Mary Rose Museum

Latest monitoring technology helps revive the Mary Rose

Monitoring specialist Hanwell Solutions Ltd is helping protect the ship’s timbers

interior1The official opening of the Mary Rose Museum at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is giving visitors a fascinating insight into 16th century maritime engineering. But it is engineering of a more modern kind that is helping the historic warship’s safe passage into the limelight.

Sophisticated monitoring technology has played a crucial role in protecting the vulnerable timbers of the ship, which forms the centerpiece of the new museum. As part of the continuing preservation work, conservators at the Mary Rose Trust drafted in Hanwell Solutions to monitor the condition of the wood and the environment of the chamber in which it is being stored throughout the crucial final phases of the project.


Working alongside the conservators, Hanwell Solution’s team developed a tailor-made monitoring and control system to provide staff with data about the temperature and humidity of the chamber’s interior, which had to be carefully maintained to avoid deterioration of the timbers.

More than 60 sensors from the Hanwell Pro range remain attached to the hull, continuously mapping the condition of the wood, including three specialist Woodwatch units which utilise high-frequency Acoustic Emission (AE) technology.

Hanwell Solutions Engineering Director, Dr Martin Hancock said: “We’re extremely proud to be associated with this incredible project to bring the Mary Rose back to life for 21st century visitors. The restoration has been a long and challenging process for everyone involved and, because of the unique nature of the project, we had to design a unique solution. The technology that we introduced gave the conservation team a form of insight and measurement that hadn’t been available to them before, and has proven crucial to the successful completion of their painstaking work.”

interior2Following the recovery of the wreck from the sea bed in 1982, a 17-year programme of active conservation was launched in 1994 when the ship was sprayed with polyethylene glycol (PEG), a wax that gradually replaced the water content within the timbers.

The ship can be viewed in its chamber via an innovative walkway, but it will only be fully unveiled when the chamber is withdrawn in 2016 when the Mary Rose will become the only 16th century warship on display anywhere in the world.

As part of the £35m project, the remaining timbers will be augmented with a reconstruction of the missing half of the vessel and reunited with its original contents, comprising thousands of artefacts that have been recovered and preserved separately from the ship itself.

Together, the ship and its contents will form a Tudor-era time capsule, providing visitors with an insight into 16th century life. The items include weapons, naval supplies and many more of the crew’s possessions, including musical instruments.

The man at the helm of the Mary Rose Museum project is the Chief Executive of the Mary Rose Trust, Rear Admiral John Lippiett, who believes the ship represents the British equivalent of Italy’s Pompeii in terms of its historic significance.


The world-famous Mary Rose, a 16th century warship, recently came to the end of a 17-year wax spraying process designed to preserve its timbers. In 2011, it entered into the final phase of a sophisticated conservation project – a crucial five-year drying out period that will ensure the ship remains intact.

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The Mary Rose Trust, based at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, aims to preserve, display and spread knowledge about the 16th century warship, which sank in the Solent on 19th July 1545, and was salvaged by the Trust in October 1982.

Hanwell developed a temperature and humidity monitoring solution for the chamber in which the ship is currently stored, to ensure the correct environmental conditions are constantly maintained.

“Progress is excellent and the ship is on course to be freed from its chamber in 2016. ”


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