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Posted on Feb 6, 2005 in Stuff We Like

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

Armchair General


The Mary Rose was an immense (for her time) Tudor warship, one of the first ships ever designed from the outset to serve as a Man of War.

The earliest records of the Mary Rose date from 1511. Built in Portsmouth, she served as the Flagship of the English Fleet for many years and became Henry VIII’s favourite ship.

Mary Rose.

On the 19th of July 1545, she was detailed to assemble along with an entire English Fleet to sail from the south coast, there to engage and destroy a French fleet heading to invade England itself. Unfortunately, although the French fleet was ultimately defeated, the Mary Rose never made it to the battle, having floundered and sunk off the coast of Portsmouth in fourteen metres of water.


What caused the disaster is unknown, for she was not destroyed by French guns. Current theories revolve around a failure to adequately secure the lower gunports. As the Mary Rose turned to engage the enemy, she would have effectively rolled, and with those gunports open, water would have flooded in through the hatches and overturned the ship.

In 1982, after years of preparation, the remains of the Mary Rose once again saw the light of day, lifted by specialist equipment from the sea bed. She now lies in a specially constructed "hangar" just a few hundred metres from where she was built.

Effectively, all that remains of the ship is her starboard side. Having capsized and sunk, one side of the ship fell into mud and silt, where it was preserved over the centuries as the rest of the ship rotted and was washed away.

The excavation and preservation of the remains of the Mary Rose is the largest conservation program of its kind in the world.

When I first saw the Mary Rose some twenty years ago, she was open to view. At that time her remains lay on their side and were constantly being sprayed with salt water to preserve them. This was part of a calculated plan to preserve the ship forevermore. Over the years, various chemicals and wax-type substances have been added to the sprays to ensure that the ancient timbers are protected from the elements, and the air.

The Mary Rose is currently behind glass, only viewable from a specially constructed gallery. With the chemical sprays, it is unfortunately difficult to make out the form of the ship in the murky gloom.

Mary Rose.

The following pictures have been artificially lightened on my PC to show some of the timbers more clearly.

Mary Rose.

Mary Rose.

Mary Rose.

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