Children from St Martin's School were guests of honour at the unveiling of a restored painting of St Martin, patron saint of Dover
Primary school children from St Martin’s School in Dover took part in a special act of remembrance at the town’s historic Maison Dieu today (Friday, 11 November) marking both Armistice Day and St Martin’s Day.
Whilst 11 November is etched in modern memory as the day when we remember the fallen of two World Wars, it is also the feast day of St Martin of Tours, the patron saint of Dover.
Up until the mid-nineteenth century, St Martin’s Day or Martinmas, was widely celebrated as Dover’s Holy Day. In its heyday, a grand fair marking St Martin’s Day lasted for up to ten days!
As part of their visit, the children were guests of honour at the unveiling of a portrait of St Martin dating from before 1857 which has been restored as part of the £10.1m reawakening of the Maison Dieu with the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The painting is a copy of a work in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle.
The children learnt about the history of St Martin’s Day in the town, and heard from paintings conservator, Rebeca Gregg. They also had a go at gilding a picture frame or coin.
At 11am the children paused for two minutes silence to mark Armistice Day, followed by the playing of the evocative Last Post.
Finally, the children learnt about the wartime history of the Maison Dieu and the story of the Zeebrugge Bell, which was presented to the people of Dover by His Majesty The King of the Belgians as a memorial to the daring World War I raid on German-occupied Zeebrugge.
Cllr Trevor Bartlett, Leader of Dover District Council, said: “We were delighted to welcome the children from St Martin’s School to the Maison Dieu to mark both Armistice Day and St Martin’s Day.
“The Maison Dieu has stood in Dover for over 800 years so has seen most events in the town’s illustrious history. It’s the perfect venue to bring history alive for our younger residents and to mark this special act of remembrance.”
Notes to editors:
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, and 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.
History of the Maison Dieu
The Maison Dieu (House of God) was founded in the early 1200’s by Hubert de Burgh and passed to King Henry III in 1227, when the earliest surviving part of the building, the Chapel (later the court room) was consecrated in his presence.
It was built as a place of hospitality for pilgrims journeying from continental Europe to Canterbury Cathedral to visit the shrine of Thomas Becket. Following the Dissolution in the 16th century, the Maison Dieu was subsequently used as a victualling yard supplying ships of the Royal Navy.
In the mid-19th Century, the prominent Victorian architect Ambrose Poynter (1796-1886) extensively restored the Maison Dieu aided by the up-and-coming Gothic Revival architect, William Burges. Burges later went on to further remodel the building and design an assembly hall (the Connaught Hall) and civic offices, including a range of bespoke furniture and interior schemes.
The Maison Dieu is the only civic commission by William Burges, and the only intact building in England still containing his decorative scheme, furniture, and fittings.
Posted on 11 November 2022