The countdown to the Summer Holidays never goes slowly. Suddenly school’s out and it is upon us. 6 long weeks stretching ahead. Cut to me, mum of 3 little darlings, trying to decide where to go and what to do for these said 6 weeks, in order to entertain a 12 year old, 9 year old and a 6 year old. For others in a similar situation you will understand what I mean. I try to find attractions that entertain each age group for longer than 5 minutes and that do not involve the remortgage of one’s property. Therefore you can imagine my delight when I was asked to review the latest attraction at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, 1545. According to their website, 1545 allows visitors to be fully immersed in the Battle of the Solent and relive the final breath-taking moments on board King Henry VIII’s favourite ship. Needless to say we were all pretty excited as we entered the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. The 1545 experience is situated at the far side of the dockyard. On our travels through the dockyard we came across a very charismatic individual which my children immediately recognised to be King Henry VIII himself. We spent a hilarious 10 minutes chatting to him about his wives and his beloved ship and made us even more excited to get to the exhibition. We entered the 1545 building and were ushered into a holding area where we waited for the go ahead to enter the first chamber. The guide explained to us that we were going to hear all about what happened in 1545 and how there might be some loud noises. My youngest started to feel a bit nervous and I was really impressed when we were immediately, but discreetly, offered ear protectors. Great to note if travelling with those of any age who may be sensitive to loud noises or bangs. The first chamber was the introduction. The always wonderful Dame Judy Dench set the scene for us explaining a bit about the history of the Mary Rose. It was great to hear such an easily recognisable voice. This will delight most adults. My children were captivated by the wave effects on the floor. We moved into the next chamber and we came face to face with a 3d video of King Henry VIII, the same individual whom we had met moments before in the dockyard on our way here. He gave us a bit of history about the Mary Rose and a bit of background information. Then we moved through into the final chamber. This is where the fun begins! You are made to feel as though you are on board the Mary Rose in 1545. On either side of the room are windows giving views out onto the solent. The floor digitally replicates the deck on board. Cannons fire and the boat starts to sink. And down we go, under the water. Or so we are made to feel. It was really cleverly done and actually my 6 year old removed her ear protectors in the end, so the noises the guide made reference too, didn’t affect her. It was really cleverly done and was a really great entrance into the museum itself. It really set the scene well and made us excited to see what might be beyond the final set of doors. The museum itself revolves around the centrepiece. The Mary Rose. There is a set route and you follow the arrows. They guide you through the exhibition from one side of the building to the other and up and down the floors, passing by the Mary Rose each time on each floor. Lights shining on the ship fade and then illuminate her at different times and there is plenty of glass allowing the ship to be viewed at every opportunity. My children loved the museum. They were engaged the whole time we were there. Not once did I have to encourage them to view anything or keep them interested as if often the case at museums. They were able to experience the museum at their own speed and their own levels. My 12 year old was able to read about the exhibits and was really interested in the artifacts that were found under the sea. There were amazing interactive exhibits scattered around on enormous full screens that were perfect for children as well as adults. In fact I saw all ages enjoying them. They even had a lovely brass rubbing table where the kids could get involved as well. I was really pleased to note how many hand sanitiser stations there were, particularly around the interactive stations. Very reassuring especially as we are trying to avoid Covid-19. On each level there were guides and I found them really chatty and helpful as I had a few questions to ask about the ship and the maintenance of it. I found them very knowledgeable and happy to engage in conversation. The end of the trail takes you to the gift shop, as is always the way but we were happy with that as the prices were reasonable and the kids enjoyed spending some of their holiday money. We spent a wonderful 3 hours inside the museum and upon exiting my youngest asked if we would be returning the following day. They talked about the Mary Rose non stop for the rest of the day and I was really impressed with the amount of general knowledge questions the children could all answer following our visit. They’d obviously taken in a great deal of information. We will definitely be returning. We absolutely loved it and would highly recommend it for a family with children of similar age. I was told on departure that there was actually a kids trail for them to do as they walked around and I believe they could have been given a little gift at the end of it. Unfortunately we weren’t offered this so I am unable to review that part of the experience. But it wasn’t required. We all loved it!
For more information please visit The Portsmouth Historic Dockyard here.