In a nutshell
In 1545 the Mary Rose, the pride of Henry VIII’s naval fleet, sank in the Solent during a battle with the French, with the loss of hundreds of men. Since her dramatic recovery 35 years ago – she was raised on 11 October 1982 in a £4m operation – the ship has mostly been shrouded in vapour and plastic pipes. But the latest incarnation of this brilliantly immersive museum, reopened in July 2016 after a multi-million pound investment, allows visitors to get closer to this Tudor warship than ever before.
Most of the sailors on board carried wooden or ivory combs, not just to tidy their hair, but also to remove nits and fleas.
Best thing about it
The collection of artefacts rescued from the sea floor is extraordinary. There are thousands on display, from longbows and two-tonne guns to personal items such as wooden bowls, engraved pewter mugs, bone dice and musical instruments, all giving an insight into who the officers and crew were, what they ate, how they amused themselves and how they went to war. Just as fascinating is the story of how the wreck was discovered and subsequently raised and preserved for future generations.
My daughter loved the forensic reconstructions of how some of the crew looked. The highlight for me was finally going through sliding air lock doors on the upper deck to “breathe the same air” as the Mary Rose herself. It was spine-tingling.
Take the kids to … HMS Victory, Portsmouth
What about lunch?
The museum cafe serves a small selection of drinks, freshly-made sausage rolls (£3.95) and sandwiches (from £4.25). Cakes start at £2. Boathouse No7 around the corner has a kids box selection (£4.50) as well as hot meals, from soup (£4.95) to wood-fired pizza and Nasi Goreng roast chicken (£10.95). Alternatively, enjoy a picnic outside beside Nelson’s HMS Victory.
Exit through the gift shop?
The shop is beside the exit with all manner of Mary Rose and Tudor-themed toys, books and gifts. Prices range from 60p for pocket-money toys through to a Mary Rose model kit for £285. My daughter thought the chocolate Mary Rose rat droppings (£2.50) were hilarious. Hatch’s tour activity book (£2) is worth getting for the kids as you enter the museum.
The museum is part of the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard complex. Entry is through Victory Gate at the corner of Queen Street and The Hard. South West Trains runs regular services to Portsmouth Harbour from London Waterloo and Southampton Central (you can save up to £11.05 on the gate price if you buy your train and entry tickets together). By car, follow brown signs to Historic Dockyard from the M27. The main car park is 350 metres from the entrance to the dockyard.
Value for money?
A little pricey, but we spent several hours here and the ticket is valid for a year (only valid for one day though if you buy the combined train/entry ticket). Entry is £18 adult, £13 child, family tickets £37.60 (1 + 3 children) or £49.60 (2 + 3). An “all attraction” ticket, valid for one year’s unlimited entry to all 11 attractions under the umbrella of the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, is good value: adult £28, child £12, family £48 or £64.
Daily from 10am to 5pm from November to March (last admission 4.15pm), and to 5.30pm (last entry 4.45pm) April to October. Closed 24-26 December.
9/10. We loved it.
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