Dover's Grade I Listed Maison Dieu (©DDC)

Heritage Treasures of White Cliffs Country

White Cliffs Country, home to the world-famous and historically renowned White Cliffs of Dover, is supporting Heritage Treasures Day 2021 - celebrating the amazing work of the heritage sector in Deal, Dover and Sandwich during the pandemic.

Dover Museum

Thanks to the fantastic - and innovative - efforts of staff and volunteers at the heritage hotspots across White Cliffs Country, visitors and residents have been able to continue to explore and appreciate the incredible heritage of this unique destination throughout 2020 and moving forward into 2021.

Free-to-visit Dover Museum - home to the world’s oldest-surviving seagoing boat, the Bronze Age Boat, which was also discovered in Dover - launched its Covid-secure and Visit Britain-accredited reopening last summer with a new exhibition to mark the 80th anniversary of the Dunkirk Evacuation. Masterminded by Vice Admiral Bertram Ramsay from his headquarters in the tunnels beneath Dover Castle, ‘Operation Dynamo’ evacuated 338,226 men from the port and beaches around Dunkirk in just nine days: the largest (and near-miraculous) evacuation in military history and a key event of the Second World War.

Dover Museum also hosts a number of multi-media exhibitions on its website, including “Channel Swimmers” and “Coal In Kent” (which details the county’s coalmining history). Through images, audio interviews and information panels shared online, the digital exhibitions enable visitors to access the museum remotely, including during lockdown.

Deal Maritime & Local History Museum

The Deal Museum Trust continues to recruit volunteers and fundraise for a number of heritage projects, including through the Basil Kidd Appeal. Kindly donated to the Trust by Basil Kidd’s family, the image archive of the late photographer from Deal is available for purchase with money raised supporting the museum's digital preservation project. In December 2020 it was announced that the historic Timeball at Deal’s Timeball Tower museum is to be restored – with the funding supported in part by a successful appeal from Deal Museum Trust’s volunteers. The appeal has continued to receive donations throughout the pandemic.

Hard work went on behind the scenes at Sandwich Guildhall Museum during the first lockdown of 2020, including a transformation of the museum’s temporary exhibition space, which was refreshed ready for re-opening to visitors. In December, the museum celebrated the 850th anniversary of Thomas Becket’s martyrdom with an online lecture by Professor Nicholas Vincent, one of the leading authorities on Archbishop Becket and King Henry II. The lecture, entitled “The Road to Sanctity: Thomas Becket and the Port of Sandwich” was organised in collaboration with Sandwich Local History Society, with proceeds from ticket sales supporting both event partners.

©Sandwich Guildhall Museum

To continue their mission to use the topic of history to inspire, educate and entertain people of all ages and backgrounds, The History Project, a non-profit Deal-based initiative, launched a series of digital Zoom talks to engage their followers digitally. Formed in 2017 by childhood friends George Chittenden and Peter Fishlock, The History Project showcases the history and heritage of the local area and supports local projects through their community work, which includes providing children with enriching and interactive history experiences.

In the late summer of 2020, volunteers from Dover Greeters continued, where possible, and in a Covid-secure manner, to share stories of the unique historic town of Dover with visitors. Dover Greeters are formed from a team of enthusiastic local volunteers who love Dover and enjoy sharing their passion for the town’s heritage with visitors – with guided walks through the town centre and harbour, pointing out interesting places and telling the stories of the people who have formed Dover's history over the centuries.

As part of the Kearsney Parks restoration project, work has continued throughout the last year at Kearsney Abbey and at Russell Gardens - designed by the renowned Edwardian landscape architect, Thomas H. Mawson (1861-1933). Kearsney Abbey and Russell Gardens are the most significant heritage parks in the Dover district. Russell Gardens is Grade II listed in the English Heritage Register of Parks & Gardens of Special Historic Interest, whilst Kearsney Abbey contains many Grade II listed features and is the most popular public park in the district. The Parks for People project - a joint National Lottery Heritage Fund and National Lottery Community Fund programme – is making the parks more sustainable, protecting their heritage and offering more people the opportunity to visit the parks, to be involved with them and to learn about their history.

Huge support has been received for the revival of Dover’s Grade I Listed Maison Dieu, following the news that a project to create a sustainable future for the historic building (which dates back to the 13th Century) will go ahead. Bringing redundant spaces back into commercial use, plans include 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; improved access throughout the building; the restoration of 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 2023 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.

Find out more about the fascinating history and heritage of White Cliffs Country.

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