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The Mary Rose was an English Tudor carrack warship and one of the first to be able to fire a full broadside of cannons.The Mary Rose was well equipped with 78 guns (91 after an upgrade in 1536) and was the pride of the English fleet. Built in Portsmouthmarker, Englandmarker (1509–1510) she was thought to be named after King Henry VIII's sister Mary and the rose, the Tudor emblem. She was one of the earliest purpose-built warships to serve in the Royal Navy; it is thought that she never served as a merchant ship. She displaced 500 tons (700 tons after 1536), was 38.5 m long and 11.7 m beam and her crew consisted of 200 sailors, 185 soldiers, and 30 gunners. After serving for over thirty years, she sank in the Solentmarker during an engagement with the French fleet on 19 July 1545. The surviving section of the ship was raised in 1982 and is now on display in Portsmouthmarker Historic Dockyardmarker along with an extensive collection of well preserved artifacts.


The Mary Rose served as the flagship of Admiral Sir Edward Howard in the Italian Wars and was frequently engaged. On 10 August 1512 she was the flagship of an English fleet of 50 ships that attacked the French at Brestmarker in Brittany. The Mary Rose attacked the French Marie la Cordelière, the flagship of Admiral Ren de Clermont; in the battle the Marie la Cordelière was crippled and the Mary Rose was damaged and ran aground. The Marie la Cordelière then came under fire from the Mary James, the Sovereign, and the Regent, eventually blowing up with the loss of more than a thousand men. Thirty-two French ships were taken or destroyed in the battle. After the death of Edward Howard in 1513, the Mary Rose became the flagship of Lord High Admiral Sir Thomas Howard.


In 1528 and again in 1536 the Mary Rose was rebuilt, having her displacement increased from 500 to 700 tons and now mounting 91 guns. The refits are thought to have added an extra deck, making her top-heavy and liable to increased tendencies to roll over steeply in heavy seas.

The weight of an additional deck (40% over her original displacement), and the bigger guns with which she was also equipped would have increased her draft adversely—the measure of water displaced between keel bottom and the waterline. Buoyancy is directly proportional to her original keel length and lower hull shape—buoyant force increasing linearly with offsetting depth increases (and resulting in less freeboard) to counteract the increased weight— only increasing as more hull descends below the waterline. That would place her lower deck gun ports significantly closer to the waterline, as it is unlikely the low- ceilinged lower gun deck could be altered as well, being in much the same situation as a basement of a house gaining a new storey. This extra 200 tons displacement would have lowered her freeboard radically and may have been a direct contributor to her later sinking.


In 1545 King Francis I of France launched an invasion of England with 30,000 soldiers in 225 ships — larger than the Spanish Armada 43 years later. The French took some soldiers from the Spanish army to help defeat England. Against this invasion fleet, The English had about 80 ships and 12,000 soldiers, with the Mary Rose the flagship of Vice Admiral Sir George Carew. In early July the French entered the Solentmarker channel, between Hampshire and the Isle of Wightmarker. On 19 July 1545 (see Battle of the Solentmarker) the English came out of Portsmouthmarker and engaged the French at long range, little damage being done on either side. The next day was calm, and the French employed their galleys against the immobile English vessels. During this action the ship foundered and sank with the loss of all but 35 of her crew. Long-accepted accounts conclude that the ship sank due to a combination of poor design, open gun ports, bringing the ship about too quickly and bad luck. Other theories have stated the presence of Spanish mercenaries among the crew may have caused language communications problems in part leading to the gun ports being left open. A more recent theory suggests that her sinking happened, towards the evening as a breeze sprang up and as Mary Rose advanced to battle, because her hull was holed by cannon fire from the French galleys.

Proponents of this novel theory state that for political reasons, especially to avoid conceding victory to the French, it was originally maintained that the ship sank as the result of an unfortunate combination of poor design and tidal forces. This version of events was accepted until 2008, when a new analysis of the wreck was performed. Sources said that the ship had fired from the port side and made a sharp turn so she could fire from the starboard side. The turn was so sharp that the ship heeled sufficiently to submerge the open gun ports, allowing enough water to enter to sink the ship. Sources also suggest that the Mary Rose had the gunports too near the waterline, increasing the risk of an influx of water. Furthermore, the ship was carrying a large number of soldiers in full armour on her upper decks, with the possible result of further raising her centre of gravity and making her even more unstable. As was common in warships of the time the upper decks were covered with netting to prevent soldiers from enemy ships from boarding and damaged rigging falling onto the crew. Many sailors could not swim: being superstitious they regarded this as tempting fate . This and the netting made losses particularly severe.


Researchers for a television programme used an exact scale model of the Mary Rose to investigate the causes suggested for her sinking. Metal weights were used to simulate the presence of troops on the upper decks. Initial tests showed that the Mary Rose was able to make the turn described by eyewitnesses without foundering. In later tests, a fan was used to create a breeze similar to the one reported to have suddenly sprung up on the day of the sinking as the real Mary Rose went to make the turn. As the model went to make the turn, the breeze in the upper works of the ship forced the ship to turn at a more acute angle than before, forcing her lower gun ports below the waterline. Water entered the ship, increasing the degree of heel and causing the rate of flooding to increase. The ship quickly foundered, sinking completely within a few seconds. The sequence of events closely followed what eyewitnesses had reported had occurred, particularly the suddenness with which the ship sank. The researchers concluded that numerous causes had contributed to making the Mary Rose unstable and top heavy, such as: the inexperience of the shipwright, and miscalculations were not uncommon.

In addition to these weaknesses, the gun ports were originally cut too low in the ship's side, for the later resultant freeboard and ship's load line when her upper gundeck was added in an attempt to increase firepower, to fit more cannon and create a more powerful warship. These ports should have been closed as the ship went to make the turn, but for some reason, possibly a breakdown in communication, or an oversight by the sailors, they were not. Despite all these factors combining to create a hazardous situation, the experiment showed that the Mary Rose's sinking was not inevitable. The sudden gust of wind that caught the ship at the crucial point of her turn was the final fatal contribution to the sinking.


The loss of one of the most powerful Tudor warships afloat caused considerable consternation, particularly as it sank within sight of King Henry VIII who was watching from Southsea Castlemarker nearby. The fact that it sank was particularly unusual for the time. The most common cause of the loss of a warship was through fire. The lack of powerful cannon and the robustness of wooden ships made it difficult for ships to be damaged sufficiently in engagements for them to sink. There was also no immediate explanation for the sinking, such as a violent storm, or foundering on rocks. The loss of the Mary Rose therefore entered the public consciousness and was remembered, whereas most ship losses over the period were not.

Modern work on the wreck


A cannon ball recovered by John Deane
On 16 June 1836 the Mary Rose was found when a fishing net caught on the wreck, and diver John Deane recovered timbers, guns, longbow, and other items. But the location was forgotten after Deane stopped work on the site in 1840.

Alexander McKee started a new search in 1965, and in 1967 Professor Harold Edgerton found an acoustic anomaly by using side-scan sonar. In 1971 a springtide, combined with a severe gale, uncovered a layer of sediment, leaving several structural timbers clearly visible. In the years that followed, it became clear that the wreck lay on her starboard side, at an angle of 60°, and that the parts above sediment level had been eaten away by marine wood-boring animals (shipworms, gribbles).

On 5 February 1974 the Mary Rose wreck became the second wrecksite (along with others) to be protected under the Protection of Wrecks Act. The wrecksite remains protected today even after the lifting of the majority of the remaining ship timbers.

Excavation and raising

In 1979 the Mary Rose Trust was formed and an archeological team under the direction of Dr. Margaret Rule, CBE, began work to excavate the wreck. First, the wreck was lifted by means of a lifting frame. After that, the wreck, still under water, could be lifted onto a support cradle. On 11 October 1982 the wreck was lifted from the water by a team led by the Royal Engineers, and put upright in a dry dock with a temperature of 2–6 °C and a relative humidity of 95%.

The raising of the wreck was broadcast live in Raising the Rose, 11 hours and 25 minutes of live outside broadcasting transmission. The production team, led by Producer and Presenter John Selwyn Gilbert, won a BAFTA for "Best Actuality Coverage".


In 1994 work started on a three-stage conservation process using low-molecular-weight polyethylene glycol (a wax, essentially). The second stage, which commenced in 2004, consists of spraying the wreck with a high-molecular-weight polyethylene glycol; this is due to be completed around 2010. In the third stage, the wreck will be slowly dried. This preservation technique is the same as that begun in 1961 for the Vasamarker, a Swedish ship of the line which capsized in 1628 and is now on display in Stockholmmarker. The Vasa is virtually intact while the Mary Rose is an almost perfect longitudinal vertical cross-section, due to marine worms such as the shipworm Teredo navalis destroying the port side above the seabed.

The expertise and facilities developed for the preservation of the Mary Rose has benefited many other archaeological projects. Experts from the Mary Rose Trust helped conserve the Dover Bronze Age Boat and the timbers from Seahenge.


Along with remains of around half the crew, a great number of artefacts were uncovered during excavation, including navigational and medical equipment, carpentry tools, guns, longbow, arrow with traces of copper-rich binding glue still remaining on the tips, cooking and eating utensils, lanterns, backgammon boards, playing dice, logs for the galley's ovens, and even a well-preserved shawm, a long lost predecessor of the oboe, from which a fully functioning model has since been replicated.

Many of the skeletons had the "os acromiale" feature, showing that they had been archery training from childhood on with the mediaeval war bow (which needs a pull 3 times as strong as the modern standard Olympic bow).


These artefacts, and the wreck itself, are displayed at the Mary Rose museum located on the Royal Naval base in Portsmouth, Englandmarker. A £20 million appeal for funds for The Final Voyage - the co-location of the hull of the Mary Rose with her artefacts in a new museum - was launched locally in Portsmouth on the evening of 10 March 2006. Leading local businesses, members of Portsmouth City Council and the Lord Mayor attended presentations in the current museum. Intended to attract 500,000 visitors and opening by 2012 (with spraying of the hull intended to be complete around 2009/10), this new co-located museum will create a world-leading museum in Portsmouth for the Mary Rose and the Tudor Navy, an international centre for maritime archaeology and provide better facilities for education and outreach. This was originally denied a Heritage Lottery Fund grant in 2006.The Mary Rose Ship Hall will be closing its doors on the 20th September 2009, so that construction can begin on the new museum. The current museum will remain open until the new one is complete.

Mary Rose Museum

On 25 January 2008 it was revealed that a secondary appeal for funds to create the new museum had been successful. The Heritage Lottery Fund grant will be used to complete its conservation and build a museum around the vessel. The overall cost of the project will total £20.5m. Over 19,000 artefacts recovered from the ship will be on display at the museum, which is currently a temporary structure.

The Mary Rose is the only 16th-century warship in the world to be recovered and put on display. An earlier project aimed at the construction of a museum to house the Mary Rose involved the architect Christopher Alexander. In 1991 his practice, CES, were commissioned to produce designs for the Museum, at least partly as a result of the patronage of Charles, Prince of Wales. However, the Trust's major sponsor withdrew in 1992, and relations appear to have soured between the Trust and Alexander. The design is documented in a book by Alexander, Black and Tsutsui, The Mary Rose Museum.

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