Work Starts On £36m Mary Rose Museum

Work begins today on a new £36 million museum which will bring the hull of the Mary Rose and thousands of its artefacts together under the same roof for the first time since they were brought up from the seabed almost 30 years ago.

The project at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard in Hampshire has been described as

"The most ambitious heritage construction project seen in Europe this decade''.

The new building housing the Mary Rose's fully-conserved hull and its 19,000 artefacts will take the form of a finely crafted wooden "jewellery box'', clad in timber planks.

It will replace the current temporary museum located 300 metres away, which has space to display only 5% of the Tudor items recovered with the wreck.

During the construction of the new museum, the Mary Rose will be out of view to the public.

When the museum opens in 2012, the preserving chemical sprays that have kept the hull shrouded in mist will be gone.

The ship will be on display during the final phase of conservation, controlled air drying, until 2016 when the 34-year project to preserve the timbers will be complete.

Construction of the museum begins today on the 28th anniversary of the raising of the Mary Rose off the seabed of the Solent just outside Portsmouth Harbour.

The event was watched by a worldwide television audience of more than 60 million people.

Rear Admiral John Lippiett, chief executive of the Mary Rose Trust, said:

"The significance of the Mary Rose collection cannot be underestimated and we still have a £4 million fundraising target to meet before the museum can be opened to the public in 2012, the UK's Olympic year.

"One year on since the launch of the Mary Rose Public Appeal we remain reliant on the public to continue to ensure this national treasure is preserved for future generations.''

The work underway today is being carried out by Warings, which was awarded the £16 million construction contract.

Philippe Jouy, managing director of Warings, said:

"This is a unique project which will pose some unique challenges for our dedicated team.

"Not least is the immense care required to build a modern museum around the precious timbers of the ship as the final stages of its conservation continues.

"We are well-equipped with the necessary skills and expertise and are proud to be leading this landmark development to protect and preserve a British historic icon.

"The museum will represent the very best in 21st-century architecture and construction, providing a beautiful and secure environment for the finest collection of 16th-century artefacts in the world.''

The Mary Rose is the only 16th-century warship on display anywhere in the world.

The ship, one of Henry VIII's favourites, was launched in 1511 but sank during a battle with France in 1545.