The Maison Dieu, Dover’s Grade I listed town hall, was founded by Hubert de Burgh, Constable of Dover Castle, Earl of Kent and Justiciar of England, in 1203 to provide hospitality for pilgrims travelling to the shrine of Thomas Becket at Canterbury, and for the care of wounded and destitute soldiers. Many pilgrims still pass through Dover today, walking the ancient Via Francigena from the nearby cathedral city of Canterbury, through France and Switzerland, to Rome.
In the eight centuries since, the hall has fulfilled many and diverse functions – from military store to council chamber, gaol to concert hall and from 1949 to 1989 housed Dover Museum.
The Stone Hall houses an impressive collection of arms and armour and some fine paintings. The stained-glass windows depicting notable historic events date from 1873.
In the mid-19th century the Maison Dieu was extensively restored by the prominent Victorian architects Ambrose Poynter and William Burges. Burges later went on to further remodel the building and design an adjacent assembly hall (the Connaught Hall) and civic offices.
Outside the main entrance hangs the famous Zeebrugge Bell, given to Dover by the King of the Belgians in 1918 to commemorate the First World War Zeebrugge Raid.
Next to the Maison Dieu is the Grade II* listed Maison Dieu House, built in 1665 as the residence of the Agent Victualler and now the offices of Dover Town Council. Outside you can see a small Garden of Remembrance housing the People of Dover War Memorial, which was unveiled in 1924 and has later Second World war additions.
The Maison Dieu will close in September 2021 for a two-year programme of conservation and restoration work, so that future visitors can enjoy Burges’s unique decorative features.
A new History Room and a regular programme of guided tours have been created at Dover Town Hall as a pilot project by the Dover Town Hall Refurbishment Steering Group to improve the interpretation of this magnificent 800-year-old building in the heart of Dover.
On Wednesdays throughout the year (see below for times), visitors will be able to join a guided tour of the building led by volunteer guides from The Friends of Dover Town Hall. There will be a small charge of £2 for adults and £1 for children under 12. All proceeds going towards the promotion and care of the hall. Dover Town Hall is a working building and tour routes may vary depending on functions. Please ring Dover Visitor Information Centre (01304 201066) to check tours are running before making a special visit.
If you would like to bring a group (minimum of 10 people) to tour the Town Hall we would be happy to see if we can run a special tour for you either on a Wednesday or at other times of the week if there are no booked functions in the hall. Contact Derek Leach from The Dover Society on 01304 823926 to discuss this.
The History Room will be open from 10am to 4pm on Wednesdays.
Historic Venue for Functions, Conferences and Weddings
The historic Dover Town Hall is an ideal venue for conferences, shows, balls, concerts and weddings. Offering a choice of Halls to suit most occasions. The Stone Hall and Council Chambers are also licensed for civil weddings. Thanet Leisure Force provide all the catering for Town Hall functions and offer a wide variety of menus from light refreshments to superb banquets. Contact Mrs Val Leadbetter (01304 201200).