English warship, built for Henry VIII of England, which sank off Southsea, Hampshire, on 19 July 1545, with the loss of most of the 700 on board. The wreck was located in 1971, and raised for preservation in dry dock in Portsmouth harbour (where it had originally been built) in 1982. Preserved in the accumulated silt were over 19,000 objects, including leather and silk items, a unique record of Tudor warfare and daily life. The cause of the disaster is not certain, but the lower gun ports were open after firing, and that, combined with overcrowding, may have caused the sinking.
Description The Mary Rose was built 1509–1511 and modified several times. One of Henry VIII's larger warships, it had a displacement of 715 tonnes/700 tons, following an enlargement in 1536, when a lower deck of guns was added. It had a crew of 415, although it would in battle carry additional marines to carry out hand-to-hand fighting, and was 38.5 m/126 ft 4 in long. It was built of oak, with an elm keel, and was square-rigged and had four masts. There were three main decks and two ‘castle decks’ above deck level at each end of the ship. One of the earliest ships designed to carry heavy guns, it was armed with 39 guns, both breech-loading and muzzle-loading, although in keeping with the pattern of warfare at the time, it also carried smaller swivel guns, and was carrying 127 longbows and over 3,500 arrows; these were for hand-to-hand fighting one shipshad come alongside each other.
Rediscovery and preservation The wreck was lying in 14 m of water, and over 600 volunteer divers assisted in excavating the find. To prevent the wreck from drying out and crumbling it is sprayed continuously with cold water. In 1994 work began on coating the timber with waxy polymers to preserve it and enable controlled drying, a process estimated to require 15–20 years to complete before the hull can be allowed to dry.