King Henry VIII’s Favourite Warship


This morning Jackie drove me to New Milton for a visit to the bank, and back to Milford on Sea where we voted in the general election.

Three days of strong winds had wrought their usual havoc on the garden. After lunch we tied up and dead-headed roses; gathered broken branches and taller plants; and generally tidied up. The big beast has also returned, so Jackie blocked up the newest hole under the fence. All this came to a halt when heavy rain drove us inside.

I then worked on representing the tour of the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard that was our last family adventure before Sam, Holly, Malachi, and Orlaith set off for France.

H.M.S. Warrior 1H.M.S. Warrior 2H.M.S. Warrior 3

On the approach to the waterfront, H.M.S. WarriorΒ comes into view. This vessel is a mere youngster compared with our main target of the afternoon.

Nelson Figurehead

We were advised that we would have insufficient time to view the two main attractions. Despite the figurehead of Lord Nelson from H.M.S. Trafalgar (1841) watching over

H.M.S Victory 1H.M.S. Victory 2H.M.S. Victory 3

H.M.S. Victory, the latter vessel was the one we decided to forego.

Sam, Holly, Jackie, Malachi and Orlaith at H.M.S. Victory 2Sam, Holly, Jackie, Malachi and Orlaith at H.M.S. Victory

We did, however, marvel at what we could see without going on board. Orlaith, sporting her new red plaster cast, perches on Sam’s shoulders, while Malachi, Holly, and Jackie stand beside them.

On 19th July 1545, 465 crew members from a complement of 500 drowned in The Solent. They were on board the Mary Rose which, after 34 years of active service, and just having fought off the French invasion fleet, sank with frightening rapidity and with no apparent cause. After years of searching, the wreck was discovered in 1971 and finally raised in 1982. Not until 2016 was the careful preservation work completed.

The museum we visited, by keeping the lighting low, discouraging flash photography, and with carefully controlled air conditioning, provides us with a wonderful experience of what life was like on board. One of the attendants told me that, on the upper levels, at that very moment engineers were working to revive the air conditioning that had developed a fault. I imagine the little modern gadgets visible in some of the cabinets must be monitors of some kind.

Mary Rose model

Suspended on the upper level hangs a model of the ship with an invitation to visitors to draw it. Almost everything else has been brought to the surface from the silt of The Solent.

Deck skeleton 1Deck skeleton 5Deck skeleton 6Deck skeleton 4Deck skeleton 3Deck skeleton 2

What has been revealed of the original vessel is essentially a cross-section preserved by the mud and silt as it lay on its side. There are nine viewing galleries from which visitors may gaze upon skeletal decks first assembled almost 500 years ago. The first of these deck pictures shows scenes of sailors screened on the boards; in the background of the last are visitors looking down from various other levels.

King Henry VIII waxwork

We are greeted at the entrance by a very lifelike waxwork of the monarch himself.

Mary Rose emblem

The first exhibit is a wooden emblem of a Tudor rose, still decipherable after half a millennium beneath the sea.

Cannon 1Cannon and cannonballs

A number of cannons and cannon balls are displayed as if piercing the decks to fire on the enemy.

Surgeon's equipment 1

A number of cabinets are dedicated to the barber surgeon, that essential crew member. We see his cabin furnishings,

Surgeon's equipment 3Surgeon's equipment 4

and various items of equipment.

Bricks etc

Bricks and a galvanised bath lie in a heap.

Dog skeleton and backgammon set

The skeleton of a dog and a backgammon board give a good touch of ordinary life.

Archer waxwork

Another waxwork is of an archer

Archer's outfit

remains of whose outfit lie in one cabinet,


and whose bows


and arrows appear in others.

Pulling a bow

This sturdy-looking gentleman trying out his pulling power blanched a bit when I asked him to repeat the effort for the camera. His arms were aching from his first two attempts.

Pikes and bills

Other weapons are the pikes and bills used to repel boarders.


A brick fireplace

Barrel etcBarrels etcBarrels etc 2Chopping block etcCook's belongingsBasket

Dishes etc 2

Dishes etc 1

Shoes etc

was essential for the cook whose barrels, jugs, dishes, and other utensils were near at hand.

Rigging 1Rigging 2

Many items of rigging were recovered,

Crow's nest

as was the crow’s nest.

This is unlikely to be our only visit.

This evening, back in the 21st century, Jackie and I finished off the last of the Chinese takeaway meal.




  1. Have you see the Vasa in Stockholm – it’s the Mary Rose equivalent – indeed what they learnt on the Vasa allowed them to raise the Mary Rose so successfully. Wonderful aren’t they?

  2. How I’d love to see this, and Admiral Nelson’s ‘Victory’ of course,but it will never happen now! πŸ™

    The Royal Navy never had ships doctors, always Ships surgeons; and their ships never have a crew; they always have a ‘ships company’ or ‘ships complement’;

    I’d love to have been a volunteer guide at Portsmouth, so much more than our ANMM.

  3. That’s an exhibit I’d love to see. One of LaSalle’s ships, the Belle, was pulled out of the waters of Texas’s Matagorda Bay some years ago, and watching the restoration process was fabulous. It’s amazing what can be done. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  4. I enjoyed both shipping vessels, Derrick. The HMS Warrior looked more beautiful while the HMS Victory was almost like a Disney movie ship, with colorful, painted details.
    The barber’s tools and the artifacts were fascinating. I had not heard of the sinking of the Mary Rose ship. This was a sad part of the post. Take it easy, Derrick and Jackie! xo

  5. Those are excellent images, perfectly framed and exposed. You have resurrected the Marry Rose vividly. Your poetic vision has lingered on little things that made up life on the ill-fated vessel.

  6. I would LOVE to visit that! Read all about it recently, in one of my Tudors stories. Didn’t think there was anything to see at the exhibition though. Seems I was wrong.

  7. Thanks for documenting the visit, Derrick. Wonderful photos. I remember reading about some of this recovery and restoration, but I didn’t realize there was a whole museum devoted to the Mary Rose. When I’ve toured old ships, I’m always amazed at how many people fit and lived in them for long journeys–along with the cargos and livestock.

  8. Wow! That is some museum.I won’t tell you who Henry VIII reminds me of—especially the expression on his face πŸ˜‰

      1. Glad to oblige. The person I have in mind looms very, very large here. Sigh.

  9. My Grandmother had two pikes from HMS Victory in her drawing room. Heaven knows where she acquired them or how, I never thought to ask – they were just part of Granny’s house. When she died we gave them back to the ship. It seemed the right thing to do.

  10. We had a great time in Portsmouth back around 2000. We were able to do a water tour of all the naval vessels in port. I thought at the time it was a strange security risk. Surely they must have stopped that now. Bill dropped his cap in the water. If a tattered red one marked Australian Quarantine Inspection Service washes up, it’s his:-) One theory about the Mary Rose was that she had dignitaries, wives and relatives on board who were sailing to a drop off point before the ship went on to its regular duties. They all rushed to one side of the ship to look at a view of their home and over she went … stability was affected on account of having extra decks installed to take more gun placements. Or I may have confused that with another vessel altogether. Anyway, even cargo ships can capsize if the cargo is not taken off in the correct order, so it is a plausible theory if it holds up to basic substantiation.

    1. Many thanks, Gwen. As a working naval dockyard, signs tell us that armed police are patrolling. We didn’t see any. As for the explanation, we have heard that one too, but I think that if were it true some of their belongings would have been found.

  11. We visited around 20 years ago. It looks like they;ve made a lot of improvements. We always said we’d go back but have never quite made it.

    This was nearly as good as being there.

      1. I will put it on the list – we only managed Victory and Mary Rose last time. When I mention spending several days there Julia tends to sigh and roll her eyes. πŸ™‚

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