The mystery of the Mary Rose

Thursday 05 June 2014
zoocha-admin

More than 500 years ago, a fine wooden ship constructed during the reign of Henry VIII set off from Portsmouth into battle, only to sink within sight of the harbour. At least 500 of the men on board died and just 35 survived...

The remains of the Mary Rose with pipes for drying her ©Mary Rose Trust The remains of the Mary Rose with pipes for drying her ©Mary Rose Trust

 

  This is a maritime tragedy on a grand scale, with many a human story to tell. And that’s what the Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard aims to convey. The sweeping exhibition space of this award-winning museum wraps round the great hulk of the Tudor ship that was raised from the seabed in 1985 after extensive searches. In between dramatic views through strategically positioned windows of the ship itself, we are introduced to the crew who lived and died on the Mary Rose. The sheer quantity of objects that excavators were able to recover from the site of the wreck means we are afforded a magnificent insight into individual’s lives. When it was found, for example, the Carpenter’s personal storage chest still contained his book, rings from Spain and - miraculously - teeny-tiny dice used for playing games. Hi-tech examinations of his skeleton means that we get an idea of what he would’ve looked like – and even his pet dog was identified, too.

The ship's dog ©Mary Rose Trust The ship's dog was found outside the Carpenter's door ©Mary Rose Trust

 

  A proper explore of the museum takes most people at least 2 hours as there’s so much to look at. We get to see all sorts of other mind-blowing artefacts that paint a picture of life not only on board the Mary Rose, but in Tudor England. Plates are inscribed with the owner’s initials, or simply marks, as most men wouldn’t have been able to read and write. Nit combs were found among each person’s possessions as in the crowded quarters of the ships, fleas and lice would’ve been rife. Oh, and don’t miss the remains of the rat that didn’t get away in time.

A selection of nit combs that belonged to the Mary Rose's crew ©Mary Rose Trust Feeling itchy yet? A selection of nit combs that belonged to the Mary Rose's crew ©Mary Rose Trust

 

  Extra remarkable is the only known remaining Tudor Crow’s Nest, nearly perfect still.

The complete Tudor Crow's Nest from the Mary Rose ©Mary Rose Trust The complete Tudor Crow's Nest from the Mary Rose ©Mary Rose Trust

 

  On my visit, I noticed everyone from elderly to young kids were gripped by the story of the Mary Rose – be it the lives of the crew, the feat of engineering that is the ship itself, or the remarkable tale of its rediscovery and conservation. This is a museum and a story that deserves exploring.

How to do it

Travel to Portsmouth

By train: Portsmouth Harbour station is directly opposite the entrance to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. Trains take around 1hr30mins from London Waterloo. By road: From central London, the drive to Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard should take around 2hrs. Coaches depart from London Victoria for Portsmouth.

Admission tickets

Tickets for the Mary Rose are £18 for adults, £13 for children (at time of publish, June 2014) with 1 year's unlimited entry. Or you can purchase a visitor pass that covers all 8 of the attractions at Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard. See the Mary Rose website for more details about visiting  and see more on its history and story.

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