Oriel Science was proud to co-curate the Mary Rose: People and Purpose exhibition which was held in the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery. This free exhibition ran for eight months from 19th July 2019, 474 years to the day since the famous Henry VIII warship sunk.
A 6ft 6in longbow in beautiful condition was amongst many exhibits displayed in the Glynn Vivian. Other artefacts included an arrow chest with ten original arrows, a comb, a shoe, and a jerkin (or waistcoat) from one of the crew members, a wooden bowl, a length of rope and a cannon ball, all recovered after spending almost 500 years under water.
Swansea University’s Dr Nick Owen’s long association with the Mary Rose Trust provided the link which enabled the artefacts to come to Swansea. His research of the crew members’ skeletons led to the discovery that their likely occupation can sometimes be determined. Archers, for instance, have asymmetric bone structure due to the forces exerted on their bones as they draw their bows.
A recent extraordinary discovery, based on the analysis of skulls, was that some crew members weren’t English or Welsh, but were from the Mediterranean and Africa. This diversity in the King’s flagship was extremely unexpected and was the subject of a Channel 4 TV programme: Skeletons of the Mary Rose: The New Evidence. A 3-D printed skull of “Henry”, whose ethic origin was shown to be African, was amongst many exhibits on display in the Glynn Vivian.
Oriel Science were delighted to help bring these artefacts from Portsmouth’s Mary Rose Museum to Swansea’s Glynn Vivian Art Gallery.
Dr Nick Owen, who has led Swansea University’s work on the Mary Rose, said: “These are genuine treasures from the deep, bringing the world of the Tudors alive. They went down with the ship to the bottom of the Solent, with Henry VIII looking on. There they lay for nearly 500 years. And now they are here in Swansea for the public to see. The Glynn Vivian, recently refurbished, is a stunning setting.
“I have carried out research with the Mary Rose Trust for many years. It has been brilliant, and never fails to throw up the unexpected, shedding more light onto the amazing lives of Tudor seamen. The Mary Rose collection is truly a research treasure trove.”
Alex Hildred, of the Mary Rose Museum, said: “The Mary Rose Trust have been working with Swansea University for almost 10 years and the Glynn Vivian exhibition is an excellent opportunity to explain to the public some of the work being carried out. It also gives people who might not be able to travel to Portsmouth the opportunity to see, up close, some of the unique Tudor artefacts recovered from Henry VIII’s favourite warship Mary Rose.”
Other Swansea University researchers are involved with the analysis of Mary Rose artefacts. Professor Mary Gagen is studying a sample of the wood from a longbow to see what it can reveal and Dr Will Bryan plans to analyse isotopes from this wood to establish where it was grown.
Historian Dr Catherine Fletcher (now a Professor at Manchester Metropolitan), an expert on the period, is advising on the historical background in the era when the ship sailed the seas.
Swansea University’s Cultural Institute hosted a hub programme as part of the 2019 “Being Human Festival” featuring a special Mary Rose headline event Aaarrtt on the High Seas. This event linked directly with the Mary Rose exhibition in the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, was held on Saturday 16th November 2019 and was organised by Dr Elaine Canning and Swansea University’s Cultural Institute.
This was a fun-filled day of fantastical adventure where visitors, discovered facts and sinister secrets about life on board the Mary Rose through a series of workshops and talks.
Families could also design and build their own model square rigger sailing boats, racing them across water using wind generated by hand-powered fans, as well as craft their very own Tudor plays.
Younger visitors dressed up as pirates and were invited to find buried ‘book’ treasure around the gallery.
There was a fascinating talk from historian Professor Catherine Fletcher about the crew members of the Mary Rose, and the recent research showing that some of them came from Spain, Italy and North Africa.
In partnership with the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, the Mary Rose Trust, and Swansea University’s College of Engineering and Cultural Institute.