Mary Rose is once again the pride of Portsmouth
Warings and 8build deliver innovative new £35m museum
The £35m Mary Rose Museum opens at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard today, built around a sophisticated climate-controlled “hot box” environment designed to both preserve the 16th century hull and allow it to be viewed by the public.
With £23m of Heritage Lottery funding, the museum sits in the same dockyard where the famous Tudor warship was originally constructed in 1510. The wave-shaped, timber-clad structure replaces an existing temporary museum 300 metres away.
The museum’s opening comes 30 years after the hull of Mary Rose was raised from the Solent in 1982. The ship sank in 1545, in full view of King Henry VIII while leading the attack on a French invasion fleet during the Battle of The Solent, with the loss of 500 lives.
Wilkinson Eyre Architects’ design was completed last year by Portsmouth-based main contractor Warings, part of the Bouygues Group. The building was conceived as a finely crafted wooden “jewellery box” that encloses the hull of the ship, with public galleries running along its length, each one corresponding to a different deck level aboard the vessel.
The museum contains more than 19,000 artefacts from the seabed
Exhibits are kept in temperature controlled display cabinets
Warings and structural engineer CSC Engineers had to rework their initial scheme for the project to reduce risk and bring it within budget. The heavy steel structure supported on four piled supports
located outside the line of the existing dry dock was revised into a lightweight frame solution partially supported within the dock itself.
The museum was erected over the top of a “hot box”, a plastic and fibreglass liner that ensures the hull is kept at an optimum temperature of 19 deg C, inside which ducts direct dry air at exact temperatures in precise patterns across all parts of the hull.
Members of the Warings team had to be on hand 24 hours a day, seven days a week throughout the construction phase to ensure this temperature was not exceeded.
Visitors will be able to see the hull through a series of windows around the ship and once drying is complete, in four to five years, the internal walls will be removed and the hull will be open to plain view by visitors.
The Wilkinson Eyre-designed museum replaces a temporary display nearby
Artefacts found when the wreck was recovered from the bed of the Solent in 1982 are displayed to give visitors with an insight into what the decks would have looked like moments before the ship sank. The recovery operation even included the skeleton of Hatch, the ship’s dog,
The fit out of the museum and exhibition spaces was completed by London-based contractor 8build and includes climate-controlled display showcases specially-developed for the delicate artefacts.
Audio visual hardware, software and graphics were also incorporated into specialist joinery units installed around the building.
The excavation and salvage of the Mary Rose created a milestone in the field of maritime archaeology. Each of the 19,000 artifacts in the new museum, which range from tiny human fleas to giant guns, was raised from the seabed and carefully conserved through a groundbreaking process that is still ongoing.