Posts Tagged ‘Mary Rose’

Mary Rose Museum, Portsmouth

Mary Rose Museum, Portsmouth

In January 1510, Henry VIII signed a warrant for the construction of two new warships. The largest of the two was to be called the Mary Rose. The name was chosen as it had both personal and religious significance. The Mary refers to both Henry’s sister and to the Virgin Mary, patroness of England, whilst the rose symbolises both the Tudor Rose, the family emblem of the Royal family and the mystic rose a symbol of the Virgin Mary.

Model of Mary Rose

Model of Mary Rose

Mary Rose was launched on July 1511 and saw active service in three wars with France. It easy when we think about Tudor warships to imagine that they were like those of the later Napoleonic era, floating gun platforms designed to inflict the maximum amount of damage on an enemy ship at range. But Tudor warships were designed to be a platform for transporting soldiers, the main naval tactics of the day being to come alongside an enemy and bought them and overpower them on their own decks. This can be seen as only five of the guns aboard Mary Rose could be classified as ‘big guns’.

At the battle of the Solent in July 1545, the Mary Rose was effecting a term when suddenly she heeled over to one side and began to sink. There are many accounts of this sinking and of the reasons for it. However, it appears only one of these accounts was actually written by somebody who was on the Mary Rose and survived to tell the tale. According to this report, the lowest set of gum ports on the ship were not closed before the turning manoeuvre was undertaken. In itself, this might not have been a problem but as the ship turned the wind caught her sails and caused her to heel over much more than usual. The open gum ports were now below the water level and water flooded into the deck. This then probably caused a series of other events to occur and the ship was not able to right herself and began to sink. Less than 10% of a crew of 400 made it back to the shore.

Mary Rose lay in the silt of the Solent until 1965 when a group of divers began to search for the wreck. In 1970, they found a gun barrel in the silt. This long gun known as a ‘sling’ was a type of long-range gun which dated from before the end of the 16th century. This gave them a clue that they were in the right area and the following year the first timbers of the ship were found.

The Sling gun found in 1970

The Sling gun found in 1970

After many years of planning and excavation, the remains of the wreck were finally lifted from the seabed in October 1982 and, after works had been carried out put on display at a museum in Portsmouth. The original Mary Rose Museum opened in 1983, has now been replaced by a new museum which opened in May 2013 and enables a much better display the ship itself and the artefacts that were excavated from it.

The ship's structure as it looks today

The ship’s structure as it looks today

A number of musical instruments were found in the wreck of the Mary Rose.

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A boxwood pipe made by the Bassano family. These were a family of Italian musical instrument makers who had relocated to London at the invitation of King Henry VIII

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A Tabor or snare drum which would originally been covered in animal skins.

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A fiddle and bow – It could be played like a violin or a guitar.

A large selection of combs have been recovered from the wreck

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A number of different pairs of shoes and boots were preserved in the wreck.

Here are 2 examples from the exhibition

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The Cooks cabin was next to the galley. In it were found his personal eating implements – a small knife, a spoon, bowls and his stool.

Cooks personal implements

Cooks personal implements

In the galley were a pair of bellows, various equipment for cooking and over 100 wooden plates.

Bellows

Bellows

Grinder Top

Grinder Top

Wooden plates

Wooden plates

The officers probably eat from Pewter plates found in their cabins

Pewter plates and mug

Pewter plates and mug

Items for making up medicines

Items for making up medicines

The Surgeon aboard ship performed operations but was also responsible for the treatment of all forms of disease encountered by the crew. The standard varied considerably and the patient’s chance of survival was very dependent on the knowledge and the skill of the surgeon. Little was understood at this time about the nature of dsease and most treatments, dietary, herbal or blood letting, were applied to adjust the imbalance of the 4 humours which people thought were the cause of most diseases.

Jars and containers found in the Surgeon's cabin

Jars and containers found in the Surgeon’s cabin

A syringe probably used for draining wounds

A syringe probably used for draining wounds

A Urethral syringe used for treating VD with injections of  mercury

A Urethral syringe used for treating VD with injections of mercury

The Mary Rose was originally designed as a platform for soldiers to board another ship. Her original allotment of guns was 78 but of these only 5 were carriage mounted. She was refitted in the mid-1530’s to become much more of a gun platform. After this refit she would carry over 90 guns of which about a third were carriage mounted (Contrast this with HMS Victory where almost all the guns were carriage mounted). The guns were a mixture of types. The bronze cannons were the best and most efficient with the greatest range but these were very expensive, so smaller guns tended to be made in wrought Iron.

Selection of shot from Mary Rose

Selection of shot from Mary Rose

Carriage mounted gun

Carriage mounted gun

Barrel of gun showing inscription indicating that it was commissioned by Henry VIII for the re-fit in the mid 1530s when the number of large guns was increased

Barrel of gun showing inscription indicating that it was commissioned by Henry VIII for the re-fit in the mid 1530s when the number of large guns was increased

The Master Gunner was in charge of all guns, shot and gunpowder on the ship. He was also responsible for training of the gunnery crews. His skeleton was found within the wreckage and could be identified by his clothes and the tools he was carrying. His cabin was identified by his chest which contained the Gunners tools.

The Master Gunners chest

The Master Gunners chest

Among the items found in the chest were a guage for iron shot (14). Using this the shot were checked to ensure that they were the correct size for the cannon. The journal cover (12) and the rings (16) indicate that like the Master Carpenter, the Gunner was an educated man of some wealth.

Items from the Master Gunners cheat

Items from the Master Gunners cheat

One of the amazing things about the Mary Rose excavation was thta as they came across the artefacts they were able to work out exactly whose cabin they were looking at from the nature of the things they found.

The cabin identified as that of the Master Carpenter was the largest one found on the main deck of the ship. Interestingly, it showed signs that at some point in the ship’s life the cabin had been modified to improve the conditions. It was a metre longer than the original cabin and next the window had been cut into the side of the ship to provide more light. Who better than the master carpenter to make such changes to his conditions?

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The occupant of the cabin was identified by a large wooden trunk which was found to contain a large collection of carpenters tools.

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But you also get an insight into the life of the carpenter. He was obviously a skilled craftsman to hold such a post, but at the same time he was obviously quite a wealthy man as a number of fine pewter items were also found in the cabin.

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Amongst the other things found in the cabin was a ‘tables’ board. This is an early version of the game which would subsequently developed into backgammon.

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For the contents of this cabin we can conclude that the master carpenter, was a senior officer on the ship, well rewarded for the level of skilled craftsmanship which was required.

The Mary Rose Bell is one of the few objects excavated, which date from the launch of the ship in 1511. It is made of bronze and is of Flemish origin, coming from a foundery near Antwerp. The inscription on it reads ‘I was made in the year 1510’. It was used on board to ring the passing of time and so to inform the sailors and soldiers of the change of the watch.

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