrells Wharf into Napier's yard next door to the north, which he purchased.
The ship was finally floated at 3:30am on 31 January 1858 after almost three months of effort just to move her from the blocks. In September 1859 she was ready for her maiden voyage.
She steamed down the River Thames on 7th September and, the next day, a feed-water engine jacket exploded in her boiler room, killing five stokers. The accident was caused by negligence rather than any fault in design but the result was tragic nonetheless. Brunel died a week later.
Designed to carry passengers from London to Australia without stopping, the Great Eastern was not a commercial success she was too far ahead of her time. In the end she was broken up off Birkenhead in 1891.
reference sources   IKBcat

SS Great Eastern, launch site