We are delighted to be leading the consultant team to prepare a major bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for the restoration of the Maison Dieu, the most significant public building in Dover. The project is being led by a working group, including Dover District Council, Dover Town Council, and the Dover Society.
The earliest parts of the Maison Dieu date back to around 1203 when it was constructed as a place for pilgrims to stop, rest and worship whilst travelling from mainland Europe to Canterbury Cathedral to visit the shrine of Thomas Becket. In 1834 Dover Corporation bought the building and began to renovate and extend it, resulting in the building we know and love today. Today the Grade II* Listed building is owned by Dover District Council and leased to Your Leisure who operate the Maison Dieu as a popular venue for community events, concerts, meetings and weddings.
In 2014 a working group was set up to explore options for the future of the Maison Dieu. This work culminated in the production of a feasibility study that tested a range of different ideas. Alongside this, a comprehensive report on the building’s significance was produced shedding new light on the rich history of the Maison Dieu. One of the recommendations made by this work was to pursue the comprehensive restoration of the Maison Dieu and seek investment from the Heritage Lottery Fund to pay for it. Both documents are available to view on the DDC website.
A number of specialists have now been commissioned to assist the working group develop ideas in more detail and prepare a ‘round one’ application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for submission at the end of the year. The intention is to create a project that can ensure the Maison Dieu continues to play a central role in the community life of Dover whilst making sure it is financially sustainable.
Community use of the Maison Dieu will continue to be the main focus with the grandeur of the Connaught Hall, Stone Hall, Council Chamber and Court Room hosting events, functions and meetings. The plan is simply about making them work better with new entrances, WCs, disabled access routes, cloak rooms and storage.
The project will also explore how other parts of the building can be made to work better for the community with sensitive new uses. Initial ideas include a visitor centre explaining the history of the building and providing community meeting rooms, a new café and self-catering accommodation.
There will be a number of ways for the community to get involved in the project over the course of 2016 including a consultation event planned for later in the summer at the Maison Dieu. Information on the project is available on the Heritage pages on the DDC website along with an online questionnaire to find out what people know about the history of the Maison Dieu and how they use it.