Portsmouth’s main tourist attraction is a museum with a 1511 warship

The Mary Rose Museum, Portsmouth’s main tourist attraction, is named after the warship Mary Rose which was first commissioned to be built on January 29, 1510. This warship marked the birth of Britain’s Royal Navy. The Mary Rose was King Henry The VIII’s favorite warship and operated for 34 years until she was sunk on July 19, 1545 in the Battle of the Solent between the French and English. On October 11, 1982, her hull was lifted and the artifacts were salvaged and are now housed in this museum in this beautiful seaside destination of Portsmouth, UK.


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Historical timeline of the warship Mary Rose

Mary Rose’s first reference was a January 29, 1510 letter ordering the construction of two ships. It was built at Portsmouth and weighed 600 tons, and could initially carry six to eight big guns to a new gun port. This feature made Mary Rose state of the art and is said to have been suggested by King Henry VIII.

During the battle of Saint-Mathieu on August 10, 1512, Edward Howard, the Admiral of the Fleet, chose the Mary Rose as its flagship. The Mary Rose fired on the main masts of the Franco-Breton warship Grand Louise, resulting in the deaths of 300 men. This caused the Grand Louise to be decommissioned.

In March 1513 the Mary Rose won a fleet race half a mile ahead of the ship Sovereign, and Howard declared it “is the noblest sailing ship of all great ships, at this hour, that I know of in Christendom.” On April 22, 1513, during a battle at Brest, the French sank an English ship and damaged the other. As Howard led the fleet to strike back, he was killed. Subsequently, his eldest brother, Lord Thomas Howard, was appointed Admiral of the Fleet, and he also chose Mary Rose as his flagship.

Mary Rose also took part in the defense of the north at the Battle of Flodden Field on September 9, 1513 as a troop carrier. On 14 June 1514 Mary Rose was involved at the end of a war and in July 1514, with ships of the King’s Navy, she was decommissioned at Deptford.

In June 1520, he briefly resumed service when King Henry mobilized the prestigious ships to accompany him to a meeting with François I, King of France. The meeting, dubbed the Field of the Cloth of Gold, was aimed at preventing future wars. Two years after the meeting, however, England and France again went to war, and Lord Thomas Howard again using Mary Rose as his flagship attacked the Breton port of Morlaix on 1 July 1522 and sailed back to Portsmouth.

Sir William Fitzwilliam, who replaced Lord Thomas Howard as Admiral of the Fleet, also chose Mary Rose as his flagship. In 1525 Mary Rose was moved to Deptford over the summer for repairs. For the first five years of the 1530s Mary Rose was inactive, but from January 1536 to March 1537 she could be seen in the Thames without masts. As tensions increased in Europe, Mary Rose was restored, additional gunports were added and the sides of the ship reinforced, to be able to support the additional weight. These modifications are believed to have interfered with its navigation and effectiveness and its eventual demise.

After King Henry VIII was excommunicated by the Pope for declaring himself head of the Church of England, he feared an invasion from France and Spain. He therefore anchored Mary Rose at Deptford, where she was prepared to defend the Thames. In June 1542, Henri made an alliance with Charles, King of Spain, against François, King of France. In September 1544, Henry captured the French city of Boulogne. But this alliance collapsed and England found itself isolated against France.

On July 19, 1545, the French, led by Admiral Claude d’Annebault, entered the Solent Strait. At this time, Sir George Carew, the vice-admiral, received authority from Mary Rose. That afternoon, the Mary Rose fired at the French galleys on the starboard side, but as she turned to fire on the port side, she leaned heavily on the starboard side. The starboard ports there were blown and fatally plunged into the water, and the Mary Rose was flooded and within minutes sank. Of the approximately 500 men on board, less than 35 survived. Mary Rose was the only loss in this battle as the English still prevailed and on July 23, 1545, d’Annebault withdrew.

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The Refloating of Mary Rose

After the sinking of Mary Rose, divers sent to raise her were unable to refloat her, and in 1552 her wreck was abandoned. In 1836, her wreck was rediscovered after nearly 300 years by divers John and Charles Deane. The two brothers recovered some large guns from the ship. Back then, wrecks were blown up to make sure they didn’t drag down other ships and cause accidents.

But because the wreck of Mary Rose was under the seabed, she was abandoned until May 5, 1971, when diver Percy Ackland found three gantries. From 1979 to 1982, delicate excavations around the site of the wreckage made it possible to recover more than 19,000 artefacts which were reassembled. Finally, on October 11, 1982, the hull of Mary Rose was raised after 437 years under water.

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Visit to the Mary Rose Museum

The Mary Rose Museum, where the hull and artifacts of Mary Rose are kept, is located at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. This museum also has the world’s largest collection of Tudor artifacts from the House Of Tudor line, which produced five monarchs who ruled England for 118 years, including King Henry. VIII. Learning tours are open to students and workshops for adults to learn the story of Mary Rose and the times of her existence.

The museum has controlled lighting and flash photography is prohibited to protect artifacts from damage. Tickets for the Mary Rose Museum can be purchased online at this link or on site. At the Mary Rose Shop, visitors can purchase souvenirs, and proceeds from sales help preserve the ship and museum artifacts. There is also a cafe which serves coffee, soup, pastries and cakes to visitors.

Admission fees

  • Adult £24
  • Child (3-15yrs) £19
  • Senior (65+) £23
  • Free admission for accompanying persons and children under 3 years old

Regular hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 a.m., with last entry at 4:45 p.m., and winter hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with last entry at 4:15 p.m. Bag searches are carried out as the museum is close to Portsmouth Naval Base. The Mary Rose Museum can also be hired as a venue for group events

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