Launch of New £27m Mary Rose Museum

A massive launch event takes place all day today ahead of the opening of the new £27 million Mary Rose museum in Portsmouth.

It will bring together the wreck of the Mary Rose with thousands of its artefacts for the first time since they were lifted from the seabed more than 30 years ago.

The "jewellery box'' centre, designed by Wilkinson Eyre architects, has been described as creating a snapshot of Tudor life every bit as vivid as Pompeii summons up Roman times.

The gunship sank off Portsmouth, Hampshire, in full view of Henry VIII during battle with the French on July 19 1545.

The ship lay undiscovered on the seabed of the Solent for centuries until its exposed timbers were seen by divers in 1971.

After extensive excavations, supported by Prince Charles who dived on the wreck site, more than 60 million people watched as the hull section was lifted to the surface on October 11 1982.

The wreck was placed in a museum where it has been sprayed with water and then a preservative until just last month.

But its artefacts were housed separately and now the Mary Rose Trust believes it has the home it deserves to show off the wealth of treasures.

Located next to Nelson's flagship HMS Victory, the museum includes a wide range of items from 500-year-old nits to longbows and the favourite of visitors, the skeleton of the ship's dog Hatch.

Chief executive John Lippiett said: "The new Mary Rose Museum marks a new and exciting chapter in the history of The Mary Rose, providing an astonishing resource for the world to learn about the Tudors and a centre of excellence for maritime archaeology and conservation.

"The museum is testament to all those who have worked so hard on this remarkable 42-year project to locate, salvage and conserve the ship and her contents.''

"The whole of the museum is designed by the curvature of the ship. The concept is to put the objects back into the ship. We have built the mirror image half of the ship.

"This is a state-of-the-art museum which is at a very top level of any museum I know.''

"It is a memorial to the 500 who lost their lives on the Mary Rose. If I died in battle and I saw what was being done in my memory, I would be absolutely thrilled.

"This is the most extraordinary time capsule of life and death 500 years ago."

The total cost of the project to conserve and house the only 16th century warship on display in the world has cost £35 million, with the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) providing more than £32 million during the past 18 years.

The Mary Rose Museum at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, the same place where the ship was built in 1510, opens to visitors on May 31.

A wreath-laying ceremony has taken place at the wreck site in the Solent in the morning. Events today also include a gun salute and water cannon display as the Mary Rose bell becomes the last item to be brought to the new museum.

A flaming arrow volley was also fired at Southsea Castle (see video above), the place where Henry watched the Mary Rose sink, and the new museum will be revealed from behind a giant Tudor standard flag.

The museum opens to the public on Friday.

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