New Dover Youth Theatre Production Tells the Story of Dover's Maison Dieu

Pilgrims pathway social graphic

St Mary's Church, Dover - Wednesday, 19 July 2023 (7:30-9:00pm)

A new production by the Dover Youth Theatre is to premiere with a free performance at St Mary’s Church in Dover on Wednesday, 19 July. ‘Pilgrim's Pathway’ promises a humorous journey through the 800-year-old history of Dover’s Maison Dieu.

Geraldine the Grotesque leads a cast of characters on a time travelling adventure scripted by Daniel Drysdale, from medieval pilgrims and the siege of Dover Castle, to rock hard ship's biscuits.

The event also marks the official unveiling of a new Maison Dieu grotesque, carved by Carrie Horwood of Cat's Eye Carving as part of the Maison Dieu’s outreach programme. The Grade I Listed Maison Dieu is currently undergoing a £10.5m restoration with the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Wolfson Foundation. 

Thanks to the generous support of the National Lottery Heritage Fund the performance is free but must be booked online at Eventbrite.

Marie Kelly-Thomas, Artistic Director of the Dover Youth Theatre, said: “The Maison Dieu is such a fascinating building with so many incredible stories to tell. We’ve really enjoyed putting this production together and it promises to be a fun evening.”

Martin Crowther, Community Engagement Officer at the Maison Dieu, said: “We’re really looking forward to seeing the cast of characters from the Maison Dieu come to life in this production, and to officially unveil the new grotesque that will form part of the building’s interpretation when it reopens to the public in 2024.”

About the Dover Youth Theatre

Founded in 1995, the Dover Youth Theatre was conceived as a means of expanding the opportunity for young people to learn more about drama and dance and related subjects. Dover has had a long tradition of theatre and music and DYT provides a means of introducing new talent to the arts. Many of the students of DYT have gone on to study drama in higher education and with professional companies. Many more have participated purely for the enjoyment of the theatre.

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 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 1200s 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 07 July 2023

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