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St Martin’s Priory

In 1131, King Henry I granted a charter founding the Priory of  St Martin of Tours at Dover. The monastery stood on the site of what is now Dover College, between Priory Road and Dover  Priory Station. The church was longer than the combined  length of churches of St James and St Mary, being 285 feet  long and 70 feet wide. In addition to their monastic duties of prayer and worship, the  monks managed a large farm and provided well used  accommodation for pilgrims from Europe to the shrine of St  Thomas Becket at Canterbury, and for crusaders, pilgrims and  VIPs on their way to Europe and the Holy Land. The popularity  of this accommodation led to the building of the Maison Dieu in  1203 by Hubert de Burgh to ease the pressure on the Priory’s  guest house. In 1154 King Stephen died while staying at the Priory and in  1295 it was burnt by the French. On that occasion, all the  monks fled except for a very old monk, who was found sitting  on his bed in the dormitory, and when he refused to tell the  raiders where the treasures of the monastery were hidden he  was killed. There was an attempt to have the monk, Thomas de la Hale canonised, but the Prior of Canterbury gave an  unfavourable report, fearing that St Thomas of Dover might be  a rival to St Thomas of Canterbury! In the autumn of 1535 the Priory was closed as part of Henry  VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries. The fact that it was  dissolved very soon after it had been visited by the king's  commissioners, could indicate that something was seriously  amiss. Before the government's scheme for dissolving the  smaller monasteries was put into general operation in 1536,  only the poorest, most corrupt or otherwise decrepit houses  were closed down immediately after an official visitation. After this the lands passed to the Archbishop of Canterbury and were leased to various tenants. The church and Priory buildings  became a quarry for building materials, the only ones to  survive being those which found another use, like the  Refectory, which became a barn. In the early part of the 19th  Century the land started to be leased for building purposes,  parts of Effingham Street and Saxon Street stand over the  transepts and chancel of the Priory church. In the 1870’s the remaining lands became the site of Dover  College, a preparatory school for boys. The remaining Priory  buildings were restored for use by the College. The 12th  Century Refectory became the hall and is used today for its  original purpose of a dining room. The gatehouse was  converted into the library and is now used as a music  classroom. The Priory’s guest house, after many years  agricultural use, became the College Chapel. Dover College,  which is now co-educational, occupies the same site today and the original buildings are still in use.  
St Martin's Priory c.1870.  The Priory Station was opened in 1861 and the tunnel can be seen at the far left of the photo. St Martin's Priory. the Guest House c.1850.  This shows the building in use as a barn.  It is now the chapel of Dover College. St Martin's Priory, the Refrectory c.1850.  Used now as a dining hall by Dover College. St Martin's Priory, the Gatehouse c.1860. Dover College 1891.  An engraving from the Illustrated London News 27th June 1891. St Martin's Priory Church. A plan showing the church overlaid on the surrounding streets. Back to Churches Index
THOMAS TALLIS In the 1530s Dover College was home to Thomas Tallis the famous Renaissance composer.