Historic Ship Receives Grant From £1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund

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Part of the hull on display in its climate-controlled enclosure (Photo: Hufton + Crow/Mary Rose Museum)

The Mary Rose, favoured warship of King Henry VIII, has been awarded £655,304 as part of the UK Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund (CRF) to help overcome problems with the upkeep of the wreck caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Mary Rose is one of 1,385 cultural and creative organisations across the UK which will receive urgently needed support from the CRF. Arts Council England has already announced £257 million of investment during the first round of grants, with further funding in the cultural and heritage sector are due to be announced over the coming weeks.

After 33 years of service in the Tudor Navy, the Mary Rose sank in the Solent – the strait that lies between the south coast of England and the Isle of Wight – in 1545, leading the attack against a marauding French invasion fleet. On 11 October 1982, watched by an estimated worldwide audience of 60 million people, a dedicated team of divers and archaeologists raised the ship from the seafloor where she was eventually transported to Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard.

The award-winning museum houses the remains of the ship together with a collection of some 19,000 Tudor artefacts, which give an extraordinary insight into life during Renaissance Europe, almost 500 years ago. The museum and its contents have proved to be a valuable asset to conservation and learning, as well as maritime archaeology.

In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, however, the museum was forced to close its doors to the public in March 2020, losing  84 per cent of its annual income usually generated by visitors between April and August. Despite cuts to reduce costs, preserving the 500-year-old remains of the ship and its artefacts requires specific environmental conditions to be continually maintained, which comes at a high price due to the need for specialist staff and complex systems and equipment.

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The Mary Rose Museum at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard  (Photo: Ron Ellis/Shutterstock.com)

Helen Bonser-Wilton, Chief Executive of the Mary Rose Trust, said: ‘Despite public closure, the vast costs of keeping the unique archaeological collection in climate-controlled environments 24/7 continue, meaning that the very existence of the Mary Rose was in serious doubt. The grant from the Cultural Recovery Fund, through Arts Council England, is literally a game-changer. It recognises the Mary Rose as one of the crown jewels of British culture, and means that the Trust will now make it through the financial year.  We are immensely grateful to all those who worked to create this invaluable Fund and to invest in the future of British culture.’

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: ‘This funding is a vital boost for the theatres, music venues, museums and cultural organisations that form the soul of our nation. It will protect these special places [and] save jobs…, with further support to come in the days and weeks ahead so that the culture sector can bounce back strongly.’

Sir Nicholas Serota, Chair of Arts Council England, said: ‘Theatres, museums, galleries, dance companies and music venues bring joy to people and life to our cities, towns and villages. This life-changing funding will save thousands of cultural spaces loved by local communities and international audiences. Further funding is still to be announced and we are working hard to support our sector during these challenging times.’

The Mary Rose reopened to visitors in August, however, but visitor business remains fragile and, with the threat of further lockdowns looming, income is expected to remain low for some time. For further information about the Museum and the ship’s history, and to book tickets to visit, head to www.maryrose.org


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