Reviewed by Katie Allen
It’s been a few years since I last visited Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard and so I was keen to catch up with the developments of the preservation and restoration of the Mary Rose.
We visited on one of the last days of the school summer holidays and I was surprised to see a large queue had already formed outside the main gate waiting for it to open. Once the gates did open this moved quite quickly and after a security bag check we were soon inside.
The dockyard has many sights to see and you can buy a ticket that covers all the attractions which is valid for a year. We, however, were heading for the Mary Rose. Henry the VIIIs ship is housed in a modern, timber clad, elliptical building which has the museum (including the ship) a gift shop and cafe.
We were welcomed in with no queue and were soon face to face with Henry himself. Where else can you get a photo with the King?!
First of all, we were shown the history of the ship and how proud Henry was of it. We were then ushered through to a room showing a brief film depicting the awful moments when it sunk in the Solent. Doors then opened into the main museum showing all the artefacts that were found beneath the sea and, of course, the ship itself.
The museum is extremely well laid out. The rooms are dark with low ceilings reminiscent of being on a ship and there were lots of interactive displays which my 4-year-old and her friends enjoyed using.
On each floor the walkway leads you through the ship and shows you what would have been around you. It’s staggering the number of cannons, shots, shoes and other accessories that were discovered and really brings the ship to life.
Most of the timbers were worn away with the salty sea water and what’s left is the part that sank beneath the silt and mud. It’s hard to fathom that the ship is almost 500 years old when you can clearly see the three decks just across from you.
I especially enjoyed seeing life at sea as told by the different roles of the sailors. We saw the cook’s cauldron on the lower deck and had a go firing a bow with the Archer. We smelt the surgeons jug of menthol and felt how a shot was made.
My daughter especially enjoyed seeing the skeletons of Hatch, the ship’s dog, and the Archer. It was fascinating how they worked out what the Archer looked like just from his bones.
We spent about 90 minutes inside the museum. There’s plenty to see that would keep you occupied for another hour or so and I’d love to come back when my daughter’s older and able to read the exhibits.
The dockyard has cafes, restaurants and food stalls and a covered area for picnickers but we chose to head to the nearby Gunwharf Quays and its restaurants and shops for our lunch.
Parking and traffic can be a problem in Portsmouth especially when it’s good weather so I would recommend using the city’s Park and Ride service. It’s £4 to park all day, the buses are frequent and clean with free wifi and the terminal is just next door to the dockyard. Plus, traveling on a double decker makes the day even more if an adventure.
Tickets: Adult £18 / Child £13
For more information or to book tickets online visit www.maryrose.org.
Mary Rose Museum, No 3 Dock, Main Road, H.M Naval Base, Portsmouth, Hampshire, PO1 3PY