SS Great Britain

How Joe engineered his dream job on SS Great Britain

Joe Teanby was 9 when he fell in love with the Victorian era. On a visit to the SS Great Britain – a radical steamship launched in 1843 – he met a man dressed as the vessel’s designer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

A photograph taken by Joe’s aunt shows an awestruck child shaking hands with the greatest engineer of the Victorian age.

Joe said, “When I went to the SS Great Britain and met ‘Brunel’ on the top deck it was like something went bang in my head. It started my love of the Victorian period, its engineers and my love of history in general.”

Joe studied History at Oxford Brookes University. A few weeks after he graduated in June 2019 he got a job at SS Great Britain, the Bristol attraction whose restoration has been supported by National Lottery funding. The 23-year-old now spends a chunk of his working week dressed guessed it: Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

As one of the SS Great Britain’s 3 Brunel impersonators, Joe has grown a fine pair of sideburns which combined with his costume – a sombre morning suit and top hat – make him look very like the man who also created The Great Western Railway, Bristol’s Clifton Suspension Bridge and the original Paddington Station (to name just 3 of his projects). Brunel was known to smoke more than 40 cigars a day, so Joe even puffs on a fake cigar to get the look absolutely right.

The SS Great Britain is a great example of Brunel’s ability to innovate. Joe said, “He recognised that an iron ship would be better than a wooden ship and added a screw propeller instead of steam driven paddles.”

But radical design isn’t the only reason the ship has become one of Bristol’s most popular attractions. Interactive displays and exhibits combined with costumed characters – sailors, passengers and Mr Brunel himself – make for a fun, informative day out for visitors of all ages.

Funding made possible by National Lottery players helped the SS Great Britain Trust continue vital conservation and education work while it was closed to visitors during lockdown. Each week, National Lottery players raise over £30Million for good causes all over the UK, supporting hundreds of fun things like Bletchley Park, London Zoo, Eden Project, Roald Dahl Museum, the Tower of London, Cardiff Castle and many more.

Now we want to say a special ‘THANK YOU’ to you, the players, so get ready to have some fun of your own. For a limited time only, we’re offering you a £25 voucher to use at hundreds of top participating attractions and venues across the UK – including SS Great Britain.

All you need is a Lotto ticket (purchased on or after 1st October 2021). Just visit to find out more.

7th October 2021

Subject to availability. Full terms and conditions apply. Players must be 18+.

The National Lottery has been changing the lives of winners and supporting good causes across the UK since 1994. In that time, there have been more than 6,300 new millionaires created and by playing The National Lottery you raise over £30 million for good causes every week.

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