Information and particularly the pictures used on this page are all copyrighted by the Mary Rose Trust 2000, and have been reproduced here by kind permission for information sharing purposes only. The Isle of Standauffish is not affiliated with the Mary Rose Trust in any way. To visit their site which abounds with information on the Tudor time period please goto;

The Mary Rose Trust

Built between 1509 and 1511 in Portsmouth, Hampshire, the Mary Rose became the flagship of the Navy and was King Henry VIII's favourite warship. While heading for action in 1545, Mary Rose sank in the Solent with a tragic loss of life. She was raised again in 1982 and is now the centre piece of the Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth, England. The Mary Rose was one of two ships ordered to be built by King Henry VIII. The ship was named after King Henry VIII's younger sister, Mary and the Tudor emblem, a rose. The sister ship was called the Peter Pomegranate. 

The Mary Rose by Roger Purkis. Once the ships were completed, they were sailed around the south coast of England and up the River Thames to the Tower of London where they collected their guns and cannons. The Mary Rose was built as a warship to help defend England from France and Scotland. For 34 years she served in the defence of England protecting against invasions from French and Scottish fleets. 

But, on the 19 July 1545, she sank just off Southsea Castle near Portsmouth while King Henry VIII was watching. She was setting sail to defend Portsmouth Harbour from a French invasion fleet. Map of England Crane used to lift the Mary Rose from the seabed in 1982. Between 1545 and 1965 the wreck of the Mary Rose was only discovered once. Victorian divers managed to take some of the artefacts from the wreck site and sell them to antique collectors. It was in 1965 that divers rediscovered the ship on the seabed. 

They surveyed and recorded the ship using tape measures and waterproof cameras. It was not until 1982, 17 years later, that the Mary Rose was raised to the surface of the Solent from the seabed and placed in a dry-dock within Portsmouth Dockyard. The Mary Rose remains the only ship in the world of the Tudor period to be on show to the public.

Princess Mary- painting by Roger Purkis. The Mary Rose was named after Henry's younger sister, Mary, and the Tudor symbol, the Rose.

She was a new type of ship, specially built as a warship. She was armed with heavy bronze and iron guns. Because she was built with the new watertight gunports, she could carry more heavy guns low down in her hull. This helped keep her stable. In Henry's time, ships like the Mary Rose were hi-tech weapon systems. They were as powerful and modern as an aircraft carrier is today. When the Mary Rose was finished she weighed 500 tons and had a crew of 411 men. ~ SOURCE

The Ship's Cannons

The Mary Rose was designed and built to be a warship, she was one of the largest of the "King's Ships". Only twenty of the fifty-three ships in the King's fleet were classified as warships.  Almost anything can be fired as shot from a cannon at another ship. The most common shot used in Tudor times was a type of rock called limestone. Limestone was easy to quarry and was available on the south coast of England. The rock would have been rounded so that it could be fired from a cannon, although sometimes the shot was cast in iron or lead. 

Bronze gun on a wooden carriage. Gunpowder was sent onboard the ship in barrels. It was important that it the gun powder was kept dry otherwise it would not have exploded when the gun or cannon was fired. It was dangerous to have gunpowder on board the ship because it would have exploded if a fire started. This would have destroyed the ship. The Mary Rose was armed with 7 heavy guns on each side of the main deck. When the guns were needed, the waterproof gun ports were opened and secured. The guns were rolled forward so that they pointed out of the ship ready to fire.

A cast bronze culverin (front) and a wrought iron port piece (back), modern reproductions of two of the guns that were on board the Mary Rose when she sank, on display at Fort Nelson near Portsmouth Credit: The Land

Two guns of 16th century style similar to those mounted on Mary Rose. In front is a bronze cast culverin and behind is a wrought iron cannon, a so-called port piece. I believe these guns are modern historical reconstructions made using similar techniques and materials as the originals for research purposes and test firing. They are in Fort Nelson, Hampshire, UK and I took the photo myself in Feb 07. The Land 20:24, 18 February 2007 (UTC)

Archery on Tudor Ships

Archery was a competitive hobby as well as a much needed skill in the Tudor navy. A boy would be given his first longbow at the time of his seventh birthday. He would be required to practice every day until he was skilled at firing an arrow. A document written in 1546, a year after the ship sank records the number of longbows and arrows that should have been found on board the Mary Rose. Of the 250 longbows that were on board when the Mary Rose sank archaeologists found 137 as well as 3500 arrows.Wrist guards were also discovered on the ship. These belonged to the ship's archers. They were made from leather and were fastened with straps to the archer's wrists. Their purpose was to protect the archer from the bowstring as the arrow was fired.

The Mary Rose Museum | Things To Do In Portsmouth


The Mary Rose tells a story from the day she sank to the day she was raised and recovered in 1982. She has also provided archaeologists with many different and unusual artefacts, including guns and cannons, personal possessions, and tools belonging to different trades. There were also many other items of interest.

The study, reproduction and use of these help archaeologists in their attempts to reconstruct the lives of the people who used them in everyday life. The ship has also provided thousands of items to help us understand everyday life on board a Tudor ship of war and given an insight into how the crew carried out their lives and duties on board the ship. 

Personal possessions. Most of the artefacts recovered by archaeologists were left behind in the past accidentally and have only been found by chance. Its is often hard to tell how old artefacts are, but modern technology can sometimes be used to date them. The Mary Rose is special because she gives us information about a known time. The date of her sinking was recorded as 19 July, 1545, more than 450 years ago.

The Mary Rose on the bed of the Solent after she sank. As the ship sank, she settled on her side on the seabed. As the years past, the upper side of the ship was washed away and lost forever by stormy seas. Mud gradually covered the rest of the ship and helped to preserve the wood for hundreds of years. The wreck has provided archaeologists all over the world with evidence of naval history in Tudor times.

Leather jerkin and shoe. Only a small amount of clothing has survived from the Tudor period and what has survived is not generally what was worn by everyday people who worked. As a result of the conditions underwater for 400 years, remains of the clothing found on the Mary Rose has provided a whole range of garments worn by sailors, soldiers and officers on board a ship. The most common type of shoe found on the ship is a slip-on style, although some of the shoes that were found had buckles and straps or laces to fasten them. It is likely that bare feet were common among the crew members. From evidence of clothing found on the Mary Rose, archaeologists cannot create a complete picture of the clothing worn at the time, but can make comparisons and guesses when they study paintings and documents from Tudor times. 

Leather shoes from the Mary Rose. Woollen and knitted items have not survived in complete garments and exist in small pieces. However, one nearly complete woollen jerkin and three woollen hats have been found and conserved. A few fancy buttons and buckles were recovered from the ship. The buckles were made from either iron or brass. The metal buckles are of different sizes and were probably used for belts, shoes and armour.

Ship's Bell. The ships bell was one of the last objects to be raised from the ship before she was lifted in 1982. It was cast from bronze and has an inscription in Dutch, which, when translated into English reads "I have been cast in the year 1510". The bell can be seen in the Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth Dockyard.

See Also:  Raising the Mary Rose
How a sixteenth-century warship was recovered from the seabed

Mary Rose - From Wikipedia

A set of bollock daggers found on board the 16th century carrack Mary Rose, salvaged in 1982.
Some of the bollock daggers found on board the Mary Rose; for most of the daggers, only the handles have remained
while the blades have either rusted away or have been preserved only as concretions. Credit: The Mary Rose Trust

Rigging blocks found on board the carrack Mary Rose.
A small selection of the many rigging blocks raised from the Mary Rose
Credit: The Mary Rose Trust

The Ship's Carpenter and His Tools.

Many different types of tools would have been needed to maintain a ship as big as the Mary Rose. Three cabins were situated on the main deck, one of them belonging to the carpenter. Tools were found all over the ship, but most of them were found inside or near the carpenter's cabin which is situated on the main deck. The tools found included axes, hammers, mallets, planes and rulers. Most of the tools have marks scratched into them and these marks may be an indication of who owned the tools. The most common mark is W. The ship's carpenter would have been responsible for all repairs, but while he was not working on repairs, it is likely that he played a board game called backgammon. A wooden board with markings similar to the modern game was found along with counters also made from wood in the carpenter's cabin.

Building the Mary Rose - painting by Roger Purkis.
In January 1510, Henry authorised 700 to be spent on making two ships, one of 400 and the other of 300 tons. We think that these were the Mary Rose and a slightly smaller ship called the Peter Pomegranate. Other historical documents tell us that money was spent building the Mary Rose in Portsmouth.

In 1511 she sailed to London to be finished and have her guns put in.

A lot of money was spent decorating her with flags and banners. She was going to be the King's flagship, and had to look the part. ~ SOURCE

A set of carpentry tools found on board the carrack Mary Rose.
A mallet, drill handle, plane, ruler, and various other carpentry tools, most of which were
found in chests stowed in one of the main deck cabins. Credit: The Mary Rose Trust

Cooking and Eating Onboard Ship

Peppercorns from the Mary Rose. Information about food on board the Mary Rose was gained by a study of remains and bones recovered during the excavation. Several hundred plum stones found in a wicker basket show that fresh fruit was taken on board and stored. Other food was available to the crew including pork, beef, mutton and fish. The meat was stored on the ship in barrels, whereas the fish was stored in baskets at the stern of the ship. Fish would have been cod and were probably dried and salted to help stop them from going mouldy.

Items used for eating and drinking. Facilities on board the ship were simple because there was not much space in the kitchen. There were two ovens, which were made up of over 4,000 bricks. The ovens would have held two cauldrons, which were used to cook the food for the crew. Dinner would have been a stew made from the meat or fish that was carried on board. The officers would have eaten the stew from pewter plates and bowls, crewmembers from wooden bowls.  Dried bread, or ships' biscuits, would have accompanied the stew meals.

Drinks were served in wooded tankards, although seven pewter tankards, probably belonging to the officers were discovered around the ship.  Forks were not used to eat with on the Mary Rose. No forks were found and only a few spoons were recovered. Fifty-eight knives were found and were used for general purposes as well as eating. Wooden plate and tankard.


The Barber - Surgeon

It was the barber surgeon's job to perform surgery on the crew members if they needed it. He would pull out teeth, stitch cuts, and remove legs and arms if they were badly broken or wounded. There was not much light in the barber surgeon's cabin so surgery may have been carried out elsewhere on the ship, possibly on the open deck. Rats were common on ships and often ruined food that the crew were storing to eat later in their voyage. The bones of a small dog were found in the barber surgeon's cabin. The dog may have been on board to help catch the rats, which were living on the ship.

Fine toothed combs.  The cramped conditions in the living areas of the ship, along with long hair and beards encouraged the spread of head lice and fleas. More than 75 fine toothed combs were recovered from the shipwreck. They would have been used by crew members as they tried to get rid of the insects. The living conditions for the crew members on board the Mary Rose were very poor. There were no washing facilities such as baths and showers and there were no toilets. The crew members would have perched on a plank over the water to go to the toilet. A single pewter chamber potty that was found probably belonged to an officer on board the ship.

Ship Navigation and Instruments

The important facts that need to be collected for the accurate navigation of a ship are the direction, time, distance and the depth of the water under the ship. Modern warships use computers and satellites to help with their navigation around the world. In Tudor times, the navigator would have to be able to recognize coastlines using his eyes only. Recognizing land features such as harbours, beaches, buildings and castles would inform him of the ships whereabouts. The Mary Rose was equipped with the latest Tudor navigation equipment, a magnetic compass to indicate which direction she was sailing. A sounding line, which is a piece of string with a lead weight at the end of it, was used to gauge the depth of the water. The lead weight would have been thrown overboard into the sea and then the depth calculated by marks already made on the string and a log reel. 

Navigation equipment and pocket sundial. Another piece of equipment used for navigation was a device called the log-reel. This was a piece of string with knots tied at even distances along it. The knotted string was wrapped around a large wooden reel with the loose end tied to a piece of wood called the "chip". When the navigator wanted to know the speed of the ship, he would throw the chip overboard into the water and the knotted line would reel out after it. The number of knots would be counted and timed by a sandglass. The number of knots that went into the water after the chip in a given time would show the speed of the ship in knots.  Navigation equipment used on board and recovered by archaeologists from the wreck are three compasses, two pairs of dividers, a log reel, parts of at least four sandglasses and a pine board, which may have been used for recording or planning a route. 

The Mary Rose Trust
College Rd, HM Naval Base
Portsmouth, PO1 3LX, Great Britain.

The Mary Rose is the only 16th century warship on display anywhere in the world. Built between 1509 and 1511, she was one of the first ships able to fire a broadside, and was a firm favourite of King Henry VIII. After a long and successful career, she sank accidentally during an engagement with the French fleet in 1545. Her rediscovery and raising were seminal events in the history of nautical archaeology.

The Mary Rose Trust has raised the original ship and now has a museum of artefacts, as well as a gift shop of reproductions etc. Their main website is an excellent source of information about the life and times of Henry VIII as well as the ship itself. Visit them at and check it out

 Key Stage 2 Learning Resources for children

The Learning City is a unique Key Stage 2 History resource. This unit is based on life aboard the Mary Rose. Suitable for ages 7-11. Even if you're not studying history, there are some great pictures on this part of the site. Now with 3D Model preview!

Jessica's Key Stage 2 Pages Excellent introduction to the Mary Rose for Key Stage 2 students. 

Message from the Curator

From September 1998 until February 1999, new sections covering aspects of Tudor life, history, the ship, and the artefacts recovered from her will be added to this site. This is a joint project between the Mary Rose Trust, Portsmouth Council Education Authority, local schools and Portsmouth University. We hope you will enjoy it and find it useful.

Stuart Vine, Curator
The Mary Rose Trust

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The Above information and particularly the pictures used on this page are all  copyrighted by the Mary Rose Trust  2000, and have been reproduced here by kind permission for information sharing purposes only. The Isle of Standauffish is not affiliated with the Mary Rose Trust in any way. To visit their site which abounds with information on the Tudor time period please go to;

The Mary Rose Trust