our new museum

A Tale of Two Ships: HMS Warrior 1860 and the Mary Rose

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard provides a perfect opportunity to study large portions of history. For many years, the Mary Rose Museum and HMS Warrior 1860 have collaborated on exciting learning opportunities making the most of the similarities and differences between the two ships.


The Mary Rose (left) and HMS Warrior (right)

In 2011, HMS Warrior 1860 finished the refurbishment of the ship’s sick bay which provides an amazing insight into surgery at the time – including an operating table made for two! This development inspired us to create a study day for GCSE History of Medicine students. The Mary Rose Museum has a fantastically preserved collection of medical equipment owned by the Surgeon on board. It is unique in that all the items can be dated to one day – 19 July 1545.


A mixture of activities enables students to understand surgery at the time of the Mary Rose and HMS Warrior 1860 and consider the pace of change between 1545 and 1871. Although there was progress, in some areas things went backwards! For example, the introduction of chloroform as an anaesthetic allowed the Warrior Surgeon to undertake more extensive surgery than his Tudor counterpart, which led to more deaths until the advent of antiseptic to sterilise tools.


At the Mary Rose, the focus is on the collection of original Tudor artefacts which are used as the basis of a ‘Strictly Come Tudor Surgery’ role play session. Students take on the role of the Surgeon and his patients, all of whom are suffering from illnesses and injuries that we have evidence for from the ship. Marks are deducted for x-rays and other non-Tudor treatments! These sessions have proved a popular addition with schools returning year on year to enjoy the mix of activities. Teachers report the increased confidence of those who have taken part in the day.


The success of this venture encouraged us to create a similar session for primary pupils. Tudors v Victorians combines two hands-on workshops with visits to the Mary Rose Museum and on board HMS Warrior 1860. Children compare a number of areas to find out more about life at sea across the ages. There are many similarities between the two: ship’s biscuits are still on the menu in 1860; games and music were important morale boosters and women were not allowed to serve. However, life had changed in other ways. The Tudor navy hadn’t introduced a uniform, whereas the men on HMS Warrior were clearly identifiable. Personal hygiene had improved with baths and washing machines installed on Warrior for some members of the crew.


The education departments on both ships are always looking for new opportunities. This year we will offer a joint science workshop on floating and sinking, combining two current activities from our programmes. In the science laboratory at the Mary Rose, children will investigate What sank the Mary Rose? On HMS Warrior, they will discover how an iron ship floats. These cross-curricular sessions will allow teachers to combine both history and science in an exciting day visit.
Both innovative ships in their own time, they are now providing high quality creative learning opportunities for new generations.

Mary Rose

HMS Warrior 1860




Claim to fame

First purpose-built warship

First iron-clad warship






Steam and sail





King Henry VIII

Queen Victoria


Sank in 1545 in battle

Became obsolete 1871


For more information or to book a visit, email us education@maryrose.org

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