Events Calendar
Dec 5
10:30 - 12:30
The Mary Rose
short courses

Date: 5 December 2018

Study morning: Wednesday 10.30 – 12.30

Course code: 18TON352

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The "Mary Rose", the pride of Henry VIII's fleet, was launched in 1512 and saw service against the French in the 1520's.  She was upgraded in the 1530s, as shown in the Anthony Anthony Roll held in the Pepys Library at Magdalene College, Cambridge.  We will briefly discuss the reasons for intermittent war at this time between England and France.  In 1545 the Mary Rose put out from Portsmouth Harbour to engage a French invasion fleet, but sank with heavy loss of life as Henry VIII and his courtiers watched.  The reason for the sinking is hotly debated:  accurate French cannon fire, a freak wave, poor seamanship and overmanning are all suggested.  The lecture will discuss these possibilities.

After several unsuccessful attempts at salvage the remains of the hull were raised in 1982, and are now displayed in a splendid new museum at Portsmouth Dockyard.  Also on display is a fascinating array of artefacts:  cannons and cannon balls, bows and arrows, medical equipment from the barber surgeon's chest, pewter-ware, coins, human and animal remains and much else besides.

The project has revealed much about Tudor ship design,contemporary naval warfare, sixteenth century warfare and diet.  Since July 2016 the recovered half of thehull and its accompanying objects have been admired in state of the artpremises surrounded by other naval icons. Recovery and the reconstitution of hull and contents are now complete.  So what do the ship and its contents tell usabout sixteenth century England?

The tutor became involved with the Mary Rose Trust in 1982, the year of the raising.

Recommended reading

Ernle Bradford, "The Story of the Mary Rose" (Hamish Hamilton 1982). 

Peter Marsden, "Sealed by Time:  the Loss and Recovery of the Mary Rose" (Oxbow 2003).

Additional information

This course is suitable for all, no prior knowledge is required. It allows you to spend time exploring a subject for interest, among like-minded people, without formal assessment. 

Verbal participation by discussion during the lecture is encouraged.

Intended learning outcomes

  • An understanding of the reasons for war between England and France in the sixteenth century.
  • A grasp of ideas to explain the sinking.
  • An appreciation of what the "Mary Rose" tells us about sixteenth century England.

About the tutor

Edward Towne graduated in European Studies from the University of East Anglia, and later achieved a PGCE from Cambridge, an MA in Early Modern English History from the University of London, and MSt in Twentieth Century British History from the University of Oxford. His professional career was spent teaching History in state and independent Secondary Schools, finally as Head of the History Department. Currently, Edward lectures independently to adults in a variety of organisations, and acts as a reviewer and tour leader on historical topics.


United Kingdom



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