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Dover: Lock and Key of the Kingdom

The Market Hall

The Market Hall stands in one corner of the Market Square, on a  site once occupied by the town gaol. The gaol closed in 1834,  when a new prison was built at the Maison Dieu. The site was  auctioned in September 1837, when it was purchased by the  Corporation Market Committee for £555. It was planed to build a  new market but on further consideration the Corporation could  see no way of financing the project. The project was revived at the Annual Meeting of the Borough  Council in 1846. In April 1846 the designs for the new Market  Hall with Museum above were unveiled. The estimated cost of  the building was £3000 but when the tenders came in they were  all above the architect’s estimate and the design had to be  revised. The use of Caen stone for the building and some of the  ornamental work was abandoned. This reduced the lowest tender to £3448, and that, with the £555 paid for the site was the cost  of the building.   The Museum, which was placed in the upper part of the new  building in 1848, had been established in the old Guildhall in  1836. The nucleus of the new Museum consisted of the collection of Mr Edward Pett Thompson, a former Mayor of Dover. The  exhibits were greatly increased and varied after the removal to  the new building.  During World War Two the Market Hall was badly damaged. On  21 October 1940 the Market Hall and the Museum above it were  seriously damaged when a bomb hit the rear of the building. The  building was further damaged by another bomb on 23 March  1942 and by shelling on 4 October 1943. After the war the  building was restored and the market re-opened but the Museum  moved to new premises in the basement of the Town Hall. The Market Hall finally closed in November 1973, when the stall  holders moved to a temporary accommodation in Biggin Street.  It was intended to refurbish the Market Hall as part of a new  development in the Market Square. Unfortunately the  redevelopment scheme did not come to fruition, and the Market  Hall remained empty and dilapidated, a victim to the attacks of  vandals. The Market Hall remained empty and uncared for until the late  1980s when it was redeveloped. The main part of the building  was demolished but the façade was incorporated into the new  building. The Market Hall is once again home to Dover Museum,  which moved to its new home on its old site in 1991. The new museum, with galleries over three floors, is a great  improvement on the cramped quarters it used to occupy in the  basement of the Old Town Hall. It is now an excellent showcase  for Dover’s rich and varied history, including a purpose built  gallery to house the Bronze Age Boat, which opened in 1999.  
The Market Hall, 1846. An artist's impression of the proposed new buildings. The Market Hall in the 1930's. The stairs up to the museum on the first floor can be seen in the central archway. The Market Hall in the 1960s. A view of the interior showing the market stalls. The Market Hall in 1943.  Showing the wartime damage to the building. The Market Hall in 2014. The original facade with the entrance to the museum. Back to Buildings Index