Launched in 1511, the Mary Rose was intended to be the flagship of King Henry VIII’s fleet. She was a new breed of warship with purpose-built gun-ports that made her a fearsome floating fortress. But on 19 July 1545, for reasons still unknown, she sank in the Solent whilst leading 60 ships against the French. Here she stayed until 11 October 1982, when 60 million people worldwide watched the wreck being raised live on television.
Placed in a carefully environmentally controlled hall – with the temperature kept below 5° and humidity at 95% – the Mary Rose was sprayed with chilled water to prevent the timber drying out, and to control levels of fungi and bacteria For the next 30 years she was subject to a pioneering conservation project – as described in CA 272.
The Mary Rose is a historic household name – but did you know these 10 facts about her?
1.What’s in a name?
The second part of the flagship’s name is believed to refer to the Tudor rose, emblem of Henry VIII’s house. Mary could refer to the Virgin, but it is more commonly seen as a reference to Henry VIII’s sister.
3. A Tudor tragedy
There may have been up to 700 men on board the Mary Rose when she sank, of which fewer than 40 survived. Most of the skeletons recovered by archaeologists were of young men in their twenties, with an average height of 5 foot 7 inches.
Two metal syringes were among the artefacts recovered from the wreck. The larger is thought to have been used to treat constipation, whilst the smaller was a urethral syringe for the treatment of gonorrhoea and bladder stones.
5. Mystery mittens
Two left-handed leather mittens were found stored inside the same chest – the only examples of handwear recovered from the Mary Rose. Their exact purpose is unclear, but they may have been worn by archers for protection when firing flaming arrows.
6. Ship’s rations
Archaeologists have found plenty of evidence of what would have been eaten on the Mary Rose. Nine barrels contained bones from fully-grown cattle, their carcasses halved and cut into joints. Numerous pig bones were also recovered, as well as fish mainly North Sea cod, many measuring over 1m in length – stored in baskets in the stern. Plum or prune stones, together with pea pods, and even peppercorns have been found in various areas of the ship.
7. Animals aboard
In the doorway of the carpenter’s cabin, investigators found the almost complete skeleton of a small dog aged between 18 months and two years old. The skeletons of a rat and a frog have also been discovered in the wreck.
8. Makers’ marks
Of the guns recovered from the wreck, one – measuring 3.3m in length and made of bronze – is inscribed with the names of the brothers who made it: John and Robert Owen. Only 5 of the Owen brother’s guns are known to survive today. The inscription reads ‘ROBERT AND JOHN OWYN BRETHERYN BORNE IN THE CYTE OF LONDON THE SONNES OF AN INGLISH MADE THYS BASTARD ANNO DNI 1537’ (the term ‘bastard’ here refers to the non-standard design of the gun).
9. Diving with the Deanes
Between 1836 and 1840, Charles and John Deane – pioneering diving engineers and inventors of the diving helmet – recovered several guns from the Mary Rose. Like those found in the 20th century investigation, all were loaded and ready to fire.
10. Time trials
There were 27,831 dives made to the Mary Rose during the modern excavation project, equating to 22,710 hours on the seabed. Now that’s dedication!
Compiled by Roseanna Cawthorne
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