The Maison Dieu, the oldest of the Town Hall buildings, was founded by Hubert de Burgh, then the Constable of Dover Castle in 1203.
It was not then built, as many have thought, as a church, but to provide short term accommodation for pilgrims travelling to the shrine of Thomas Becket at Canterbury, and for the care of wounded and destitute soldiers.
Over the last 800 years the building has seen many owners and fulfilled many functions from military store to Council Chamber, from centre of local justice and punishment to concert hall. The Maison Dieu contains a collection of arms and armour and some fine paintings. It is also home to the famous unique Zeebrugge Bell given to Dover by the King of the Belgians in 1918. The painted stained-glass windows depict notable historic events and date from 1873.
Dover’s 800-year old Maison Dieu, also known as Dover Town Hall, has recently been upgraded from a Grade II* to a Grade I listing by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). New research has revealed that the building is far more important than anyone suspected due largely to hidden decorative work by the flamboyant Victorian architect William Burges (1827-1881), the full extent of which has only recently been discovered.
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).