Wednesday, June 25, 2014


MAY 11TH 2014
On May the 11th our ship sailed into the port of Southampton, England, after the 14 night passage from Fort Lauderdale. We were about to embark on a two week tour of southwest England, with emphasis on gardens and National Trust properties. Being so close to Portsmouth it was a wonderful opportunity to go and see Henry VIII's flagship the Mary Rose, at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. I purchased the tickets on line, before we left, for fear that Sunday would be a very busy day.
Built in 1510 the Mary Rose sank on 19th July 1545 at the Battle of the Solent against the French. We were about to learn the story of her retrieval from the mud of the Solent and the subsequent treatment, still ongoing, to preserve her.

When she sank she came to rest at a 60° angle on her starboard side. Silt began to gather around the structure protecting that part of the ship from rot and decay. Later the remaining part of the ship was filled with heavy grey clay. There it lay until 1982 when it was raised from the bottom using a giant cradle. It was constantly sprayed with fresh water until 1994 when the water was exchanged for polyethylene glycol. In 2004 the concentration of the solution was increased to form a waxy coating. In 2013 they began to dry out the timbers.

As we made our way along the corridor which runs alongside the drying room, housing the ship, peep holes allowed us to view the drying process. Unfortunately it was impossible to get a full shot of the ship. I can't begin to describe what it is like seeing the remains of a ship that sank over 500 years ago and to learn the story of its retrieval. We were soon to see some of the over 19,000 artifacts that the silts of the Solent protected from decay. An amazing insight into Tudor life.

On board the day the ship sank were 185 soldiers, 200 mariners and 30 gunners. Of those only 25-30 survived. There is no written account of how the ship sank and various theories have been put forward. We likely will never know. But the treasure that that ship held is beyond belief. And I don't mean gold. They have found the remains of 45% of the ships crew. Many times they are able to tell from the position they were found and from deformities of their skeleton what their job was on the ship.

We know the job of this little guy. He was a ratter and was found just outside the Master carpenter's cabin. It is interesting that although we think of cats as catching rats it actually takes an animal with a much stronger jaw to kill a rat. Furthermore, it is unlikely there were cats on the ship because of their association with witches and also that cats had been banned in much of Europe.

Room after room held cases of preserved artifacts.

Imagine wicker surviving for so many years.

The English longbow. Over 137 longbow and 3850 arrows were found along with the skeletons of the men who used the bows.

The display cases were filled with artifacts but low light levels made it difficult to capture. You can view the Image Gallery here. I can only add that if you have any interest in British history and the opportunity to visit England, then a visit to the see the Mary Rose is a must.

It was good to get out in the fresh air and light again but we were about to enter another ship. Nelson's flagship, HMS Victory.

We will need to duck our heads as we explore.

It was at the Battle of Trafalgar on October 21st 1805 that Nelson sent a message to his fleet using flags. The message-"England expects that everyman will do his duty"

Nelson's bed

Rows of leather buckets

At the height of the fighting Nelson was on the deck when he took a musket ball in the shoulder. The ball smashed into this lower back causing massive bleeding and paralysis. He died some hours later.

The barrel in which Nelson's body was stored before return to England
We visited one more ship, the HMS Warrior and several of the museums.  The Warrior was the first iron hulled ship. However, by this time I was feeling pretty exhausted. It was beginning to rain and a stiff wind was blowing. It was time to find a place for dinner and head to our B&B for the night. Tomorrow we will be heading to Kingston Lacy and Corfe Castle.


  1. Fascinating post. Thank you
    The barrel storage is something I've never heard of before. It gives a new dimension to history. Those ships, what the men had to endure there working and fighting isn't easy to grasp.

  2. I cannot imagine living on a ship like that. Have you seen the film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World? It gives a convincing look at life in such tight quarters and death in brutal battles.

  3. History really comes alive in this post Jenny. Thanks for taking us along on your tours. I can barely imagine working "well" in such circumstances - those "sick berths" were a startling reminder that life was carried out nonstop aboard ship - healthy or otherwise!

  4. What a beautiful ship! Such and adventure to be on the high seas in such a tiny vessel. I hope on your tour you get to go to Stourhead, it is one of my favourite gardens to walk around! Enjoy your travels!!!

  5. You are on my dream vacation, enjoy it for me, too!

  6. Garden blog, history blog and travel log all built into one! Perfect! Thanks for sharing.