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British Rail hands over Brunel

A portrait of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, which once hung in the office of Sir Peter Parker, famed chairman of British Rail, has been handed over to the Brunel Museum in south east London.

The museum sits directly above Brunel’s Thames Tunnel which first opened to the public 170 years ago. Commissioned by the late Sir Peter Parker, the portrait hung for many years in the chairman’s private office at Paddington.

Since privatisation, British Rail’s residuary body – BRB (Residuary) Ltd − has been quietly arranging for assets like this to be disposed of at auction or designated by the Railway Heritage Committee (RHC) for safe keeping for the nation.

Further to a recommendation by RHC, this particular portrait has come back to Brunel’s first project in Rotherhithe, south east London. Sadly, the Committee itself is to be abolished on 31st March this year. However its statutory powers will be transferred from 1st April to a new Railway Heritage Designation Advisory Board, reporting to the Trustees of the Science Museum Group.

Peter Ovenstone – RHC Chairman, and Peter Trewin – BRB Residuary Secretary and Director, presented the picture to Brunel Museum patron Sir William McAlpine and museum director Robert Hulse, who gratefully accepted the gift on behalf of the charity. Also present were Lord Faulkner of Worcester (Richard Faulkner), chairman- designate of the new Railway Heritage Designation Advisory Board, Sir Howard Newby and Neil Butters, RHC Secretary.

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