Volunteer archaeologists led by the Canterbury Archaeological Trust are picking up their trowels again from 26-28 July as they investigate the fascinating history of Dover’s historic Maison Dieu, and with the kids breaking up from school for summer local families are encouraged to come along and get involved. 

The team is excavating a patch of land behind the nearby Biggin Hall as they explore the history of the wider Maison Dieu site.  Biggin Hall previously housed Dover’s Turkish baths and is now home to Future Foundry

A Victorian washroom is known to have been on the site, which from before the time of the Spanish Armada until after the Battle of Trafalgar was part of the Maison Dieu victualling yard. The smallest of five such establishments in the country, it supplied salt beef and pork, beer, and ship’s biscuit to the Royal Navy.

Archaeologists are hoping to find evidence of this important period of the building’s history, and even discover some medieval finds, from when the building was a hospital for poor pilgrims, providing bed and board for the night on the way to the shrine of St Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral.

As well as chatting to archaeologists and viewing recently discovered finds, there will be a host of exciting free activities for the whole family to enjoy, including mini digs, medieval tile stamping, gargoyle-making, pot washing, and a display of archaeological finds from the April 2022 dig outside the Maison Dieu Stone Hall, including rare stained-glass, medieval, or Tudor tiles and carved window tracery.

The dig is open to the public, 10am to 4pm, between Tuesday 26 and Thursday 28 July 2022. It is suitable for all ages and admission is free.


About the Reawakening the Maison Dieu Project

The £10m reawakening of the Grade I Listed Maison Dieu sees the restoration of internationally significant decorative schemes by the renowned Victorian neo-Gothic architect, William Burges, a new street-level visitor entrance to the Connaught Hall, along with improved access throughout the building.

The project creates a sustainable future for the Maison Dieu by bringing redundant spaces back into commercial use, including restoring the Mayor’s Parlour as a holiday let in conjunction with The Landmark Trust, and a unique 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/partners include the National Lottery Heritage Fund, The Wolfson Foundation, The Landmark Trust, Dover Town Council, and the Dover Society.

By Ed

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