Set sail with the Maison Dieu at Dover Community Regatta!

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Set course for Dover Regatta on 6 August and discover the Maison Dieu's fascinating maritime history

Celebrating the Maison Dieu's maritime history

A team of enthusiastic, nautical-minded volunteers from Dover’s historic Maison Dieu (Dover Town Hall) will be celebrating and sharing the building’s important maritime links at the Port of Dover Community Regatta on Saturday, 6 August 2022.

Pop down to the seafront to visit the Maison Dieu stand, between 10am and 6pm, to find out more and take part in a range of fun, creative activities.

Visitors will also be able to find out the latest news about the impressive project to reawaken this iconic heritage building with the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and how to take part in its action-packed activity programme.

Cllr Oliver Richardson, cabinet member for corporate property at Dover District Council, said: "We're delighted to be supporting the Port of Dover Community Regatta and sharing the incredible maritime history of the Maison Dieu.  The building has been part of Dover's fabric for over 800 years and its story is closely linked to the development of the harbour and maritime trade in the town, including 300 years as a victualling yard supplying the Royal Navy."

Top 10 salty Maison Dieu maritime facts to whet the appetite!

  1. The founder of the Maison Dieu, Hubert de Burgh, led the fleet that defeated the French at the Battle of Dover (sometimes called the Battle of Sandwich) in the Channel in 1216
  2. For over 300 years, from before the Spanish Armada, until after the Battle of Trafalgar, the Maison Dieu was a victualling yard, making ship’s biscuit, salt pork and beef, dried pease and beer to feed the Royal Navy 
  3. Colourful stained-glass windows in the Stone Hall depict important maritime events in Dover’s history including the departure of Henry VIII on his way to meet the French Emperor at the Field of Cloth of Gold and the return of King Charles II at the Restoration 
  4. On display in the Council Chamber is a silk Cinque Ports banner, last carried in procession at the Yarmouth Herring Fair in the 1600s
  5. An oil painting in the Mayor’s Parlour shows British and French warships off Cherbourg in 1855, on their way to blockade and bombard Sevastopol in the Crimean War. Painted by French artist Cheri Dubreuil, it highlights the transition from sail to steam, with a speedy French gunboat racing through the Combined Fleet
  6. The medieval ship which features on Dover’s town seal appears in Maison Dieu wood carvings and stained-glass windows. The seal, dating from 1305, is of an impressive fighting vessel, with wooden castles. The ‘three lions’ flag of England flies at the stern. A steersman, in charge of the large steering oar, keeps the vessel on course, while two trumpeters on the fo’c’sle signal the departure of King Edward I for France
  7. At the time of Henry VIII, the last Master of the Maison Dieu, John Thompson, played an important role in the improvement of Dover’s harbour. A plan, dating from 1538, includes a detailed depiction of the harbour works, the town of Dover and a distant Maison Dieu 
  8. Nautical themed entertainments have featured strongly in the building’s story, from sea-shanty singing at beer festivals, to Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore
  9. The Zeebrugge Bell, which hangs outside the Maison Dieu, commemorates the heroism of 1,700 British sailors and marines who took part in a daring, but ill-fated raid on the Belgium port in 1918. Sadly, 227 servicemen died. Eight Victoria Crosses were awarded for their bravery. The bell, which once hung at Zeebrugge Harbour and warned the Germans of their attack, was presented to Dover by the King of the Belgians. It’s rung every year on 23 April, the anniversary of the raid 
  10. In 1899, the first two-way radio message was sent across the Channel from the Maison Dieu to France. It has also hosted Channel Swimming Association awards ceremonies.

About the Reawakening the Maison Dieu Project

The £10m reawakening of the Grade I Listed Maison Dieu sees 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 2024 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.

Project funders/partners include the National Lottery Heritage Fund, The Wolfson Foundation, The Landmark Trust, Dover Town Council, and the Dover Society.


Posted on 29 July 2022

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