The Maison Dieu or Domus Dei - meaning House of God, in both its Norman French and Latin forms - was founded in 1203 by Hubert de Burgh, Constable of Dover Castle and Earl of Kent.
The Maison Dieu and its large grounds were built as a hospice, run by monks, to provide temporary lodgings for travelling pilgrims on their way to the shrine of Thomas Becket at Canterbury and for the care of wounded and destitute soldiers and old people.
The monks soon added stables, a bakery, a brewery, farmlands and orchards. When Henry III consecrated the chapel in 1227 he was the first in a long line of monarchs to visit the Maison Dieu, later to include Edward II, Edward III, Richard II, Henry V and Henry VI. The monks were evicted in 1544 during the reformation and the Maison Dieu and its lands were given to the Navy for use as a Victualling Store, which supplied the English fleet for 300 years, from the time of the Spanish Armada to the Battle of Trafalgar.
The 19th century stained glass windows in the Stone Hall depict episodes in the history of the town and there are a number of portraits of famous people connected with the town.
The Council Chamber was added in 1868 and the adjoining Connaught Hall was opened in 1883.
A new History Room and a regular programme of guided tours have been created at Dover Town Hall.
Visitors can now join a guided tour of the building led by volunteer guides from The Dover Society. Dover Town Hall is a working building and tour routes may vary depending on functions.
Tours are available on Wednesdays:
- 1 April to 31 October: 10am-4pm
Tours end at 12 noon on the last Wednesday of each month.
Special tours can be organised for a minimum group size of 10 or more. Contact Derek Leach from The Dover Society on 01304 823926, firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss options.
Dover Visitor Information Centre 01304 201066 to check tours are running before making a special visit.