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Isambard Kingdom Brunel

A memorial window was erected in Westminster Abbey in 1868 to commemorate the famous engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Originally sited on the north side of the nave it was moved to the south side and slightly altered in 1952. The designer was Norman Shaw, with the figure subjects drawn by Henry Holiday. The stained glass was made by Messrs Heaton, Butler and Bayne. It depicts six Biblical scenes concerned with the building of the Temple and Christ's teaching there. At the base are figures representing Fortitude, Justice, Faith and Charity. The inscription is rather obscured by monuments on the window sill:

IN MEMORY ISAMBARD KINGDOM BRUNEL BORN APRIL 9th 1806: DEPARTED THIS LIFE SEPTEMBER 15th 1859.

Above the main scenes are the initials IKB and at the top is Christ in Glory surrounded by angels.

Isambard was the son of Sir Marc Isambard Brunel (1769-1849) and Sophia Kingdom (d.1854) and was born at Portsea, Portsmouth. With his father he worked on the Rotherhithe tunnel, the first to run under the river Thames. This became a great public attraction. He is best known as the designer of the Clifton suspension bridge near Bristol and engineer of the Great Western Railway including some of its viaducts and bridges. The Royal Albert Bridge across the Tamar river at Saltash in Devon was opened shortly before his death. He also built steamships such as the largest one of its day, SS Great Western, the iron ship SS Great Britain and the SS Great Eastern. During the Crimean War he designed a prefabricated hospital for use in Turkey. Fellow engineer Robert Stephenson was his friend and rival. 

In 1836 at Kensington Church he married Mary Elizabeth Horsley and had two sons, Isambard and Henry Marc (who also became an engineer), and a daughter Florence (who married an Eton schoolmaster). He was buried in the family vault in Kensal Green cemetery in London.

Further information:

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Isambard Kingdom Brunel by L.T.C. Rolt, 1957

The Brunels, father and son by C.B.J.Noble, 1938

There is a statue of him on the Embankment in London and also at Paddington railway station.

The small Brunel Museum is at Rotherhithe

Born

9th April 1806

Died

15th September 1859

Occupation

Engineer

Location

Nave

Memorial Type

Window

Material Type

Glass

Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Isambard Kingdom Brunel

By Robert Howlett (en.wikipedia) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Isambard Kingdom Brunel memorial window

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2020 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

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It’s a privilege to live and work here – the Abbey really is the heart of the country and its history.

Martin - The Dean’s Verger

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