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Maison Dieu Restoration Project

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Reawakening Dover's Maison Dieu

£8m restoration to start in 2021

Plans for an £8m reawakening of the Grade I Listed Maison Dieu in Dover town centre are set to go ahead in 2021 thanks to a £4.27m grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund

The project will see the restoration of internationally significant decorative schemes by the renowned Victorian neo-Gothic architect, William Burges, a new street-level visitor entrance to the Connaught Hall, along with improved access throughout the building. 

The project creates a sustainable future for the Maison Dieu by bringing redundant spaces back into commercial use, including restoring the Mayor’s Parlour as a holiday let in conjunction with The Landmark Trust, and a unique new café in the space once occupied by Victorian gaol cells!

Once complete in 2023 the Maison Dieu will be permanently open to the public for the first time in its 800-year history and contributing to the creation of a heritage quarter in Dover town centre.

Funders: The National Lottery Heritage Fund, The Wolfson Foundation, Dover District Council, Dover Town Council, The Dover Society

Professional Team: Haverstock Architects, Rena Pitsilli-Graham Architects, Ingham Pinnock, D R Nolans & Co, Artelia

The Building

The Maison Dieu is the oldest and most prominent public historic building in Dover town centre.  It is Grade I Listed and a Scheduled Monument.  

The building is owned by Dover District Council and offers an important opportunity to connect people with heritage. The Maison Dieu today comprises a complex range and sequence of spaces including a disused Victorian gaol, two large halls, a disused court room, Council Chamber, civic offices, meeting rooms, kitchens and numerous ancillary spaces. 

History of the Maison Dieu

The earliest parts of the building date from around 1203 when it was founded as a Maison Dieu (House of God) for pilgrims journeying from continental Europe to Canterbury Cathedral to visit the shrine of Thomas Becket. It was subsequently used as a hospital and an important naval victualing yard.

In the mid 19th Century the Maison Dieu was extensively restored by the prominent Victorian architect Ambrose Poynter aided by an up and coming young Gothic Revival architect called William Burges. Burges later went on to further remodel the building and design an assembly hall (the Connaught Hall) and civic offices. Commissioned by the Dover Corporation, the works included the development of a gaol, court room and civic offices including a range of bespoke furniture and interior schemes. The building is one of the very few examples of Burges’ civic work.

The Maison Dieu has been in some form of community or civic use over its entire 800-year history and remains much-loved by local people today. For example, parts of the building are used for weddings, parties, school concerts and meetings. However, large parts of the Maison Dieu are in poor condition or unfit for purpose or entirely unused and as a result, the building operates at a significant annual deficit.

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