Sophie and Ellie are keen to explore Victorian Britain. They want to do a podcast on Isambard Kingdom Brunel but Daddy doesn’t know much about him. Luckily, Sarah, from the Brunel Museum is on hand to help. Together the three of them tell the story of Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
But we start with his father. Marc Brunel is a Frenchman who has been sent to priest school. But his heart is not in it. Instead he likes making things. When the French Revolution breaks out he is forced to flee France. But not before falling in love with an English woman. They are parted by the Revolution and Marc flees to America. There he starts to achieve his life’s ambition to become an engineer. While in New York he meets the famous Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton is so impressed with Marc Brunel that he writes him a recommendation to get a job as an engineer in London. Marc travels to England and is married to his English sweetheart.
Once in England he starts building things. One of those projects is a new tunnel under the Thames. The tunnel is wanted by the Duke of Wellington to help transport soldiers to the south coast. But people also hope that it will be used by paying customers too. The tunnel is considered an impossibility to build. But Marc has a helper. He has a new Chief Engineer, his son Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Together the two Brunels come up with an extraordinary new way of tunnelling underwater based on how a worm tunnels. The tunnel is built and Queen Victoria herself pays a visit.
Isambard Kingdom Brunel is in demand from others for his engineering skills. He is asked to build the new Railway line to the West of England. This is a huge undertaking and needs bridges, tunnels and viaducts. Many of Brunel’s ideas are completely revolutionary. But they work and Brunel spends his time travelling around in his own railway carriage overseeing the project.
Next the girls tell the story of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s ship building. He repeatedly built the biggest ship in the world. We hear the story of why he kept building bigger and bigger ships. We also hear how the activities of those ships helped make the modern world of telecommunications that we enjoy today.
Finally, the girls reflect on the incredible achievements of Isambard Kingdom Brunel and how doing his maths homework at school helped him make the modern world!
ABOUT THE BRUNEL MUSEUM
This episode was a joint production with the Brunel Museum and their team – especially Sarah Kuklewicz. The Brunel Museum tells the story of one of the world’s great engineering dynasties. Brunel organised the world’s first underground concert party on the Museum site in 1827, and the Museum celebrates and interprets music and theatre as well as engineering. They aim to preserve and share widely the ground-breaking stories of the Thames Tunnel project and the outstanding achievements of the Brunel family and their relevance to our lives today.
You can find out more about them here:
Obviously the Museum is closed at the moment but teachers and parents might be interested in the activity sheets on their website. It is particularly suitable for KS1 and KS2 and their Victorian topic work.
PLEASE DO SUPPORT THE MUSEUM
Normally we include a link to our own Patrons’ Club. But rather than that this week we would be grateful if anyone would consider donating to the Brunel Museum. It’s a difficult time for all our museums and the whole heritage sector. I know any small donation would be much appreciated as they were very generous helping us prepare this episode: