The Rotary Club of South Foreland recently organised a meeting of the Cinque Ports Rotary Clubs at the Marina Hotel in Dover. Those attending enjoying an excellent meal before hearing of the project to develop the Citadel on Dover’s Western Heights. The presentation was given by David de Min who is Co-Director of Dover Citadel Ltd., which now owns the thirty- three acre site purchased in 2020.
The Citadel is a scheduled monument with a history dating back to the late 1700s, when the fortress designed to withstand Napoleonic invasion was built. In 1861 the Officers’ Quarters was added, an attractive and outstanding building which was then bombproof. After use in the two 20th Century World Wars, the Citadel has been a prison, borstal, detention centre, and immigration remand centre. It was closed in 2015.
As a young entrepreneur working in property development in the South East and keen on using cutting edge technology, David saw great potential at the Citadel once he heard about it. In 2020 he put together his vision in a proposal which gained great support, was submitted to the Ministry of Justice and was the winning tender.
His proposal had to demonstrate that it would be a heritage led design which would look after the site and create something unique for the good of the community. That is why the project was based on an understanding of the Citadel and its features as a rare fortification. Money for the renovation of those original features of the site that could be restored was given by the Government.
That is why architect Guy Holloway was used to ensure that the design was in keeping with the fortress, but with a modern interpretation to inspire the next generation. Another aspect of the project is the use of modern materials and methods of building which are sustainable and efficient, reducing building time by 75%. The use of such materials will reduce energy bills by 90%.
This is a long-term project, with phase one being largely clearance and some restoration. This phase is due for completion in February 2023, with planning permission to come for converting the Officers’ Quarters into a hotel complex and some of the casemates into business units. There are also plans for a leisure centre and cycle track.
David’s company is working with Dover District Council which sees the development as an asset to attract people to stay in Dover. It is also working closely with Historic England. As well as its history, the Citadel’s position overlooking Dover Harbour and the English Channel is also an attraction. A change in mentality from seeing the Citadel as a remote and forbidding place, (many locals were unaware if it being a prison), to seeing it as a place of leisure and hospitality with a unique history will grow as the project takes shape.
A feature of the original fortress is the system of wells and water storage towers which made it self-sufficient in water. David hopes to restore these as part of the eco-system of the site, as well as growing produce of their own. In time, production of their own beer and spirits might be possible.
One interesting find in the process of renovation was the skeleton of a tiger given to the British Army by the Indian Army in the 19th Century. David has since learnt that the skull of this tiger is displayed in Dover Museum.
As already mentioned, this is a long-term project. It is planned to develop in phases of about twelve months over the next ten years. It will turn a little known asset into one which will restore history, engage with, and provide opportunities for, the local community and attract visitors.
David’s vision, energy and enthusiasm was clear to see from his presentation. We wish him well.
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