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The Mary Rose 25th Anniversary

You are in: Hampshire > History > Local History > The Mary Rose 25th Anniversary > The Mary Rose - 25th Anniversary

The Mary Rose lifted out of the Solent

The Mary Rose lifted out of the Solent

The Mary Rose - 25th Anniversary

A quarter of a century ago, the country held its breath as King Henry VIII's flagship emerged from the waters of the Solent. The 25th anniversary is bringing back memories of the moment which captivated the nation.

The Solent had never seen anything like it. A flotilla of small boats had set sail. Sixty million people around the world sat glued to their TV screens.

Watching history

On 11 October 1982, millions of people were watching history in the making. Henry VIII's flagship Mary Rose was about to break the surface after 437 years at the bottom of the sea.

It was the most ambitious maritime archaeological project ever undertaken, and the £4 million pound salvage operation had been beset with technical trouble.

Raising the ship was a feat of engineering

Raising the ship was a feat of engineering

Postponed twice, the lift finally got underway on 11 October 1982. The great Tudor warship began her 50 foot journey up from the sea bed at 7am.

At 10.05am the first jagged edges of timber appeared. A cannon boomed from the ramparts of Southsea Castle to signal the historic moment.

Archaeological Director Margaret Rule said it was the culmination of a "dream that had gripped the imagination of the world".

The wreck emerged inch-by-inch, suspended underneath a huge yellow lifting frame in a specially crafted air-cushioned cradle.

Heart-stopping moments

Then, just before midday, one of the pins holding the lifting frame sheared. A steel line snapped and part of the 80 tonne frame smashed down on the hull.

Work to preserve the timbers

Work to preserve the timbers

For a few heart-stopping moments it seemed as though the ship was about to vanish back beneath the waves, but the cradle held.

Prince Charles, President of the Mary Rose Trust, and a seasoned diver at the wreck spoke of his shock:

"I was slightly horrified but I thought the best thing to do was to be British and not panic."

The damage was slight, but further mishaps meant the wreck wasn't safely installed on its transport barge until three o'clock.

Then it was taken slowly into Portsmouth Historic Dockyard where preservation work continues to this day.

The anchor was raised in 2005

The anchor was raised in 2005

It's still a major tourist attraction, and can be seen in dry dock along with thousands of items rescued from the sea bed, from weapons to clothes and even a backgammon set. 

Alex Hildred was one of the first to dive on the Mary Rose. She said:

"The biggest shock when she came to the surface was just how big she was. It was half of a ship! The immensity of it really struck me. We had been underwater working in 3m compartments and it was very difficult to link them together mentally to build up a picture of the wreck."

On October 11 2005 one of Mary Rose's huge anchors was raised from the sea bed - 23 years after the main hull was lifted.

Historic ship

Launched in 1510, the Mary Rose sank on its way to engage the French enemy fleet off Portsmouth Sound in 1545.

Artefacts recovered from the Mary Rose

Artefacts recovered from the Mary Rose

Historians believe her sinking was the result of a handling error, although at the time the French assumed it was their cannons. Four to five hundred men perished. 

The Mary Rose is unique as a transitional ship between medieval "floating castles" and galleons of Elizabeth I.

The wreck was rediscovered in 1967 by Hayling Island historian Alexander McKee. He led a team of volunteer divers who worked in difficult and often dangerous conditions, 50 feet below the surface.

This team began the excavation, with much of the ship buried below another 10 feet of mud and sand.

Alexander Mckee

Alexander McKee

Alexander McKee died in 1992, but his wife Isla still remembers her husband's boundless enthusiasm:

"Our house on Hayling Island used to be full of charts, they were all over the place. I used to go out on the boat with the volunteer divers. I would mark down the name of each diver in a book, along with a note of the colour of the rope which they were attached to.

"Then I would time them, and when it was time to come up I would pull on the right colour! In those days timing was critical. They didn't have the specialist equipment they have today  so we had to be even more careful about the bends. 

"They tried to dive at low tide as that would make such a difference to the depth they could dive to. At low tide they could get much further into the wreck than high tide!
They carried out years of diving exploration before it finally made the news."

Your memories

Tell us your memories of the raising of The Mary Rose - did you watch from the shoreline or on television at home or at school?  Or were you involved in the lifting operation?

Send your pictures and memories to BBC South, 10 Havelock Road, Southampton, SO14 7PW or email

last updated: 05/03/2008 at 12:47
created: 18/09/2007

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