Voyage of discovery

13th December 1996 at 00:00
What can the Mary Rose tell us about life in Tudor Britain? Ann Hills peers deep into the past to find out.

When the Mary Rose - the pride of Henry VIII's navy - sank on July 19, 1545, she be-came a historic time capsule. More than 450 years later the ship and some 20,000 artefacts reveal much about Tudor life.

In 1982, the ship's timbers were dramatically raised to the surface and became the centrepiece of the still-expanding Mary Rose Trust, a major charity with 30 staff devoted to conservation, interpretation and education.

The trust has just produced the Mary Rose Outreach Pack with 19 replica items, a manual for teachers, a book on the Tudor warship, and the chance to invite a volunteer expert from the Trust into the classroom.

Ten trial packs have been sent to local education authorities from Newcastle upon Tyne to Truro, and from Leeds to Northern Ireland, thanks to a Pounds 15,000 grant from Marks Spencer. The idea is for the packs to be used by schools in the 10 recipient local authorities and perhaps be loaned to others in neighbouring authorities.

The packs provide exciting historical evidence for use in classrooms in the form of replicas of some of the artefacts found on the sunken warship: a sundial, a hand-held wooden balance, a bosun's whistle, a silver pendant adorned with garnets, wooden spoons, a wood-en bowl branded with an "H", a ruler and "half-sized fiddle" loom for weaving, a purse and coins.

The outreach manual contains photographic, illustrative and written information, to explain the significance of the Mary Rose in providing vital material to help increase our understanding of Tudor life - from guns and carpentry to religion, literacy, food, ship design and even parlour games.

A well-illustrated book - What Happened Here? Tudor Warship by Elizabeth Newbery has been donated by publishers A C Black for the pack. This introduces children to the design of the ship, how it was built, the state of navigation in the mid-16th century and life aboard, from preparing guns for battle to cooking.

The pack is designed for schools or pupils who cannot visit the exhibition itself and provides a stimulating resource, especially since Mary Rose "presenters" armed with slides have formed a network to visit schools around the country. They include retired teachers, divers, and general enthusiasts.

The saga of the Tudor vessel has reached way beyond our shores. Schools in Australia, where a visiting exhibition provoked interest, are e-mailing schools visiting the actual vessel. A separate Internet presentation is also accessible.

Details and promotional literature from Maggie Richards, Mary Rose Trust, College Road, HM Naval Base, Portsmouth PO1 3LX. Tel: 01705 750521. Internet:

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