Work Starts on £10.5m Restoration of Dover's Historic Maison Dieu

Maison Dieu wide

A £10.5m restoration of the Grade I Listed Maison Dieu in Dover starts on 3 October

Work starts on a £10.5m restoration of the Maison Dieu in Dover on 3 October 2022 with Kent-based Coniston Ltd the main contractor.

The Lottery funded project to reawaken the Grade I Listed building and Scheduled Monument will see it permanently opened to the public for the first time in its 800-year history, playing a key role in the heritage-led regeneration of the town centre.  The project includes: 

  • Conservation and restoration of the building's fabric
  • Conservation and recreation of internationally significant decorative schemes by the renowned Victorian neo-Gothic architect, William Burges (1827-1881)
  • Construction of a new street-level visitor entrance to the Connaught Hall
  • Improvements to access throughout the building. 

The project also 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 setting of Victorian gaol cells! 

Cllr Trevor Bartlett, Leader of Dover District Council, said: “We’re delighted to see work underway on the Council’s biggest heritage restoration project to date. The project will bring the Maison Dieu to life as one of the most significant civic heritage buildings in the country, ensuring that it plays a key role in the future of Dover as a heritage, cultural and community venue.

“Bringing a restoration project of this size to reality has taken a huge amount of work by specialist architects and conservators, and the in-house team at DDC, and would not have been possible without the incredible support of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Wolfson Foundation, Dover Society and Dover Town Council.”

Preparing for the restoration involved carefully removing and storing some 40,000 historical artefacts from the Maison Dieu, including paintings, military colours, and arms and armour from the Royal Armouries.

A further 6,300 individual items, from pianos and the former organ to cutlery, glasses, and crockery were also removed from the building. Several hundred items were donated to local community groups and charities.

Alongside the restoration, a programme of events and activities is helping local people and visitors to learn more about the remarkable history of the Maison Dieu, including Dover’s very own “Repair Shop” where visitors have been able to see expert conservators from Bainbridge Conservation at work on the building’s unique collection of furniture and portraits.

Glen Couchman, Director of Coniston Ltd, said: “We are excited to be starting on site at Maison Dieu. This is a great project for our team and supply chain to be involved with and we are looking forward to the construction phase as the transformation of this unique building begins.”

The restoration works are due for completion in summer 2024. 

Note to editors:

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.

Maison Dieu Partners logo strip

Posted on 27 September 2022

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