Dover & Deal is an area steeped in history. Our role as guardian of the nation means we have been involved in some of the world’s defining events – from the rise of the Roman empire to Nelson’s Deal to the key battles in World War Two. Now we are once again at the frontline as we leave the European Union and reclaim our place in the world as a sovereign island nation.
That’s why even at this moment in time, in the middle of a global pandemic, it is vital to preserve and enhance our culture and heritage. We must look after those cherished assets, so they can continue to shine in our community and be enjoyed for generations to come. So I am pleased to report some welcome good news on that this week.
Dover Castle, with its huge stone structures perched atop the White Cliffs, is our most iconic piece of history. It is also one of the top attractions in the country, with some 368,243 people reported to have attended last year, enjoying some 2,000 years of history. This week it was confirmed it will receive £32,000 from the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund.
Walmer Castle also benefits from the Culture Recovery Fund in order to support its eight acres of award-winning gardens. It was once a Tudor artillery fortress that became a stately home for the Lords Warden of the Cinque Ports, including the Duke of Wellington.
Crabble Corn Mill is yet another gem, rescued from demolition and opened to the public in 1990. It is now one of the most complete working examples of a Georgian watermill in Europe. It will receive £20,000 of extra support amid the pandemic.
Meanwhile progress continues to be made on the planned £9 million redevelopment of Dover Town Hall known as the Maison Dieu. The scheme includes essential conservation work to the Grade I-listed medieval and neo-gothic building, updating it to a modern attraction. A decision on a £4.8m bid to the National Lottery Heritage Fund is expected soon and, if successful, would restore it to its full glory, fit for the future and an anchor for the regeneration of the whole town centre.
As well as part of our own history and culture, these are essential building blocks of our local economic strategy. I am clear that as we go forward into recovery, we must and need to make all our assets work for the benefit of our local and national economy. This means ensuring that there are ways for people to spend money locally when they visit our community – whether visiting the Castle or a day out to the beach. In that way, harnessing our history can be of most benefit to the present as well as preserving it for generations to come.