The Maison Dieu or Domus Dei was founded in 1203 by Hubert de Burgh, Constable of Dover Castle and Earl of Kent. Its name translates as House of God, in both its Norman French and Latin forms.
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. In later years include Edward II, Edward III, Richard II, Henry V and Henry VI all paid the house a visit.]
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.
In 1834, Dover Corporation purchased the Maison Dieu for use as a Town Hall and began converting it to Mayoral offices, Council Chambers and Magistrates' Courts. A new Gaol was built adjacent to it in 1836.
In 1859, the Maison Dieu was restored by the architect Ambrose Poynter and William Burges, the famous designer and architect. In 1877 the Town Gaol was closed and in 1881, the Connaught Hall, designed by William Burges was erected on the same site.
The Maison Dieu is still standing today. It contains a collection of arms, armour and some fine paintings. The Maison Dieu's beautiful painted stained glass windows were designed by E. J. Poynter in 1873 and depict historical events that have taken place in Dover. Poynter later became Sir Edward and was the director of the National Gallery and President of the Royal Academy.
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