Sir Marc Isambard and Isambard Kingdom Brunel


Watercolour of Lindsey House by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd, c 1850
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Name:Sir Marc Isambard and Isambard Kingdom Brunel

Dates:1769 - 1859


Address: 104 Cheyne walk, SW10

Dates at address:1808 - 1825


The Brunels were the most famous engineering father and son team of the Industrial Revolution. Sir Marc was born in Rouen, France but fled to America in 1793 to escape the French Revolution. He left for England in 1799, marrying Sophia Kingdom in the same year. They had three children: Sophia, Emma and Isambard. Isambard spent two years studying at College Henri Quatre in Paris before returning to join the family business. He married Mary Elizabeth Horsley in 1836 and had two sons.

Sir Marc’s engineering career began in America. A survey for a canal from Lake Champlain to the Hudson earned him the post of New York’s chief engineer. Coming to England he made £17,000 for his design for machine made block-pulleys and constructed many public works before a fire at his Battersea sawmill bankrupted him. Imprisoned for debt, he was rescued by the government and went on to build the Thames Tunnel in 1825 using his patented tunnel shield. This was the first joint venture with Isambard, sparking off a remarkable career. Key achievements include the Clifton Suspension Bridge and his record-breaking steam ship designs, like the Great Western, the first steamer to cross the Atlantic, and the Great Eastern, the largest vessel ever built. Other works include the building and renovation of many of Britain’s dockyards and his appointment as engineer for Great Western Railways, constructing every one of their tunnels, viaducts and bridges.

Cheyne Walk was the Brunels’ home during Marc’s early successes, Isambard’s introduction to engineering and the family’s bankruptcy in 1821. With the launch of their new company and the contract to build the Thames Tunnel, the Brunels left Chelsea behind them.

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