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Historic items, including portrait of Winston Churchill, moved out of Dover Maison Dieu during refurbishment

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A unique collection of paintings, military colours, and artefacts has been carefully removed from the Maison Dieu.

This is for their for conservation ahead of the building’s £9.1m restoration.

Preparation to take down a portrait for the renovation of Dover Town Hall. Picture: Dover District Council
Preparation to take down a portrait for the renovation of Dover Town Hall. Picture: Dover District Council

The items at Dover Town Hall include a Royal Armouries collection of 325 pieces, such as guns, bayonets, pole arms, armour, and swords, with the earliest dating from the English Civil War.

Others include a pikeman’s breastplate plus pikes, some of which are 16-18 ft (approximately 5 metres) long.

Once removed from the walls of the Stone Hall, the arms and armour were cleaned, catalogued, and stored. They will be returned to the Maison Dieu once the restoration is complete in 2024.

Laura Bell, director of collections at the Royal Armouries, said: “This has been a huge undertaking.

“Our team has worked diligently to ensure this exciting restoration project can progress. We look forward to installing the objects so they can go on display again to the public at the newly transformed Town Hall.”

Examination of armour before it is moved from the Town Hall. Picture: Dover District Council
Examination of armour before it is moved from the Town Hall. Picture: Dover District Council

The collection of oil paintings, include the last official portrait of Sir Winston Churchill painted in 1955 by Bernard Hailstone.

Specialists in fine art logistics, Constantine, took down a total of 18 large portraits adorning the north and east walls of the Stone Hall. The oldest painting is a 17th century portrait of King William III (William of Orange) by the Dutch artist, Willem Wissing.

Given the size of the paintings they were last taken down in 1979. The restoration of the Maison Dieu provides an opportunity for them to be cleaned and conserved.

Laurence Burley, technical manager at Constantine, said: “Deinstalling and packing the paintings at Maison Dieu was an exciting project.

“There were lots of unknowns such as their stability, condition and weight. We treated each painting with the utmost care and attention and look forward to seeing them back up on display in the future.”

Cllr Oliver Richardson, Dover District Council’s cabinet member for corporate property, said: “Moving the objects displayed in the Stone Hall of the Maison Dieu has been just one of the complex tasks that needed to be done. The museum team have checked, recorded and wrapped thousands of objects that form part of the Dover Collections.

“The paintings and armour in the Stone Hall posed a particular challenge given the size of many of the objects, but it’s great to be able to see some of the treasures of the Maison Dieu in more detail.”

Dover Sam Lennon



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