Most of you reading this should be aware that the Mary Rose was built for Henry VIII, and that’s why he features so heavily in our posters on railway stations across the UK, but what about the crew? Who were they, and why aren’t their names more prominent in the museum?
Sadly we don’t have a crew manifest for the Mary Rose; this appears to have either been a later concept, or the records have simple not survived. However, we do have a few names we can attribute to the crew of the Mary Rose.
The Mary Rose was built between 1510-1511 by a company owned by John Dawtrey, a Southampton-based merchant and landowner, as well as the local tax collector. Crew uniforms of white and green were provided by Richard Palshide of Southampton, the reused guns were repaired by Cornelis Johnson of London, flags, banners and streamers were provided by William Botrys and John Browne, both of London.
The earliest crew names we get are those of her masters John Clerke (September 1511) and Thomas Sperte (October 1511-at least August 1513), and pursers David Boner (October 1511 - January 1512) and John Lawden (November 1511 – January 1512)
The first captain we have a name for is Thomas Wyndham (April-July 1512), who served under the Chief Captain, and Admiral of the Fleet, Sir Edward Howard (April 1512 – May 1513).
After Howard’s death at the Siege of Brest, his brother Thomas Howard took command (May 1513-June 1522), which leads us to getting a long list of crew for May-August 1513, including the Captain Edward Braye, Surgeon Robert Symson and his assistant Henry Yonge, Purser John Brerely, ‘Gunner’ Andrew Fysche, and her Master, still Thomas Sperte.
Edward Braye remained as Captain until February 1514, when he was replaced by Sir Henry Sherburn. In March, Thomas Sperte was replaced as master by John Brown, who remained in the role until at least June 1522. Sperte (sometimes spelled Spert) would later go on to hold the title of Clerk Controller of the King’s Ships, and receive a knighthood!
In 1524 the Mary Rose was out of active service, so the only recorded crew member was the shipkeeper, Fadere Connor.
In 1539, Richard Baker, also known as “Skenthroppe”, Robert Grygges, William Oram and Marmaduke Colman, were recorded as being ‘mariners’ on the Mary Rose, in ordinary in Greenwich, in court documents after they got drunk and attacked a Portuguese merchant vessel (on their own, not with the Mary Rose). What happened to them afterwards, we are unable to tell, but it’s possible they remained on the Mary Rose until she sank.