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

   Cranfield Defence and Security (CDS), Shrivenham Campus

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  Dr Fiona Brock  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

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 project will further investigate how the different wood preservation states and the impact of conservation treatments on the timbers can be recorded visually for dissemination through museum websites and visitor attractions.

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.

You will use a range of analytical techniques (e.g. optical microscopy, SEM, FTIR) to investigate how the ships’ different lifetime histories have affected the structure and composition of the oak timbers (and therefore their material stability and likelihood to survive with current conservation plans) and influenced their past conservation management. How the understanding of the preservation state of the wood can influence the future conservation management of both ships (especially considering the financial and environmental sustainability) will be explored, alongside what lessons each ship can learn from the other.

You'll be trained in a range of 3D imaging methods (e.g. photogrammetry, laser scanning, photometric stereo) to produce digital and/or physical replicas of the different preservation states and conservation treatments of timber samples from both ships to enhance visitor engagement and understanding.

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

As well as in-house training in analytical and imaging techniques and study skills provided by the supervisors’ institutions, you will benefit from access to the unique training programme provided by the AHRC South West and Wales DTP (

You will develop skills relevant to museum conservation, engagement, and science communication and will be encouraged to develop your communication skills through written publications in peer-reviewed journals and/or at a conference, as well as presenting your work to relevant local groups (e.g. the South Region Conservation Group, the Friends of the NMRN).

Funding Notes

This project is fully-funded through the AHRC South West & Wales 2 DTP’s Collaborative Doctoral Award scheme.
The studentship covers tuition fees and a stipend at the UKRI rate (£15,609 for the 2021/22 academic year). An additional £550 per annum is provided to cover costs incurred during placements at the National Museum of the Royal Navy and Mary Rose Trust.


For further information please contact: Dr Fiona Brock or Dr Jon Painter
Email: /
For information about applications please contact:
If you are eligible to apply for this PhD, please complete the online application form.
This studentship will be funded by the AHRC South West & Wales 2 DTP through their collaborative doctoral award scheme. Applicants need to apply to both Cranfield University and the DTP; note that the closing date for applications to the DTP is 24th January 2022. More details of the DTP and their application process can be found here:
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