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Leading conservationists will help restore Maison Dieu

Public will be able to watch conservators at work in Dover's own version of the Repair Shop

Two of Britain’s leading conservation experts have been appointed by Dover District Council to work on the £9.1m National Lottery Heritage Fund restoration of the Grade I Listed Maison Dieu in Dover.

Bainbridge Conservation will undertake the restoration of the Maison Dieu collections, including furniture, paintings, regimental colours, and artefacts which 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 William 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 opportunities for local people to get involved with 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 opportunity for members of the public to see expert conservators at work in Dover’s very own version of the Repair Shop! 

Elaborate decoration to the ceiling panels in the Connaught Hall has been discovered by expert conservators

Meanwhile, Hare & Humphreys, one of Britain’s leading specialists in the painting, gilding, conservation, and decoration of historic buildings is working to investigate the extent of William Burges’ original decorative scheme in the Connaught Hall and Mayor’s Parlour.

The team from Hare & Humphreys have already revealed exciting new finds, including elaborate decoration to the ceiling panels in the Connaught Hall some of which shows signs of gold leaf to the borders.

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.

Roger Walton, DDC’s strategic director, says: “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.”

Tristram Bainbridge of Bainbridge Conservation, says: “We are delighted to be part of the team delivering the restoration of this amazing collection of furniture and works of art. We’re also looking forward to showing people our work, which is normally behind the scenes, but for this project will be front and centre.”

  • The £9.1m reawakening of the Grade I Listed Maison Dieu will see 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.
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David Buckley

Dave Buckley is a career journalist. “I once went painting girders for a week and discovered I didn’t like heights,” he says. “Apart from that it has always been journalism for me in one form or another.” Past local weekly publications he has worked for include: the South-East London Mercury* covering the Borough of Greenwich as a junior reporter; Orpington-based News Shopper as a sub-editor; and the Kent Messenger when based in Larkfield, Maidstone, as deputy chief sub-editor. He has also worked for the following dailies/nationals: Daily Express, Today*, News of the World* and Hong Kong Star*. All those marked with an asterisk no longer exist (trend emerging?). He owned and edited a Thailand-based property magazine before returning to England and currently works as a production editor on a car fleet magazine. His first foray into property ownership saw him move from London to Rainham (the Gillingham, Kent, variety). He has subsequently lived in Chislehurst, Petts Wood and Orpington in the Borough of Bromley (which he still regards as being in Kent). In more recent years he owned three different properties on the Kings Hill (West Malling) development.

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