The Mary Rose was a devastating opponent, in the battle off the French port of Brest in 1512 she crippled the enemy flagship, and is said to have brought down her mainmast with a single shot.


The design and armament of the Mary Rose make her a true precursor of the ship of the line. Henry VIII may perhaps be justifiably considered to be the father of the British Navy.  It is unfortunate that her last refit included reinforcing higher decks to carry yet more armament and troops, and while making her even more formidable in battle, this did nothing to prevent her rolling to such an extent during a tight sea manoeuvre, to prevent her lower gun-ports from allowing water to enter the hull.  Had these gun-ports been closed perhaps the ship may not have sunk.  However, the water did enter the hull at sufficient rate to alter her balance negatively - drawing her over and into the Solent waters so fast that the crew had little chance to escape.  

The Mary Rose was designed purely as a warship, she apparently had no trading function and there are no records of her ever taking part in trading voyages.  Her complement and equipment show that she could fulfill a number of roles, she could fight at sea, take part in shore bombardment, or use the troops carried on board as marines.

Mary Rose side elevation


Considering her fate, it is ironic the Mary Rose should be designed with watertight gun-ports.  These gun-ports allowed the Mary Rose to carry heavy guns on her main deck, closer to the waterline, maintaining her stability with increased firepower.  


Long Canon


While the heavy guns provided the ship-smashing and shore bombardment power, the Mary Rose also carried a variety of weapons for use at closer quarters.  These ranged from swivel guns and handguns to longbows and the ballock knives carried by individuals on board the ship.  The weapons carried on board the ship are an interesting mixture of the latest technology, for instance the cast bronze guns, and weapons of a much older design, like the longbows and the wrought iron guns.

Mary Rose artistic depiction



The Mary Rose had a keel length of 32m and a breadth of 11.66m. Her length at the waterline is estimated to have been 38.5m and her draught 4.6m.  The surviving height of the ship is 13m, measured on the starboard side at the aftercastle. The weight of the ship increased during her lifetime, she was rated at 500 tons in 1512 and at 700 tons when she sank.

The Mary Rose underwent two recorded major refits, one in Portsmouth in 1527-28 and the other in the Thames around 1536, it is assumed her burden was increased to 700 tons during this last refit.  The ship appears to have been skeleton built and carvel planked from her inception. There is no available evidence to suggest that she was converted from a clinker to a carvel built ship during her career.  The keel is constructed from three pieces of elm, scarfed together and bolted to the keelson which sits on top of the floor timbers.


Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is a great day out on the South Coast.  Admission tickets include entry to Mary Rose, HMS Victory, HMS Warrior 1860, Action Stations, the Royal Naval Museum and a Harbour Boat Tour!

Use the links below to find out more about Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and its many treasures.

Mary Rose | HMS Victory | HMS Warrior 1860 | Royal Naval Museum | Dockyard Apprentice | Harbour Tours





of keel - 32.06m (105ft)
at waterline - 38.05m (124ft 10in)
stem to stern - 40.90m (134ft 2in)
total length - 45m (147ft 7in)

Breadth - 11.66m (38ft 3in)

Depth (keel to lowest wale) - 4.60m (15ft)


keel length to breadth - 1 : 2.749
waterline length to breadth - 1 : 3.263
breadth to depth (lower wale) - 1 : 2.534

Tonnage calculation

keel length x breadth x depth = 602.5 tons

waterline l. x breadth x depth = 727.5 tons



waterline to scuppers - 0.75m (2ft 6in)
waterline to gunports - 1.40m (4ft 7in)
waterline to gunwale - 3.50m (11ft 6in)
keel to gunwale - 8.10m (26ft 6in)
keel to max breadth - 5.10m (16ft 9in)

perpendicular (perp) of stempost - 8m+
perp aftercastle - transom - 14m (46ft)
perp aftercastle- waist - 11.7m (38ft 4in)

perp forecastle - waist - 11.7m (38ft 4in)
perp forecastle - stem - 12.20m (40ft)

perp sternpost - 8.5m
length of sternpost - 9m


mainmast to stern, upper deck - 21m (68ft 9in)
mainmast to stem, upper deck - 21m
mainmast to sternpost - 16m (52ft 6in)
mainmast to stempost - 16m

length of aftercastle - 20m
length of waist - 15m
length of forecastle - 5.5m


Bosuns Books
Portsmouth Historic Ships
The Mary Rose Trust

HMS Victory
HMS Warrior
The Society for Nautical Research
The Royal Naval Museum
Hampshire and Wight Trust for Maritime Archaeology
The Nautical Archaeology Society
Navy News Online
His Britannic Majesty's  Living History 1775-1783

Localwebpages - web designers

The Weather Deck

Hands aloft

Life on the lower decks

Action - the gun deck

The Admiral's cabin

The sickbay - health on board

Food and the Galley

The Heads

Raising the Anchor






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CONTACT:  07905 147709 (UK)


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