DOVER – THE ANCIENT TOWN HALL
“A subscription is opened at Dover to finish the ancient town-hall. The estimated cost is about £16,000. The grand picture of the Duke of Wellington is affixed in the hall; and leave was obtained of the council at their quarterly meeting on Tuesday to place it by a portrait of Her Majesty, should her royal sanction to a sitting for the purpose be obtained.”
(Kentish Gazette 12 February 1839 p.3 col.2)
The Maison Dieu
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 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.
A magnificent suite of four beautiful historic rooms to seat from 10 to 500 guests, Dover Town Hall is a unique historical setting for special occasions and popular venue for civil marriage ceremonies.
Connaught Hall was originally opened in 1880’s as a concert and meeting hall very much Victorian with pillars and balconies and a magnificent dance floor.The hall is currently used regularly for tea dances, exhibition, concerts, dinner/dances and shows.
The hall can seat 500 theatre style for a show or concert and 300 cabaret style for dinner/dances with a good size dance floor.
Dover’s Corporation Plate c.1900
Of the insignia of the Corporation the only article handed down from ancient times was the Horn which was used for calling together common assemblies… The Mayor’s most ancient ‘badge’ was the Wand… This was a sign that the Corporation were partisans of the Yorkists. It was a white wand, carried in processions. Pepys, in his diary, mentioned that when Charles II landed at Dover the Mayor gave him his staff, which the King returned to him. Maces were very ancient emblems of the Dover Corporation. Dover Corporation used three from about the time of Edward III (1354). One was carried by the Mayor’s Sergeant, one by the Town Sergeant, and one by the Bailiff’s Sergeant, until 1671 when some were sold and an order given for the large silver gilt mace to be made for the Town. It was intended to mark the landing of Charles II at the restoration and is actually dated May 25th 1660 but also engraved on it is the statement” Will.Stokes Esqr, Maior, 1676″ The ancient horn was said to be of the 13th century and there is or used to be a hand-bell of brass-gilt dated 1491. The Mayor’s gold chain and badge was given by Sir William Henry Bodkin, the Recorder, in 1867.
On every Wednesday from 10am until 4pm ( 1st April – 31st October ) from 10am until 2pm ( 1st November – 31st March ) visitors will be able to join a guided tour of the building led by volunteer guides from The Dover Society. There will be a small charge of £1 for adults (children under 16 free ) Dover Town Hall is a working building and tour routes may vary depending on functions.
Please ring the Dover Visitor Information Centre 01304 205108 to check tours are running before making a special visit.