“ Address: Portsmouth / Hampshire / England „
The Mary Rose Museum in the Portsmouth Historical Docks is a super day out.
For me getting there the best way is by train as the Portsmouth Station on the "The Hard" is just about 5 minutes walk away. If wish to travel by car the Docks and carparks are well signed posted although the roads can be very busy.
As for the museum, tickets can be purchased for all the attractions or just the Mary Rose.
Mary Rose was Henry V111 flag ship and sank in the Solent. Half the ship survived, to be recoved in the 1980's. It is amazing to see the remains of the Mary Rose through the windows...to think that the ship was built in 1511 - it is like a time capsule. The audio guide (or both adults and children) is really useful.
There are many display cabinets spread over the floors. Which contain the items recovered from the sea bed. They are well explained and help take the viewer back in time. The reconstruction of the faces of some of those who lost their lives in the sinking brings them almost back to life and helped me to realise that these were real people - they had lives like we do. Which made the visit even more interesting.
I visited on a Sunday in early November - the museum was packed out... and at times a little difficult to see all the cabinets with so many people about. I visited with my Dad who has slight sight issues - to keep the items safe the light is reduced and Dad found this difficult.
But overall a great visit.
As a History teacher who loves the 16th century, I am always happy to take any excuse to visit historical sites. On a shopping trip to Portsmouth I decided that I would take the opportunity of visiting the Mary Rose, which I hadn't been to see for about 15 years.
A SHORT HISTORY
Sorry, I know that my History bits can go on a bit - I'll try to keep it short and sweet! The Mary Rose was one of Henry VIII's warships. Contrary to what most people (including me - oh dear!) think, it did not sink on its maiden voyage, but was actually around for over 30 years before the disaster. The ship was built in around 1511 and was a successful warship. In 1545, when Henry was preparing for war with France, the Mary Rose set sail from Portsmouth Harbour. There are many theories as to why she sank but the most common is that her gun ports weren't closed. The sailors on board (probably between 500-700) died.
The ship sank into layers of silt and half of it became quickly covered in the silt. The half that remained exposed rotted away, but the half that was covered remained intact, allowing for the ship to be raised over 400 years later. The Mary Rose was rediscovered in 1967. Various excavations were carried out on the site until 1982 when the remaining parts of the ships were lifted out of the water. They had created a special 'cradle' to lift the ship out.
Since the ship has been raised it has been kept in a warehouse in Portsmouth Dock. The ship had to be sprayed with water to stop the timbers drying out, which would ruin them. It is now being sprayed with a solution of hot oils which are feeding the wood and will mean that in a few years they can turn off the sprays and the ship will be stable enough to keep it in dry storage. The plan is to then display lots of the artefacts in the ship to show their original positions.
I made my way to Portsmouth by train. The nearest station is Portsmouth Harbour and this is about a 5 minute walk away. The Mary Rose can also be accessed by car. It is really well signposted from all around Portsmouth - just follow the brown signs saying Historic Dockyard.
PRICES AND OPENING TIMES:
The Dockyard opens at 10am every day of the year except Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. From April-October the Dockyard closes at 6 (last ticket sold at 4.30) and from November-March it closes at 5.30 (last ticket sold at 4).
The tickets cost £12 for single entry to one attraction at the Dockyard (Mary Rose includes the museum). Children are £8, seniors are £10 and a family is £32. You can buy a combined ticket for all the attractions at the Dockyard which costs £17.50 which is clearly much better value and would have been the one I would have gone for had I had more time to look at the others as well.
Upon arrival I went to the ticket office to purchase my ticket. The ticket office is by the entrance to the Historic Dock Yard. Once I had bought the ticket I headed straight for the ship itself. The ship hall is much further on through the Dockyard, past the HMS Victory. The ship is housed in a large white warehouse. As I went through the door I noticed that all the décor looked fresh and clean. You then show your ticket at the ticket desk and collect an audioguide (there are children's audioguides available).
Then you go through into the main hall. The hall is quite dark and it takes a minute to adjust. You are in a corridor with a glass wall on one side. The corridor runs along one side and the back of the ship. My heart always skips a beat when I'm this close to anything Tudor and this place is no exception - amazing!
There is only one side of the Mary Rose remaining, as this was the part that was buried under the sand and preserved it. To look at the remains without any context could make them slightly unimpressive. However, when you consider just how amazing it is to have any remains of a warship that old, they become very special.
As you walk along the corridor the commentary talks you through the history of the ship and the story of how it sunk. It then tells you about the different parts of the ship. The ship itself has big signs on it showing you which part of the ship that was. There is also a cut out of an archer showing where they would have stood.
The audioguide was really informative and I really enjoyed listening to it. You can fast forward if there are parts that you don't want to listen to.
I stayed in the ship hall for around 20 minutes, which makes the visit to the ship itself not great value for money. You could stay in there longer but I fast-forwarded some of the audioguide history bits as I knew these already. The hall was quite humid. Even though the ship and the sprays feeding it are sealed off the atmosphere still had a muggy feel to it.
Although my time in the hall was short I really enjoyed just being around the ship. The 16th century is my specialist period so seeing any artefacts from the time get me a little excited (ok, ok, a lot excited!). To see an artefact this special and this big is an experience that is definitely worth paying for as it is completely unique.
Having visited the ship I made my way to the Mary Rose museum which is back near the front of the Dockyard and is included in the price of your ticket. I thought the museum was a little outdated and like most heritage attractions could do with an injection of cash but understandably this is being put into the new ship hall and the conservation of the ship.
In the museum there are various exhibits about the ship and the 16th century. The museum starts with an explanation of how the ship sank. This is through pictures and a video. You can then see lots of displays about how they found and raised the ship. This was quite interesting but a little bit too technical in parts for me. There is a display showing how murky the water was when they were working to get the ship up which was quite interesting. Following these there were lots of displays about life on a ship in the 16th century using the artefacts found on and around the ship. The displays include plates, coins, medical equipment (there is a full sized replica of the barber surgeon's cabin) and weaponry. There are a couple of interactive displays where you can try on some armour and hold some replica weapons that would have been used in the 16th century. These are great, especially if you're visiting with kids.
I did enjoy the museum (well, I would, seriously.....anything old!!). However, I think some people might be a bit disappointed with the outdated displays. If you just concentrate on the artefacts and again think about how unique these pieces are then that should inspire you.
On the way out of the museum is the Mary Rose shop. This was quite small. They sold the usual load of tat with 'The Mary Rose' printed all over them. They also sold posters, books, costumes, Tudor things and postcards. The prices seemed fairly average, although I didn't buy anything.
I really enjoyed my day out at the Mary Rose. I would definitely recommend a visit to the ship if you've never been. It's a very interesting visit. Obviously being slightly obsessed with the 16th century I am slightly biased but I think most people would be at least a little amazed by this unique survival from the time of one of our most famous kings. I do think that the visit is quite expensive but understand, having worked in museums in the past, just how much its costs for the upkeep of something like this and if it can mean it is preserved for the future I'm prepared to pay. However, I would definitely recommend that you combine it with a visit to the HMS Victory and HMS Warrior to make the tickets better value.
Come see the only 16th century warship on display anywhere in the world. Built between 1509 and 1511, this ship was one of the first ships capable of firing a broadside.