Carol Vorderman 'honoured' to open Brunel centre
TV star Carol Vorderman will open a new visitor centre at the ss Great Britain on Wednesday.
The Bristol-based maths expert, who, as an engineering graduate, counts Brunel as one of her heroes, will formally open the new main entrance to the ss Great Britain museum, which is one of Bristol's best-loved attractions.
The centre, which includes a shop and ticket office, will also house historic artefacts from the ship's history.
And the building itself is a gateway to the past.
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Its external walls are replicas of Brunel's steam engine factory, which was built in the 1830s, and the centre incorporates an original Brunel-built wall into its design.
On entering the centre, visitors will be greeted by a 20ft desk made of oak and larch, traditional British shipbuilding materials.
The area around the ship will also reflect the hustle and bustle of a busy dockyard, with Victorian-style luggage, crates of food and model animals.
Miss Vorderman, who co-hosted Channel 4's Countdown for 26 years and has two children at Clifton College, was asked to open the centre because of her engineering background. Miss Vorderman said: "Brunel was always one of my heroes, particularly as my boss at Cambridge was probably his biggest fan. We spoke about him most days.
"It's an honour to be opening the visitors centre, as a mum, an engineering graduate and in recent years, as a local."
Matthew Tanner, director of the ss Great Britain Trust, said staff were delighted that Miss Vorderman had agreed to open the new centre.
He said: " It is a pleasure to welcome such a well-known television personality, who shares Brunel's passion for engineering and maths.
"This visitor centre is a well-designed and beautifully crafted space, which provides a fitting start to a visit to Brunel's ss Great Britain – a world-class, multi award-winning museum and visitor attraction.
"2010 is an exciting year for the trust, with the opening of the visitor centre, the 40th anniversary celebrations of the ship's salvage and return to Bristol, and the opening of the Brunel Institute."
The visitor centre was designed by Alec French Architects, the team behind the ss Great Britain's glass sea, and built with the help of a £140,000 grant from Viridor Credits, which gives money from landfill tax credits to environmental, conservation and community projects.
It is part of the £6 million Brunel Institute, a conservation and education centre which will house a world-class maritime library, a lecture theatre and the Brunel Archive, bringing together photographs and papers and plans from the ss Great Britain into one place for the first time.
Due to open this autumn, it will also encourage the public, particularly school children – the Brunels of the future – to take an interest in science and engineering.