Henry VIII’s warship, the Mary Rose, sank in 1545 off the south coast of England and its starboard side and contents have lain dormant beneath the sea perfectly preserved for hundreds of years. It was raised from the Solent in 1982 and following three decades of restoration, the Tudor vessel can now be viewed fully uninterrupted by Museum visitors. Mary Rose Museum deputy chief executive, Robert Lapraik, credits a protective layer of silt which buried the ship for ensuring it was kept intact as it was on the day it sank.
Pioneering divers John and Charles Deane discovered the site of the wreck in 1836 but later lost the location. It wasn’t until 1971 that divers identified the site as that of the Mary Rose. Between 1979-1982 more than 19,000 artefacts from the ship were excavated and brought to the surface. Among those on display at the Museum are the skeleton of the carpenter’s dog, Hatch, and the carved Tudor rose adorning the ship will be exhibited for the first time. Thought to be the earliest surviving figurehead of its kind, the emblem would have been mounted on the ship’s forecastle to inspire Henry VIII’s men as they faced a French invasion fleet.
When it was first raised, the Mary Rose underwent conservation in an atmospherically controlled dry dock. Although on public display since 2013 at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, viewing of the ship was limited due to hundreds of metres of black ducting required to dry it. As part of a £5.4 million redevelopment, the Museum closed in 2015 to enable the drying equipment to be removed. Now visitors will be treated to unobstructed panoramic views of the ship from all 9 galleries.
“It feels like you can reach out and touch it – you get a sense of the compartments and relate it to all the artefacts and the people on board,” Conservation manager Dr Eleanor Schofield said.