Turning Back Time on 140-Year-Old Town Hall Clock

Maison Dieu clock removal

The 140-year-old Maison Dieu tower clock was carefully removed today for restoration

An iconic clock that has stood out on the Dover skyline for 140 years is to be restored as part of the £10.5 million reawakening of the Maison Dieu (Dover Town Hall).

The clock was carefully removed from the Grade I Listed building today (7 November 2023) for the first time since 1902 and is being transported to specialist clockmakers and conservators, Smith of Derby. The restoration will see the clock repaired to full working order, including restoring the lighting so that the clock can be seen day and night for generations to come. 

The Maison Dieu tower clock was made in 1883 by E Dent & Co, one of the most famous Victorian clockmakers. Holders of a Royal Warrant from Queen Victoria, they also made the Great Clock of the Houses of Parliament. The clock tower at the Maison Dieu was part of William Burges’ remodelling of the building as a grand Victorian civic and concert hall in the 1880s. 

The £10.5 million restoration of the Grade I Listed building sees the Maison Dieu permanently open to the public from 2025 for the first time in its 800-year history.

Cllr Charlotte Zosseder, Cabinet Member for Community and Corporate Property at Dover District Council said: “The removal of the Maison Dieu clock for restoration is the next exciting step in the reawakening of this amazing building. We’re looking forward to its return so that it can continue its history as Dover’s most famous clock!”

Martin Butchers, Sales & Complex Projects Manager at Smith of Derby said: "We are thrilled to be playing our part in the reawakening of the Maison Dieu. We are looking forward to restoring the cast iron skeleton dials, introducing LED internal backlit lighting, and re-engineering the bevel sets and bushes, and the dial motion-works inside the drum. The Maison Dieu Tower Clock is a landmark of the Dover skyline and it's a privilege to be involved in the project."

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 2025, 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 District Council, 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.

The Maison Dieu has been in some form of community or civic use over its entire 800-year history and remains much-loved by local people today.

Maison Dieu Partners logo strip

Posted on 07 November 2023

For media enquiries, Email: pr@dover.gov.uk