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.
THOMAS TALLISIn the 1530s Dover College was home to Thomas Tallis the famous Renaissance composer.