This is the first steam powered railway engine to run on a public railway. It was designed by George Stephenson and sparked a transport revolution that transformed the lives and fortunes of people across Britain and the wider world.
Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s SS Great Britain is one of Britain’s most important ships. By combining size, power and innovative technology, Brunel revolutionised sea travel and paved the way for modern ship design.
Invented 200 years ago, the humble bicycle is one of the most popular and enduring innovations of all time. Relatively cheap and simple to produce, environmentally sound, easy and fun to use, great for keeping fit and available to people of all ages and from all walks of life, it is still a significant part of our lives today.
This large bridge, at Ironbridge in Shropshire, was the first arch bridge made of iron anywhere in the world. It was built to replace an unreliable ferry service across the River Severn. Opened on New Year’s Day, 1781, it was so successful that it gave its name to the local area.
The pneumatic tyre was developed to help transform road travel and make journeys more comfortable, while reducing damage to vehicles. Its emergence can be credited to two different Scottish inventors – first Robert Thomson in the 1840s, who patented the tyre, and later John Boyd Dunlop some 40 years after, whose designs led to improvements for bicycles and later cars.
Throughout the 1700s, the turnpike system spread throughout Britain, charging travellers a toll (fee) at different points along its roads to pay for maintenance and improvement. This tollhouse is in Oborne, Dorset. Often situated in isolated areas of the country, the toll collectors needed a good view from these houses in case of attack from thieves or protestors.
The advent of steam hauled railways in the 1820s quickly revolutionised passenger travel and the transport of goods across Britain and the wider world. This is an early train ticket for a journey from Liverpool to Warrington.
John McAdam revolutionised road travel in the 1800s, through his ‘Macadamisation’ method. The greatest advance in road construction since Roman times, his principles are still applied to road building today.
In 1789, a coal ship named Adventure ran aground at the mouth of the River Tyne during a violent storm. The sea was too rough for the local boats and nothing could be done to save the thirteen-man crew. This tragic loss prompted a competition to design a new type of boat, that could carry 24 people and was suitable for rescues in rough and stormy seas. The result was the first ‘Life-Boat’.
During the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, prisoner exchanges between Britain and France only occurred rarely, meaning large numbers of captives were held for long periods in each country. French prisoners in Britain were often invited or compelled to practice crafts, and manufactured many intricate models made from bones and other recycled goods.