Dover Museum Exhibition Uncovers Maison Dieu Finds

Maison Dieu archaeology finds

Dover Museum is hosting an exhibition of archaeological finds from Dover's historic Maison Dieu

A new exhibition at Dover Museum is showcasing fascinating finds from a series of community archaeological digs in and around Dover’s historic Maison Dieu (Dover Town Hall). Volunteer ‘History Diggers’ of all ages and backgrounds got stuck in with their trowels as part of the £10.5m reawakening of the Maison Dieu with the National Lottery Heritage Fund and led by Keith Parfitt of the Canterbury Archaeological Trust.

The digs shed new light on several aspects of the 800-year-old building’s history, including the discovery of medieval decorated stained-glass and evidence of medieval and later buildings. The museum exhibition includes ten large panels illustrated with numerous photographs, plus a showcase of fascinating finds. 

The exhibition runs until the end of the year at Dover Museum which is free to enter and is open 9.30am to 5pm Monday to Saturday from 1 October to 31 December (closed Sundays, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day).

Martin Crowther, community engagement officer at the Maison Dieu, said: “The Maison Dieu has stood in Dover for over 800 years and we always hoped we might discover some interesting finds, but the range of material discovered as part of these three, small community digs, has been exceptional and has contributed much to our knowledge, not just of the building itself, but the wider site.

“As well as helping our understanding of the wider significance of the site, these community archaeological digs were a great opportunity for local people to get involved and have a go at archaeology, learn new skills, and explore local heritage.”

Notes to editors:

About the Reawakening the Maison Dieu Project

The £10.5m 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.

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

Brief 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 03 October 2023

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