Report of General Monthly Meeting

August 9th: Trevor Sapey - The Mary Rose Trust


Most of us know the story of the sinking of the ship “The Mary Rose” in 1544. The wreck was located and raised in 1982 and preserved in the museum in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard by the Mary Rose Trust.

Trevor Sapey, from the Trust, reminded us of the effort and cost of the preservation work over the years. He arrived dressed as a man likely to be on board the famous ship, together with samples of the artefacts found on the wreck. By examining these artefacts experts were able to deduce many details about the lives of those on board in Tudor times.

Clothing by law in Tudor times denoted your status so Trevor wore long woollen stockings, loose sleeves laced to a jerkin and breeches. His white shirt was made of more expensive material at 6 shillings a yard and to make sure he displayed this extravagant purchase his jerkin was slashed to reveal it. His shoes were soft soled and would fit either foot, so when worn out only one needed replacing. His hat was of felted wool but underneath was a white coif. This was to keep his nits in, or nits from others out! In the pouch around his waist was a nit comb, a wooden spoon and a knife.

Remnants of food and utensils revealed the typical food for the sailors. Their rations were based upon 7lb meat, 7lb bread, 2 cups dried peas, a little fish, cheese and butter per week and plenty of beer all served in wooden bowls.

The bronze cannon came from melted-down church bells and the shot on board showed the fire power available. The most remarkable find was the large number of long bows and arrows. The modern long bow that Trevor displayed needed about 28 to 35lbs to pull but the bows on board ranged from 60 to 160 lbs to pull. No wonder that on examining the skeletons found on board it was easy to tell the archers, as they had severe damage to their right shoulder blades and elbows.

Personal items found in a seaman’s chest often denoted their trade and status. The barber/surgeons common tool was a syringe for treating syphilis with mercury. This syringe was then used with minimal cleaning for many other treatments! Damaged limbs were cut off using saws or axes and infection was rife.

After years of work on the artefacts and the hull the Trust needed to improve the presentation of the ship and after more fund raising a new museum was completed recently. Visitors can now walk through as if they are inside the hull, with new displays and information on the side.

After thanking Trevor for his excellent presentation members were encouraged to visit Portsmouth to see for themselves the work of the Mary Rose Trust.

Vera Hogg