Pullen’s Ships

Great Eastern with deck raised

The Great Eastern

Model of the iron sailing ship designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Wooden. Made 1872

This famous model of Brunel’s paddle-steamer is regarded by many as Pullen’s greatest achievement. It took him over three years to build, after preparing many careful drawings and plans and was finished in 1872. He made his own tools and equipment when necessary, to enable him to make every part of the model himself. He devised a system of pulleys to lift the whole of the upper deck, to display the interior. It was shown at the Crystal Palace Exhibition and gained several certificates. Pullen attended to explain the detail. It was also shown at the Fisheries Exhibition in 1883.

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Princess Alexandra

Wooden. Furled canvas sails. Bone and ivory embellishments.

Made 1862.

Princess Alexandra in Pullens room

This model of a 40 gun man-o-war was built wholly unaided by Pullen in 1862, from a picture on a pocket handkerchief and an illustration in the Illustrated London News. It is copper-bottomed and accurately rigged, every part made by Pullen. The bows suggest a fast frigate, probably used for carrying messages of urgency. The stern however, is not of the same period: the railing round the deck was not found until a later date and, for its period the cabin should protrude outwards. The windows are also of a later period.

In 1867 the model was shown at the International Exhibition in Paris where it gained a bronze medal. She was named the ‘Princess Alexandra’ and launched on a small lake in the grounds of the Royal Earlswood Asylum as shown in Pullen’s painting of the launching of the ‘Great Eastern’.

The State Barge (Fantasy Boat)

Made with exotic materials, including ivory, ebony and rare timbers.

Made 1866/1867.

This amazing model has been described as the “Mystic representation of the World as a Ship”. Designed by Pullen as a vessel for Queen Victoria to rule her empire from. The cosmic forces are represented. The hull is made of solid ebony and cosmic forces are represented on the exterior. Finely carved white ivory angels are outside on the prow, and Neptune or Satan is at the stern. A centre-rod acts on 12 working oars and forked lightening strikes the top. The ivory came from tusks given to Pullen by his patron, Edward VII, who took a great interest in him. It was exhibited at the Paris Exhibition.


The Dream Boat or Small Fantasy Boat 

Made with light wood and decorated with ivory. Made 1863. Pullen made several boats similar to this one and recorded it in his sketchbook and in his Events. This is the only extant model. It was originally covered by a dome. King’s head for figurehead, feather like stern, with snakes on tiller cabin amidships, with blinds, chair and table in ivory.


Rotary sail barge

Imaginative boat with circular revolving sails. Date unknown.