Relics of The Mary Rose / HMS Royal George + Letter Admiral Codrington 1840-44
In 1836 fishermen began snagging their nets on the seabed in the Solent. A diver from Gosport, Henry Abbinett was hired by them to investigate what was down there. He was the first to see the wreckage of the Royal George and then in the distance, Tudor flagship, The Mary Rose. He brought in two experienced divers, John Deane, and William Edwards. They had more advanced kit and in particular breathing apparatus that they had honed initially for firefighting. They recovered several timbers from both wreckage sites and a bronze gun from the Mary Rose.
Rumblings were afoot between the parties as the fishermen, Abbinett and the two divers all laid claim to ownership of what they recovered. The Admiralty had to step in at this point. Admiral Codrington was Commander in Chief Portsmouth and made the decision that the two divers could claim ownership of most of what they recovered, with a percentage going to other parties. In 1840 they continued and with help used explosives to dislodge the mast of the Mary rose along with securing more guns. The mast would be chopped up and there were also trinkets recovered. Most of the items recovered have made their way to museums and guns from the Mary Rose are currently in the Tower of London. A publisher, Samuel Horsey of Portsea bought timber from both wreckage sites and used them to bound books about the ships themselves.
The two books are bound by the wreckage from both ships along with a letter from Admiral Codrington. His letter is to Private Secretary to William IV, Sir Herbert Taylor asking if a surgeon in the 99th regiment could be given an office job rather than continue serving in the field. Admiral Codrington served as one of Nelson’s captains in the blockade of Cadiz and then Battle of Trafalgar. In relation to the two books, he mediated and gave permission for the divers to continue to go to the wreckage sites in 1840. He is the dedicatee in the Mary Rose book, such was his influence in reclaiming the timber to make the books.
Details of the books and letter are as follows: 1. A Narrative of the Loss of the H.M.S Royal George at Spithead. Published in 1840 Second Edition. Bound from the wreckage. 90 pages frontispiece and two plates in the text uncoloured. Frontispiece glued to the inside board. The text is clean crisp and tightly bound. 2. A Narrative of the Loss of the Mary Rose. 96 pages. Published in 1844 Second Edition. Bound from the wreckage of the Mary Rose. Has a contemporary label to the front board. Text is clean and all pages intact along with original end papers. 3. A three-page letter from Mary Rose Relic book dedicatee Admiral Edward Codrington to Sir Herbert Taylor personal secretary to William IV. The books and letter are all in near fine condition overall. A remarkable set involving relics from the Mary Rose and HMS Royal George along with a letter from the Admiral that allowed recovery of items from the wreckage to take place.