Building the 'Great Leviathan' (the 'Great Eastern')

Image credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

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A depiction of the 'Great Eastern' under construction, sitting on the stocks at Millwall, on the north bank of the Thames. The partially completed ship is on the left of the picture, parallel to the river into which she was launched sideways, an innovation for a major vessel. She was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and built during 1857 by the engineer and iron-ship designer John Scott Russell. The construction of the ship demonstrated the industrial potential that would soon revolutionize transport. Built for a passenger mail service linking Britain, India, China and Australia, she was intended to accommodate 4,500 passengers and 6,000 tons of cargo, or to convey up to 10,000 troops to a theatre of war. The 'Illustrated London News' described her as 'a grand tribute to commerce' and she was built in sections and encased in metal plates an inch thick.

National Maritime Museum



Building the 'Great Leviathan' (the 'Great Eastern')




oil on canvas


H 86.5 x W 183 cm

Accession number


Work type



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