HMS Victory and the Mary Rose: Comparative Conservation Strategies for the Preservation of Neighbouring Historic Warships


This project is a three-year PhD studentship funded by the South, West and Wales Consortium II Doctoral Training Partnership program by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

The project will be co-supervised by Dr Fiona Brock (Lecturer in Cranfield Forensic Institute), Mr Fabio D’Agnano (Associate Professor, CFPR, UWE), Dr Xavier Aure Calvet (Research Fellow, CFPR, UWE), Diana Davis (Head of Conservation, National Museum of the Royal Navy) and Dr Eleanor Schofield (Deputy CEO of the Mary Rose Trust).

About the Project

The Mary Rose and HMS Victory are arguably the two most important historic warships in the UK, and both face multiple challenges in terms of their conservation. This PhD project will investigate the preservation state of the oak timbers on the ships and explore how the different environments and conservation treatments they have experienced have altered the initial materials and their chemical, biological and mechanical properties. How do the findings influence the ships respective long-term conservation management strategies?

The Mary Rose served in King Henry VIII’s naval fleet for 34 years before sinking in battle in 1545. It was raised from the seabed in 1982, and is now housed in a purpose-built museum situated within a dry dock with bespoke environmental control at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. HMS Victory was Lord Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar (1805), and has been dry-docked since 1922. It stands in the neighbouring dock to Mary Rose but, in contrast, is uncovered and constantly exposed to the elements.

While both ships share similar goals in terms of their long-term preservation, their contrasting histories and the environments in which they are now housed have driven their conservation strategies in different directions. The project will address fundamental issues relating to the conservation and long-term preservation of these ships and, crucially, will consider the contrasting sustainability of current conservation strategies, as Mary Rose is reliant on a costly climate-controlled environment with high energy demands, while Victory relies on successfully managing and limiting material decay.

This will be the first ‘official’ project to run jointly between Mary Rose and HMS Victory, providing a unique opportunity to work on both historic ships. The start date of 2022 coincides with the 100th anniversary of the dry-docking of HMS Victory and the 40th anniversary of the raising of Mary Rose.

The PhD researcher

Fang-Yi will investigate the preservation state of the original oak timbers of both ships and explore how the different environments and conservation treatments they have experienced have altered the initial materials and their associated properties (chemical, biological and mechanical). How this then influences their respective conservation management strategies and can be incorporated into the ships’ long-term conservation strategies will subsequently be explored. She will further investigate how the different wood preservation states and the impact of conservation treatments can be recorded visually for dissemination through museum websites and visitor attractions, thereby engaging the public with this crucial work that ensures the survival of these unique objects.

Fang-Yi holds an undergraduate degree in Materials Science and Engineering from the National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan and a master’s in Cultural Materials from the University of Sheffield. Since graduating, she has worked for the Department of Cultural Heritage Conservation at the National Yunlin University of Science and Technology in Taiwan as a research assistant, collaborating with the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, Bureau of Cultural Heritage and Taiwan Electric Research & Testing Center, where she focused on the material characteristic research of different cultural heritage objects and artworks as well as participating in conservation work.

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