I do so admire the Victorians … to clarify … those creative, innovative, colourful people of Queen Victoria’s Britain in the 19th century. And no more so than Isambard Kingdom Brunel. I therefore recently took the opportunity to attend a University of the Third Age (U3A) presentation by one of its members, Roy Done, about the man in the stovepipe hat. A public poll conducted by the BBC in 2001 to select the 100 Greatest Britons, Brunel was placed second, behind Winston Churchill.
Brunel was one of the most versatile and audacious engineers of the 19th century, responsible for the design of tunnels, bridges, railway lines and ships. What I didn’t know, until Roy’s presentation, is that Brunel made his mark in the Crimean War effort.