The Mary Rose: 1511-1545

There’s a common misconception that the Mary Rose sank on her maiden voyage. 

In fact, she was a successful warship for Henry VIII  for 34 years: almost the entire duration of his reign.

Life on BoardThe sinking of the Mary Rose
In reserve & refitted (1522 - 1536)

The Mary Rose was kept in reserve from 1522 to 1535 . Despite the ever-present threat of war, particularly from Scotland, the years were quiet ones for the Mary Rose; as a large ship, she wasn’t that economical to operate. In 1527 she was caulked and repaired in a new dock at Portsmouth.

Although there is little surviving documentary evidence, it seems that the Mary Rose was reinforced and refitted on the Thames around 1535-36. This was at the same period that Henry VIII was dissolving the monasteries, which brought him much-needed revenue that may have funded this work.

No one knows exactly what changes were made to the Mary Rose, but we know that extra bracing was fitted to the interior structure of the ship, suggesting that she was expected to carry greater weight than before. It’s also believed that extra gunports were cut, and has even been speculated that extra gun decks were added to the fore and stern castles .

Salvage attempts

After the Battle of the Solent, a number of attempts were made to salvage the ship. Venetian salvage operators were hired to undertake the work, and on the 1st August it was reported that "By Monday or Tuesday the Mary Rose shall be weighed up and saved."

However, this confidence was premature. They failed in lifting the ship, and weren’t able to shift her into shallow ground either. Despite all the strenuous efforts, the Mary Rose remained stuck fast on the seabed, and eventually all attempts at salvage were abandoned.

Eventually, the Mary Rose embedded herself deeply in the soft upper sediments of the seabed, resting on the hard clay below. For centuries she lay on her starboard side at an angle of around 60 degrees, and acted as a silt trap for the Solent currents.

The surviving portion of the ship had filled up rapidly, leaving her port side exposed to the currents and marine organisms. Sometime during the 17th and 18th centuries the entire site was covered with a layer of hard grey clay, which sealed it off from further erosion.

In 1836, pioneer divers John and Charles Deane discovered the site of the wreck and recovered a bronze demi cannon gun probably made at a foundry at Salisbury Place, London. After several guns and other objects were recovered, the site was reportedly destroyed, and the Mary Rose was lost once more.