Fascinating decor by a Victorian designer are among the details uncovered as the restoration of a 800-year-old town hall continues.
Pictures of the elaborate detail can be shown for the first time as conservation teams painstakingly work at the site, which dates back to 1203.
The latest discovery, at Dover’s Maison Dieu, is of work by William Burges at the building’s Connaught Hall and Mayor’s Parlour. His efforts will be restored.
The team from Hare & Humphreys have already revealed finds, including elaborate decoration to the ceiling panels in the Connaught Hall, some of which shows signs of gold leaf.
In 2001, Hare & Humphreys were honoured with the Royal Warrant as Decorators and Gilders by appointment to HM Queen Elizabeth II following the company’s work on the restoration and decoration of Windsor Castle.
They are one of two conservation expert groups appointed by Dover District Council to work on the £9.1m National Lottery Heritage Fund restoration of the Grade I Listed medieval building.
Meanwhile Bainbridge Conservation will undertake the restoration of the Maison Dieu collections, including furniture, paintings, regimental colours, and artefacts.
These reflect the importance of the building and the role it has played in the history of England.
The Maison Dieu houses a unique collection of furniture designed by both Burges and Edward Pullan.
While rare examples of his furniture exist elsewhere, Burges did not design any other furniture specifically for civic use.
Alongside conservation of the collection, a programme of activities will provide chances for local people to get involved.
These are through opportunities for training, volunteering and skills development that will safeguard the future of the Maison Dieu collection and Dover’s wider heritage assets.
There will also be the possibility for members of the public to see expert conservators at work in Dover’s very own Repair Shop.
Roger Walton, DDC’s strategic director, said: “We’re delighted to be working with Bainbridge Conservation, and Hare & Humphreys, as we start the detailed plans for the restoration of the Maison Dieu.
“It’s going to be one of the most exciting restoration projects ever undertaken.
” Already, we’re making some remarkable discoveries about the true splendour of the Maison Dieu’s interiors.”
The overall Town Hall project also involves a new street-level visitor entrance to the Connaught Hall, along with improved access throughout the building.
It will also bring redundant spaces back into commercial use, including restoring the Mayor’s Parlour as a holiday let in conjunction with The Landmark Trust, and a new café in the space once occupied by Victorian gaol cells.
Once complete in 2024 the Maison Dieu will be permanently open to the public for the first time in its 800-year history and contributing to the creation of a heritage quarter in Dover town centre.
Project funders and partners include the National Lottery Heritage Fund, The Wolfson Foundation, The Landmark Trust, Dover Town Council, and the Dover Society.
The Maison Dieu, in Biggin Street, can trace its history back to the 13th century when it was founded as a medieval hospital and used by pilgrims travelling from continental Europe to Canterbury Cathedral to visit the shrine of Thomas Becket.
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