Mary Rose Visit
I have for sometime wanted to visit the Mary Rose which is now housed at the Portsmouth Dockyard in a purpose built museum. On Sunday 15 March 2015, Sarah and I visited the dockyards, in particular the Mary Rose Exhibition, but also the Victory and the Victory Museum.
The Mary Rose Museum is located at the furthest point from the entrance, although a new World War 1 exhibition is due to open in the next year which will be a little further away. The walk is not unreasonable, but those with small children or unable to walk long distances may find it a little of a challenge. I understand there are ‘buggies’ for those who need them, although you would need to confirm this in advance.
On entry to the museum, you pass through the reception and ticket area. Just before you enter the first part of the exhibition, there is a terminal that allows you to look up those that contributed in one way or another to the Mary Rose project. If you enter the name Malcolm, our own Malcolm Storey appears as one of the divers involved.
What to expect
When you leave the reception/ café and shop area and enter the start of the exhibition. There is a replica of a painting of the battle in which the Mary Rose was lost on a large screen taking up the complete wall. This is extremely well done. In front of the painting are terminals that allow you to enlarge specific areas of the painting. In addition, points of interest can be ‘clicked’ on and are then explained in more detail. This first room explains the building, refitting, loss and finding of the Mary Rose.
The exhibition houses the Mary Rose in the centre of the building. At each end you pass through a room housing items from the wreck with explanations. These include not only personal items that belong to the crew, but reconstructions of particular individuals from the crew. There are three floors, housing the exhibition; these mimic three decks of the ship.
From the first room you pass into a corridor. The lighting is intentionally dim. To your right is the hull of the Mary Rose. This is the starboard side of the wreck that was preserved in the silt of the Solent. The corridor is in effect the port side, containing items that would have been on the port side of the wreck.
You enter at the stern on the gun deck. Currently, you can only see the actual Mary Rose through a series of windows. By 2016, once the preservation process has been completed, the wall will be removed and replaced with a glass wall, allowing an uninterrupted view of the wreck.
When you exit the corridor, you enter another exhibition room housing items from the deck you have walked through. From here, you go down a floor to the lower deck, storage and cooking area. Again the room here houses items from the lower deck. From here you enter the corridor, this time you walk from the bow to the stern, on your left the Mary Rose, on your right the items from the port side of the wreck positioned where they would have been on the wreck.
Exiting the corridor, you enter another room with more items from the lower deck area. At this point you have the choice to use the stairs or the lift to go up to the upper deck. I would strongly recommend the lift. Initially I took the stairs, the healthy option. But I was then directed back to the lift. On entering the lift, the doors close and the lights are dimmed; this is so you can look out of the glass wall at the stern and along the length of the wreck, very impressive.
Surveying the Wreck
On third floor the room you enter contains items from upper deck, including officers processions, weapons etc. From here you now enter the corridor at the stern of the wreck, and walk towards the bow. Exiting the corridor you enter the last exhibition room. As you final exit the exhibition, there is a small display on the search and excavation of the wreck.
Either at the end of the year or early next year, the current walls will be removed and replaced with glass. We plan to revisit the exhibition once this is done, it will significantly improve an already impressive exhibition.
The museum is a mixture of modern and old presentation techniques. The view of the wreck itself is currently restricted by the wall, and I can imagine that when busy, it is difficult to find space around the windows (there are a variety of sizes and heights). This will be greatly improved when the new glass wall is fitted.
The three levels of the exhibition mimic the three decks of the wreck; this gives a good feel for the size of the wreck and the height of the decks. As well as the items exhibited behind glass, there are a number of items, or replicas that you can handles, including some of the weapons (or replicas of weapons) recovered from the wreck (bows and pikes). Modern touch screens allow you to select items of interest or sections of the wreck for more information.
There are also a number of video presentations as you walk through the exhibition rooms. The staff are helpful and informative and some are dressed in period costume. I am not sure how ‘child friendly’ the exhibition is. There are a number of other museums and activity areas in the docks which may well suit children better.
You can find more about the museum herehttps://maryrose.org/
The history of diving / finding the wreck is quite interesting.
After the initial sinking, there was an attempt to salvage items from the wreck. In particular the cannon where s significant investment and would have been highly desirable. This initial attempt was unsuccessful.
During the Victorian period, with early diving equipment, the site was dived when investigated to see why fishermen where loosing nets in the area. It was identified as the wreck of the Mary Rose.
This information was later used in the 1960’s when searching for the wreck.
The wreck site initial position was confirmed using a sonar device, once a possible site had been determined it was dived. The interesting thing was that the actual timber was 9 feet below the silt, so those searching for the site had to excavate 9 feet of silt to confirm they where in he correct place, that’s a lot of silt!
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