Feeding the Royal Navy from Dover’s historic Maison Dieu Photo: DDC

Discover the fascinating story of Dover’s victualling yard, which supplied ship’s biscuit and beer to the Royal Navy from before the time of the Spanish Armada until after the Battle of Trafalgar, as part of Heritage Open Days on Saturday, 10 September.  

Meet Michael Russell, Agent Victualler of Dover, who was in charge in the late 1700s.

See a copy of his impressive portrait and find out about the lives of the baker, brewer and rat catcher!

Pictured above: Portrait of Michael Russell, Agent Victualler of Dover

Explore the Maison Dieu Stone Hall, once the site of the bakehouse and storehouse, and nearby Maison Dieu House (the impressive home and office of the Agent Victualler) which was built in 1665. Now the home of Dover Town Council, it has some impressive architectural features and collections relating to the civic history of the town.

History diggers

Visit the nearby History Diggers community dig, where archaeologist Keith Parfitt from Canterbury Archaeological Trust and a team of local volunteers are hoping to uncover evidence of the wider Maison Dieu site, including its time as victualling yard and medieval pilgrim hospital.

An impressive range of archaeological finds from two earlier Maison Dieu digs this year will be on display, including evidence of a disastrous bakehouse fire!

Family-friendly activities include the opportunity to make your own ship’s biscuit, ‘Splat the Rat’, excavate a mini archaeological dig, and create a giant tactile art map of the site.

Maison Dieu research team

Members of the Maison Dieu research team will be on hand to chat to visitors about the victualling yard and help interpret historic plans and documents, including recent discoveries from the National Archives and National Maritime Museum.

Salt Pork, Ship’s Biscuit and Beer takes place on Saturday 10 September 2022. Drop-in anytime between 10am and 4pm.

Admission is free and there’s no need to book.

Heritage Open Days

Cllr Oliver Richardson, DDC’s cabinet member for corporate property, said: “Dover has strong links with the Royal Navy but the role the Maison Dieu played in keeping the fleet supplied is not widely known.  Heritage Open Days are a great opportunity for people to find out more about the local history all around them.” 

The day is organised in partnership with Dover Town Council (Maison Dieu House) and Canterbury Christ Church University as part of Heritage Open Days. With thanks to the National Maritime Museum and National Archives.

By Ed

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