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Page last updated at 17:51 GMT, Sunday, 20 September 2009 18:51 UK

Mary Rose prepares to rise again

By Paul Greer
BBC Radio 5 live Drive

An artist's impression of the new 35m museum. Picture: Wilkinson Eyre Architects
Visitors will be able to walk along glass walkways next to the principal decks.

Hundreds of people flocked to Portsmouth this weekend for a final glimpse of the Mary Rose before the Tudor warship goes under wraps for three years. But what can we expect from the new £35m museum being built to house "Britain's Pompeii"?

Henry VIII lost sight of his warship in 1545 as it sank beneath the waves of the Solent, and now the great British public have lost sight of the Mary Rose for the next three years.

Since it was raised from the deep in 1982, this Tudor treasure has been, along with HMS Victory and HMS Warrior, one of the "must see" attractions within Portsmouth's historic Dockyard.

Ancient beams

However, while the Victory and Warrior are visible for miles, the Mary Rose has been somewhat less obvious - sitting in a dry dock within a hastily constructed hall. But not for much longer.

The Mary Rose has become such a popular attraction she needs a new home

This weekend was the public's last chance to view the vessel historian Dr David Starkey described as "this country's Pompeii", before construction work begins on a new £35m purpose-built museum.
The modernistic centre, which will receive £21m from the Heritage Lottery Fund, will proudly display the Tudor warship close to Nelson's flagship, the Victory.

It has been called one of the most ambitious and significant heritage projects in recent years.

Currently the ancient hull of the Mary Rose is constantly sprayed with a water-based wax solution to prevent the timbers drying out and rotting away.

The idea is that the ship itself will be back on display in time for the millions of visitors who will come to Britain for the Olympics in the summer of 2012
Robert Lepraig
Mary Rose Trust

Eventually this process will end, and by 2011 a long and complex programme will begin to "dry out" her ancient beams and ensure they are preserved forever. But the real change will be her setting.

The new museum complex will enable the public to "engage" with the ship in a way that is impossible in her current hall.

Visitors will be able to walk along glass walkways running parallel with the ship's principal decks. It will, according to the Mary Rose Trust, "imitate the vessel's missing port side".

For the first time people will get a sense of both the size and layout of the Tudor warship, walking alongside the decks, castle, main and hold. They will be able to climb stairwells to move between decks and use special galleries to view the ship in a way simply not possible today.

The museum will also be able to display far more of the thousands of artefacts raised from the Solent at the same time as the vessel.

An artist's impression of the new 35m museum. Picture: Wilkinson Eyre Architects
Special galleries will be built to improve views of the Tudor flagship

Cannon will be seen in their original settings, as will many of the ship's original fittings.

"It's a really exciting design," said the Mary Rose Trust's deputy director Robert Lepraig.

"While all this is happening, the exhibits and wonderful artefacts will still be on display and visitors to the museum will still get a chance to learn about life aboard a Tudor ship and much, much more.

"The idea is that the ship itself will be back on display in time for the millions of visitors who will come to Britain for the Olympics in the summer of 2012."

Although the ship will be on display from 2012, it will remain behind a glass partition until the process of drying all the timbers out is finished in 2016.

And once the glass comes down, it is hoped by the fully preserved and newly displayed Mary Rose will become one of Britain's "must see" visitor attractions.



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SEE ALSO
Record numbers flock to Mary Rose
20 Sep 09 |  Hampshire
Mary Rose closure deadline looms
20 Sep 09 |  Hampshire
Mary Rose gets 21m for new home
24 Jun 09 |  Hampshire

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