Dover Town Hall (Maison Dieu)
Dover District Council
The Maison Dieu, translated as God’s House, is widely acknowledged to have been founded in 1203 by Hubert de Burgh as a medieval hospital to provide charity and hospitality for pilgrims travelling predominantly to Canterbury to visit Thomas Becket’s shrine.
The building is Grade I Listed and Scheduled Ancient Monument was surrendered to the Crown in the 16th century and used as a victualling yard providing supplies to the Navy. In 1835 it was sold to the Town Council and used initially as a gaol. In the mid-19th century it underwent extensive remodelling and extension leading up to its conversion into a town hall and courtroom. Much of the remodelling was undertaken in the gothic revival style by two prominent Victorian architects, Ambrose Poynter and William Burges. A substantial extension to the gaol was added in 1867, but demolished in 1881 to make way for a large public hall and other accommodation beside the existing medieval hall. The Connaught Hall building is exquisitely designed and is the last public building by William Burges.
Parts of the Maison Dieu remain well used for events such as weddings, pantomimes, tea dances and private functions. However, due to a number of issues relating to access and the layout of the building, other areas have become under used or vacant in recent years. At the same time the physical fabric of the building has deteriorated and certain areas require urgent repair to prevent further deterioration and loss of historic fabric.
We were commissioned to undertake research and produce a Statement of Significance and develop a masterplan scheme for the longer term sustainability of the site and buildings to support a major HLF bid. This bid was successful. We have now been appointed on the Development and Delivery Phases. Proposals include: enhanced accessibility and security; increased capacity for venue hire; improved visitor facilities; lettable space for meetings, seminars, conferences, corporate events; Café commercial let space opening out onto improved public realm; Landmark Trust holiday lets within the historic Mayor’s Parlour; an interpretation trail around the buildings to make the extensive history of the buildings more legible.