Tudor warship Mary Rose sails back to life with lost treasures

New museum houses Henry VIII's vessel and remnants fromits 400-year-old past

PUBLISHED : Friday, 31 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 31 May, 2013, 4:00am

The remains of a Tudor warship that sank more than 400 years ago will go on display with thousands of its artefacts for the first time at a new British museum.

Museum officials and historians say the £27 million (HK$316 million) museum, which opens today, allows visitors to view the wreck of the Mary Rose, Henry VIII's flagship, and also provides a snapshot of Tudor life onboard the vessel.

The Mary Rose Museum is located at the historic dockyards in the southern English city of Portsmouth, near the spot where the 16th-century vessel was built.

The Mary Rose led the English fleet in battle against France from 1512, but it sank after three decades in service during the Battle of The Solent on July 19, 1545.

The ship remained on the seabed off of the south coast of England and was not discovered until 1971, when divers noticed its exposed timbers.

After further investigations and numerous dives, including one by Prince Charles, the hull of the ship was lifted to the surface in 1982, an event that was broadcast on television to millions of viewers around the world.

The museum is built like a ship, housing both the wooden hull and galleries displaying many of the 19,000 artefacts collected from the wreck, from leather boots and cannons to a skeleton of the ship's dog, Hatch.

"This isn't just about a ship, it's about life in Tudor times," said John Lippiett, chief executive of the Mary Rose Trust. "It is a memorial to the 500 who lost their lives on the Mary Rose."

Historian and television presenter David Starkey went further, describing the Mary Rose as an "English Pompeii, preserved by water, not fire".

The recovered section of the wooden hull, measuring about 35 metres long and 11 metres tall, will be kept in an airtight chamber with viewing windows as officials finish the final stages of conserving the wreck.

Millions of litres of water and wax chemicals have been sprayed on the wreck to preserve it since it was raised to the surface, and the museum expects to remove the internal walls surrounding the hull in 2017, when it is fully dry.

The new museum, which is located next to Lord Nelson's famous flagship, the HMS Victory, replaces a smaller museum that only housed some of the artefacts and not the wreck of the vessel.