In 1982, more than 60 million people watched on live television as the Tudor warship Mary Rose emerged from sea. The 500-year-old vessel was the flagship of the notorious British ruler, King Henry VIII, and sunk in his view on July 19, 1545, while leading the attack on a French invasion fleet during the Battle of the Solent.
Some 431 years after she sank, and more than 30 years after she captivated a global audience, the Mary Rose has come full circle back to the very same site in which she was created: Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. When she makes her debut in southern England this Friday, she will become the only 16th century warship on display anywhere in the world.
“The Mary Rose being lifted from the waters of the Solent in 1982 was a moment of national pride,” noted Lincoln Clarke, chief executive of the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. “Thirty years later, and through pioneering British conservation, engineering and design we have a new museum that provides the world with a treasure trove of Tudor history."
The new Mary Rose Museum will form the centerpiece of the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard complex and “provide the most significant insights into Tudor life in the world,” according to the dockyard’s website. The £35 million ($53 million) project brings to life the tales of some of the hundreds of crewman lost in the disaster and reunites the ship with many of the 19,000 artifacts raised from the wreck, from human fleas to giant guns, musical instruments and the skeleton of the ship’s dog. Each piece was carefully conserved through a meticulous process that is still ongoing.
“The new Mary Rose Museum marks a new and exciting chapter in the history of The Mary Rose, providing an astonishing resource for the world to learn about the Tudors and a centre of excellence for maritime archeology and conservation,” enthused John Lippiett, chief executive of the Mary Rose Trust. “The museum is testament to all those who have worked so hard on this remarkable 42-year project to locate, salvage and conserve the ship and her contents.”
Conservationists say the Mary Rose was not only a milestone in the field of maritime archeology, but the largest underwater excavation and recovery ever undertaken in the world. In the decades since it was plucked from the waters of southern England, the ship has been sprayed continuously, first with chilled fresh water to remove the salt and then with a wax solution to prevent it from shrinking or drying out. The dockyard turned the spray off last month to commence the final phase of the ship’s conservation, which will take place while it sits on display in a specially constructed airtight glass chamber to dry over the next four to five years.
Wilkinson Eyre Architects and Pringle Brandon Perkins & Will, the interior design team, crafted the museum itself around the hull of the carrack-type warship. Galleries run the length of ship with each level corresponding to a deck level, and guests will be able to handle replica artifacts and enjoy special demonstrations with costumed interpreters.
Entrance to the new museum begins at £17 ($26), while an all-attraction ticket that also includes entry to the dockyard's other sites is £26 ($40). Both must be purchased in advance and are limited due to the ongoing conservation work.