Brunel artefacts going on display

The cigar once smoked by Isambard Kingdom Brunel

The cigar once smoked by Isambard Kingdom Brunel

First published in Entertainment News © by

A half-smoked cigar belonging to celebrated engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel is to go on public display for the first time.

The cigar is part of a large collection of nearly 1,000 Brunel objects donated to the ss Great Britain Trust by collector Clive Richards.

The artefacts will joined thousands more at the Being Brunel museum, which is due to open to the public in 2016 at Brunel's ss Great Britain in Bristol.

Brunel, who smoked 40 cigars a day, was one of the most ingenious and prolific engineers in history, building 25 railway lines, more than 100 bridges and three ships.

He suffered with kidney problems for several years before dying of a stroke at 53 in 1859.

Brunel launched ss Great Britain in Bristol in 1843 as the world's first great ocean liner. The iron-hulled steamship was most experimental steam ship of her time and revolutionised travel and set new standards in engineering, reliability and speed.

After being left to rust in the Falkland Islands she was rescued and returned to Bristol in 1970, where she has been painstakingly restored and transformed into a popular tourist attraction.

Being Brunel will give the public unprecedented access to objects from the national Brunel Collection of over 14,000 items - comprising the University of Bristol Brunel Collection, the 700 item Clive Richards Brunel Collection and the ss Great Britain Trust Collection.

Among the Clive Richards Brunel Collection is Brunel's school reports that give a glimpse into his early life, his personalised pen knife and his famous cigar case, containing the half-smoked cigar.

The case, which is stamped I.K.B. Athenaeum Club Pall Mall, reflects Brunel's passion for cigars and fine things.

A member of the Athenaeum since 1830, Brunel wrote of his membership and visits to the club in his diaries.

The case could hold 48 cigars in two separate compartments, along with a small document wallet for stamps and business cards, all of great use for members of the club.

The cigar case is a very personal and intimate possession but also a prompt to the famous photograph of Brunel in front of the chains of the ss Great Eastern, smoking a cigar in his muddy trousers and boots, depicting a man of action and determination.

The well-worn penknife is engraved with the initials I.K.B. and was manufactured by George Butler and Co. of Sheffield, around 1840.

The penknife has a horn handle and its tools include a tin opener, blade, saw, hook, spike, drill, corkscrew, metal toothpick, tweezers and a device for removing stones from horses' hooves.

Brunel was known for his hands on approach and enterprising nature and would have found the penknife a very useful companion, especially in the days of surveying the route of the Great Western Railway (GWR) on horseback.

Also going on display will be an example of the Thames Tunnel peep show - a memento of a visit to the world famous tunnel, where Brunel was employed alongside his father Sir Marc.

Peep show souvenirs became increasingly popular not only in England but also in the continent.

The highly-decorative example was published in Germany and depicts two scenes within a series of hand coloured concertina lithographs.

On the top, the view of the activity on the Thames while the bottom scenes feature delicate hand cut figures of men, women and carriages travelling through the completed tunnel.

As each panel unfolds the viewer's gaze is invited deep into this engineering marvel, which was to open up a world of opportunities for a young Brunel.

Mr Richards said: "I have always admired the work that the ss Great Britain Trust does to conserve the ss Great Britain and protect Brunel's legacy.

"Being Brunel will secure the Brunel Collections for the whole nation and I'm proud to be a part of that."

Matthew Tanner, chief executive of the ss Great Britain Trust, said: "Being Brunel will engage people of all ages by looking into the mind of a genius who was also a very human and interesting person.

"Clive Richards' magnificent Brunel Collection is particularly rich in telling the human side of the Brunel story, and will inspire visitors to understand him, and be excited by what he achieved, and perhaps what they themselves might be able to achieve too."

The new museum will include lots of interactive displays, and fascinating experiences, including walking into Brunel's brain, and going back in time to visit the restored Grade II* listed Brunel Drawing Office.

The Being Brunel project will cost £7 million. The ss Great Britain Trust has contributed £350,000 towards this target and is fundraising another £1.4 million.

The Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded £4.75 million and Clive and Sylvia Richards have pledged £500,000.

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