GIFTED REVIEW ♿ The Mary Rose Museum, Portsmouth

Lucy sat infront of a statue of Henry VIII she is in her wheelchair wearing a red coat

Not many people know that I absolutely adore history. It’s probably a cliche to say I also loved the Kings and Queens of England, the most, but in reality, History as a topic fascinates me, I love to watch any documentary, listening to podcasts and devour books about history and historical figures. Perhaps it’s because history is partly unsolved, the fact we have dates and evidence of what happened, but there are aspects of things that happened in history that we as the technical savvy google devouring world will never truly know.

Tudor history, the stuff that you cut your humanities education teeth on, was what really captivated me and has been a favourite of mine ever since primary school. As a kid, I vividly remember my first trip to the Tower of London, aged 10, buying ‘The Kings and Queens of England from the gift shop,’ I read it so much that the book fell apart! 

It was in that book I read about The Mary Rose, Henry VIII beloved warship that sank in the Solent in 1545 and was recovered in 1984, after decades of research and excavation lead by Alexander Mackee by The ship was raised along with 19,000 artefacts and pieces of timber were raised along with remains of about half the crew members. 

The ship and it’s contents have been perfectly preserved thanks to the muddy bed of the Solent in a purpose-built museum in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

I was so excited to be gifted the chance to visit, as the Museum sounded so exciting to me, so my parents and I, who sat in the back of the car eating Sherbet Lemons constantly, getting increasing excited, drove down to Portsmouth for the weekend, on what turned out to be our last trip before the coronavirus lockdown came into force.

I reviewed our trip for the blog.

Lucy and her Dad in the Dockyard

The Mary Rose Museum is situated in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard 500 metres from the entrance when you hear the words ‘Historic’ and you are in a wheelchair you know it’s going to be questionable access, there is a considerable walk up to the museum over cobble-stones. 

Lucy and her Dad stood in front of a ships figure head for HMS Ben Bow  at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

They aren’t impossible to get over, but it’s a bit it is a bit uncomfortable and I did need some help to manoeuvre over them, For those visitors who find Cobbles impossible, there is free a Buggy service, that can pick you up from the entrance and take you to the Museum, you don’t have to prebook this and is available from the visitors centre near the Dockyard entrance.

 as you approach the Museum, HMS Victory is moored close by meaning that if you have to queue to get in, you can look at the fabulous sight of Lord Nelson’s Ship… Such a fantastic piece of history so close!

Lucy and her Dad stood in the Dockyard with HMS Victory behind them

The Museum building looks very modern and sleek, and yet doesn’t look like an eyesore in a location that is steeped in so much Naval History, and once inside the foyer of the building, it’s light airy and spacious. It flows easily any way-finding is very easy, The Building has recently undergone a renovation and the team at the Mary Rose consulted with disabled people to make sure that the building best caters for those with additional needs, the care and consideration in the museum really show throughout.

Personally I judge the access of an attraction on how much of it I can explore of it independently, there is nothing more empowering than wondering off around a museum on a little adventure, taking as long as you like to look at the artefacts without others rushing me, wondering if I am going to get stuck somewhere or worse knock over a precious, rare vase

Thanks to entire step-free access at The Mary Rose, you can easily get around the entire museum on your own, something which I’ve never been able to do before. The museum is set over three floors, all of which can be accessed via a spacious glass-walled lift, meaning you can admire the wreck of the Mary Rose as you travel between floors, the lights in the lift go out as the life ascends and descends, giving you chance to see just how remarkable the wreck is.

The Mary rose is dimly lit in the dark

The lift may benefit from having an audio description inside the lift to help visitors who have a visual impairment experience the view from the lift as this is the first time you get a glimpse of the ship.

Over 19,000 artefacts were discovered onboard and these make up the other half of the museum, they are displayed in glass cases that I could easily view without having to fight for position and the information displayed next to items was informative a clear and all information and guides are available in large print formats.

It is so astonishing that the items are so well preserved, so much so you can see the wear and tear that the items gained during 1545. It really is incredible. You can even see the engraved ‘H’ on items that stand for Henry.

The Anchor of the Mary Rose lies on a grey floor, wooden pieces of the ship can be seen to the left of the anchor

Facial reconstructions from the skeletons found on the ship, again help to bring the human stories to the facts figures and items you see, there are lots of videos and interactive activities and sensory resources, including tactile plans and painting of the ship. Visitors are also welcome to handle certain artefacts, both historical objects, and replicas

The Mary Rose was pulled from the Solent in 1984 and spent many years after that constantly kept damp in an attempt to preserve it, it was eventually sprayed with wax and the Museum keeps the wreckage on an airtight floor level behind automatic doors.

The first time you see the ship, that close it’s really quite something, as a history nerd it really made the hairs on my arms stand up on end, I found it quite emotional as I thought about the crewmen who went down with the vessel. 

The wreck of The Mary Rose as seen from the lift, is lit by white and blue lights

The light levels in the museum are kept low for conservation purposes, but if you require assistance issues, a member of staff will help you with your journey.

A soundtrack of Ocean waves plays as you walk throw the areas where you are close to the ship and projections of actors dressed in period clothing, working on the are projected onto where the deck and cabins would have been. You really feel involved in the story, as if you are on the ship.  I was completely engrossed in what I was experiencing and the information film projected on the wall behind the ship really helped you to live it.

Where elements of items are missing, the Museum hasn’t replaced the missing pieces with plastic replicas, but have instead incorporated a clear plastic that replicates the item, letting your imagination fill in the blank while being respectful to the artefact.

The Mary Rose Museum seems to be really committed to accessibility, holding Special “Relaxed Opening” mornings are held every month, hands-on experiences for visitors, given by fully experienced and trained member of Staff, audio loops, subtitles, and transcripts are available in exhibition spaces and the museum has a fully accessible toilet with adult changing facilities, including a hoist and adjustable table.

I am often put off by Museums, some are in pokey old buildings that are exempt from making adjustments and if I can get in it can be sometimes difficult to explore without causing a scene or mass logistical panic. 

Mary Rose Museum has been well thought out at every stage and as a result, I was allowed to be a complete history nerd and enjoy my hobby like anyone else. It’s one of the best museums I’ve ever visited.   If to too are a history lover, I recommend a trip to Portsmouth and The Mary Rose Museum to your to-do list after Lockdown.

To find out more about The Mary Rose Museum and plan your trip, visit https://maryrose.org/ and get 20% off your ticket price when you book online.

This experience was gifted to me, by the Mary Rose Museum in exchange for this review.

One thought on “GIFTED REVIEW ♿ The Mary Rose Museum, Portsmouth

  1. Excellent review of the museum, and clearly a passion project for Lucy. I remember seeing the Mary Rose being raised and Blue Peter talking all about it.

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