Dover District Council has received initial National Lottery support for the restoration of the historic Maison Dieu in Dover. Made possible by National Lottery players, the project aims to restore key parts of the Grade I listed building and Scheduled Monument, including the fantastic interiors designed by Victorian architect, William Burges. The aim is to create a thriving cultural venue open to the community and visitors, and complementing Dover’s many heritage assets to build a stronger visitor economy.
Development funding of £427,400 has been awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to help Dover District Council progress the plans. This is the first phase in a bid for £4.7 million from the HLF, which it is proposed will be matched with £3 million from Dover District Council. Subject to a successful second round bid, work is expected to start on the Maison Dieu in 2020.
The project has been developed in conjunction with the Dover Society and Dover Town Council, and includes essential conservation work to the internationally significant neo-gothic interiors of the Maison Dieu, creating a new visitor entrance to the Connaught Hall and improving disability access throughout the building, and making the building more sustainable by bringing redundant spaces back into commercial use. This will include restoring the Mayor’s Parlour as a holiday let, and creating a unique café space in the Old Gaol.
There will be a wide range of opportunities for people to be involved with the project at the Maison Dieu, including restoration workshops, historical research, volunteering, heritage craft skills development, arts and cultural events.
Located in the heart of Dover town centre the Maison Dieu was built around 1203. Saints, sinners, mayors, monarchs and citizens have all passed through the Maison Dieu during its 800-year history. It was originally built as a medieval hospital for pilgrims on their way to the shrine of St Thomas Beckett in Canterbury Cathedral.
As the last building of status on the way to the Continent, it has also played host to key moments in English history.
Commenting on the award, Cllr Keith Morris, Leader of Dover District Council said: "We’re delighted that we’ve received this support thanks to National Lottery players. The Maison Dieu has been at the centre of the town’s history for over 800 years, and plays a key role in Dover as a venue for live entertainment, civic events, public meetings and community activities.
"Our project will restore the Maison Dieu to its full glory, fit for another 800 years as the anchor for the regeneration of the town centre."