In July 1545, Henry VIII’s flagship, the Mary Rose, sank during the Battle of the Solent just outside Portsmouth Harbour, with the loss of 500 men. The puzzle as to why the ship got into difficulty so quickly on a relatively calm day and away from the immediate theatre of battle has fascinated people down the centuries. In 1982, a significant part of the ship’s hull was raised from the seabed and is now on display at the purpose-built Mary Rose Museum.

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However, significant evidence for why the ship sank likely remains on the sea bed. In 2005, maritime archaeologists discovered and raised the bow stem of the ship, while preparing for new aircraft carriers arriving at Portsmouth. Parts of the ship’s heavily fortified bow or forecastle were also discovered, and these remain on the seabed protected by silt. 

What might we still learn about this important moment in ship design history? In a follow on piece from a recent story, Designing the Vessels of Empire, guest storyteller, Dr Hugh Owen, presents his thoughts on raising the bow of the Mary Rose.

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