Maison Dieu Project granted £4.27m from National Lottery Heritage Fund

We are thrilled to have helped Dover District Council, Dover Town Council and Dover Society secure £4.27m from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to revive the Maison Dieu in Dover. The full press release can be found here.

The £8m project will see the conservation of internationally significant decorative schemes by the renowned Victorian neo-Gothic architect, William Burges, a new street-level visitor entrance to the building and alterations which will make the building accessible to all.

The project also 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 2023 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 Background

Maison Dieu (House of God), is Grade I Listed and a Scheduled Monument. The Maison Dieu was founded in around 1203 to provide accommodation for pilgrims travelling from Europe to Thomas Becket’s shrine in Canterbury. Since then it had a number of uses but was most significantly renovated and expanded in the c.19th by the renowned Victorian architect William Burges (of Cardiff Castle & Castell Coch fame), to become Dover’s Town Hall.

We were commissioned in 2014 to prepare an Outline Business Plan which explored options for the restoration and reuse of the Maison Dieu for Dover District Council (building owner), Dover Town Council and The Dover Society. At the time of our original commission parts of the Maison Dieu were well used for events such as weddings, pantomimes, tea dances and private functions. However, due to prohibitive access/layout arrangements parts of the Maison Dieu were under-used or entirely vacant. At the same time the physical fabric of the building had become tired and required significant repair.

At its core, the 2014 work established a business plan for the future of the building and a means of overcoming a series of physical constraints. It included a non-financial appraisal of different possible uses for the building and indicative financial forecasts. The work ensured that the preferred option reflected a balance between the conservation and securing a financially sustainable future for the Maison Dieu. We worked with architects to model options emerging from our work and testing them against conservation objectives. Our final report included a robust justification of how the preferred option was arrived at and a detailed implementation plan including guidance on funding, management and operational models, risk and next steps.

We are hugely proud that this initial piece of work helped to unlock some of the major challenges with the building, shine a light on a little known gem by William Burges and shape the proposal that remains in place today. Indeed, as part of this work on behalf of the Council we applied for the building to be upgraded from Grade II* to I.

Having completed the Outline Business Plan, we were very glad to be reappointed to prepare a Round One and Round Two application to the Heritage Fund. We worked with the design team to develop a proposal in much greater detail and prepare the various technical documents required by the Heritage Fund. We engaged with other prospective funders, stakeholders across the UK and overseas, undertook community workshops and exhibitions and helped the Council to resolve to commit a major capital sum to the project.

Specific tasks have included:

• Developing, implementing and managing a Project Management Plan to create a robust and coordinated project management framework
• Providing day to day management and coordination of the project team and workload, organising, leading and attending meetings
• Undertaking extensive consultation from one to one meetings to setting up a large ‘consultative group’ of stakeholders
• Commissioning and overseeing numerous specialist inputs such as historic interior analysis, organ condition survey, building condition survey and Statement of Significance
• Successfully applying for the upgrading of the building from Grade II* to Grade I Listed
• Preparing a comprehensive Outline Business Plan sufficient to secure DDC’s commitment to progressing the project, managing inputs from a team of specialist sub-consultants including architects, engineers, cost consultants and interior conservation specialists
• Liaised with and secured the support of the Landmark Trust, who will be operating a self catering let in restored building
• Coordinating and preparing Round One and Round Two NLHF application documents including: Drafting the application forms, assembling a suite of visual aids, writing the Activity Plan, writing the Business Plan, preparing project programmes and financial forecasts, preparing an Estate Strategy, coordinating letters of support, writing a Project Management Plan
• Liaising with the Lottery, completing grant requests, progress reports and several presentations and meetings.