'Great Eastern' leaving Southampton, 1859.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Plate from the 'Illustrated London News' showing the Great Eastern leaving Southampton Water on her first voyage. This famous steamship, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-1859), was the largest vesel afloat until she was broken up in 1888. Brunel had proposed to the Eastern Steam Navigation Company the construction of a steamship five or six times the size of any then in use, with two forms of power: paddle-wheels and screw-engines. It took several attempts over three months to launch the ship. The ship was accompanied on its trial trip by enormous, cheering crowds in smaller craft and songs and memorabilia commemorated the occasion.