Deal, Kent

Deal is a town in Kent, England, which lies on the border of the North Sea and the English Channel, eight miles north-east of Dover and eight miles south of Ramsgate. It is a former fishing, mining and garrison town. Close to Deal is Walmer, a possible location for Julius Caesar's first arrival in Britain.


Deal seafront
Location within Kent
Population30,085 (2011 census Deal Urban Area)
OS grid referenceTR375525
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townDEAL
Postcode districtCT14
Dialling code01304
AmbulanceSouth East Coast
EU ParliamentSouth East England
UK Parliament

Deal became a 'limb port' of the Cinque Ports in 1278 and grew into the busiest port in England; today it is a seaside resort, its quaint streets and houses are a reminder of its history along with many ancient buildings and monuments. In 1968, Middle Street was the first Conservation Area in Kent.[1] The coast of France is approximately twenty-five miles from the town and is visible on clear days. The Tudor Deal Castle, commissioned by King Henry VIII, has a rose floor plan.


Deal is first mentioned as a village in the Domesday Book of 1086, where it appears as Addelam. It is referred to as Dela in 1158, and Dale in 1275. The name is the Old English dael meaning 'valley', cognate with the modern English 'dale'.[2] Deal developed into a port by the end of the 13th century. In 1495 the town was the site of an attempted landing by the pretender to the English throne Perkin Warbeck. His supporters were driven off by locals loyal to Henry VII at the Battle of Deal, fought on the beach. Sandown, Deal and Walmer castles were constructed around the town by Henry VIII to protect against foreign naval attack. In 1861 a Royal Marines Depot was established in the town.

Maritime history

The proximity of Deal's shoreline to the notorious Goodwin Sands has made its coastal waters a source of both shelter and danger through the history of sea travel in British waters. The Downs, the water between the town and the sands, provides a naturally sheltered anchorage. This meant that, despite the absence of a harbour, the town became a significant port (both for merchant ships and for the Royal Navy) with transit of goods and people from ship to shore conducted using smaller tender craft. Deal was, for example, visited by Nelson and was the first English soil on which James Cook set foot in 1771 on returning from his first voyage to Australia. The anchorage is still used today by international and regional shipping, though on a scale far smaller than in former times (some historical accounts report hundreds of ships being visible from the beach).

In 1672, a small Naval Yard was established at Deal, providing stores and minor repair facilities.[3] Just outside the gates of the yard there is now a building originally used as a semaphore tower planned to be used as a communication link to the Admiralty in London but converted to a timeball tower, in 1855 which remains today as a museum.

The Deal Maritime and Local History Museum is housed in an historic complex of light-industrial buildings in St George's Road, dating from 1803. It contains a series of displays and artefacts, narrating the town's maritime, industrial, domestic and leisure history.[4]


By the time Dickens came to Deal, it had been largely forgotten how the government of 1784, under Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger, ensured that the Deal boats were all set ablaze, suspecting some of the Deal luggers of being engaged in smuggling. Pitt had awaited an opportunity that January, when the boats were all 'hoved up' on the beach on account of bad weather, to send a regiment of soldiers to smash and burn them. A naval cutter was positioned offshore to prevent any of the boatmen escaping.

The boatmen's ancestors had the right, under charter, freely to import goods in return for their services as Cinque Port men in providing what had been long recognised as the sole naval defence of the realm. These men continued to risk their lives and their boats, in saving the lives of shipwreck victims. The irrepressible spirit of the Deal boatmen remained undaunted by these events throughout the Napoleonic Wars, and they continued to assert their hard-earned right to trade. From these activities news of the events unfolding in France would reach England quickly and regularly, with about 400 men making a living off Deal beach at that time. The war only made the boatmen’s efforts more profitable, so that afterwards the Government immediately turned a part of its naval blockade into a coastal blockade, which lasted from 1818 to 1831.

The Navy Yard

A naval storehouse was built in Deal in 1672, providing for ships anchored in the Downs. In time, the establishment grew to cover some five acres of land, to the north of the castle. There was also a Victualling Yard on site. In contrast to other naval yards, there was no place for ships to dock alongside at Deal, so instead a number of small supply boats were maintained at the yard; these would be launched from the shingle beach, carrying supplies, provisions, personnel or equipment as required. The Yard closed in 1864.[5]

The barracks

The Royal Marines Depot, Deal were constructed shortly after the outbreak of the French Revolution. They originally consisted of adjacent cavalry and infantry barracks (later known as South Barracks), alongside which were separate hospitals for the Army and Navy. In due course the hospitals were also turned into barracks (known as North Barracks and East Barracks respectively). From 1861 the complex served as a sizeable Depot for the Royal Marines; latterly it was known in particular for the Royal Marines School of Music, which had moved there in 1930.[6]



The seafront at Deal has been adorned with three separate piers in the town's history. The first, built in 1838, was designed by Sir John Rennie. After its wooden structure was destroyed in an 1857 gale, it was replaced by an iron pier in 1864. A popular pleasure pier, it survived until the Second World War, when it was struck and severely damaged by a mined Dutch ship, the Nora, in January 1940. This was not the first time the pier had been hit by shipping, with previous impacts in 1873 and 1884 necessitating extensive repairs.

The present pier, designed by Sir W. Halcrow & Partners, was opened on 19 November 1957 by the Duke of Edinburgh. Constructed predominantly from concrete-clad steel, it is 1026 ft (311 m) in length (a notice announces that it is the same length as the RMS Titanic, but that ship was just 882 feet in length), and ends in a three-tiered pier-head, featuring a cafe, bar, lounge, and fishing decks. The lowest of the three tiers is underwater at all but the lowest part of the tidal range, and has become disused. The pier is a popular sport fishing venue.

Deal's current pier is the last remaining fully intact leisure pier in Kent and is a Grade II listed building.[7] Its structure was extensively refurbished and repaired in 1997, with work including the replacement of much of the concrete cladding on the pier's main piles. Work began in April 2008 to construct a new pier-head with a modern restaurant, with the restaurant opened in December 2008.

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Southend Pier
National Piers Society
Pier of the Year

Succeeded by
Saltburn Pier


Deal has several museums; most are related to Deal's maritime history. Both Deal Castle and Walmer Castle are operated by English Heritage - Deal has a display on the events in the reign of Henry VIII that led to the invasion threat which caused its construction, along with some material on its subsequent history, whereas displays at Walmer concentrate on Walmer's post-Tudor role as the Lord Warden's residence. There is also a ruin of the third Tudor castle, Sandown Castle, in North Deal. The Deal Maritime and Local History Museum has exhibits of boats, smuggler galleys and model naval ships. It also contains extensive histories of the lifeboats as well as local parish registers. The Timeball Tower Museum, on the other hand, focuses on the importance of timekeeping for ships, and the role the building it occupies played.

Notable references

Diarist Samuel Pepys recorded several visits to the town, being moved on 30 April 1660 to describe it as "pitiful".[8]

Deal was notorious in the 17th century as a location for smugglers and the author Daniel Defoe wrote of the town:

William Cobbett passing through in September 1823 noted in his book Rural Rides:

In fiction

Dickens, who had visited the town, had Richard Carstone garrisoned here in Bleak House,[9] so that Woodcourt and Esther's paths can cross when Woodcourt's ship happens to anchor in the Downs at the same time as Esther and Charley are visiting Richard:

Deal is the setting for local novelist George Chittenden's smuggling saga, which is set in the late 18th century when the town was a haven for criminal gangs smuggling contraband across the English Channel. In Chittenden's debut The Boy Who Led Them a child rises through the ranks to control the biggest smuggling gang on the Kent coast, fighting wars with rival gangs and revenue men at every turn.[10]

In Chittenden's next book The Boy Who Felt No Pain he takes the reader on a journey back to the dangerous coastal town of Deal, fleshing out the back story of main characters from the first novel whilst also raising some interesting new questions.[11]

In Jane Austen's Persuasion,[12] the town is mentioned as the only place where Admiral Croft's wife Sophia Croft was ever ill, as it was the only place she was ever separated from him, whilst he was patrolling the North Sea.

  • A renamed Deal served as the setting for the William Horwood book The Boy With No Shoes.[13] It is also the setting for part of his earlier novel The Stonor Eagles.
  • It is the (renamed) setting of Frances Fyfield's crime novel Undercurrents.[14]
  • It is the setting for David Donachie's book A Hanging Matter, a murder and nautical mystery.[15]
  • North & South Deal were swapped round in the semi-autobiographical novel The Pier by Rayner Heppenstall.
  • Deal features briefly in H. G. Wells The War of the Worlds.
  • Deal is mentioned as the destination for a Marine recruit from Edinburgh in the novel Guns of Evening by Ronald Bassett. "What's Deal?" the recruit replies having never heard of it.
  • Deal is the setting for Ian Fleming's 1955 James Bond book Moonraker. Villain Hugo Drax has built his Moonraker rocket just outside Deal, where Bond has to go and investigate.
  • Characters in the Aubrey-Maturin novels of Patrick O'Brian frequently stay in Deal waiting for their ship to be ordered to sea.
  • Horatio Hornblower (in The Commodore, by C. S. Forester) departs from Deal on his voyage to the Baltic.
  • Deal features in Anthony Horowitz's 2017 crime thriller The Word Is Murder.

Local media


Deal has one paid for newspaper, the East Kent Mercury, published by the KM Group.


The local radio station for Deal is KMFM Shepway and White Cliffs Country. Deal is also served by the county-wide stations Heart, Gold, KMFM and BBC Radio Kent. Deal Radio[16] is an online radio station with news, music, interviews Broadcast from The Landmark Centre, High street Deal Kent.

Sport and leisure

Deal has a non-League football club Deal Town F.C., which plays at The Charles Sports Ground.

The Rugby Club, Deal & Betteshanger Lions plays at the old RM Drill Field off Canada Rd.

There is also Deal Rowing Club located on the seafront north of the pier.

There is a Farmer’s Market on Wednesday which sells local produce, as well as a long-running market on Saturday. The town has an independent retail sector in the North End of Deal High Street, and a number of chains on the High Street, though there are some retail voids.

The Astor Theatre in Deal offers musical performances, live theatre, exhibitions, movies, classes and clubs, and more.

Deal used to have two cinemas up until 1981, but these finally closed in 1984 with the closure of the Cannon Classic in Queen Street and although a small cinema re-appeared in the former Cannon Classic Cinema building, that too closed in 2007. Deal's former bingo hall the Regent, another art deco cinema building, closed in 2008 and was sold by the local council to reopen as a cinema or arts space. As of April 2018, the building remains shuttered with no plans submitted for its regeneration.

Twin towns

Notable people



  • Edward Francis Fitzwilliam (1824 in Deal – 1857)[33] composer and music director.
  • John Ireland (1879 – 1962)[34] was an English composer and teacher of classical music, lived at Comarques, 122, High Street, Deal from 1936-1939[35]
  • Dick Morrissey (1940 – 2000 in Deal)[36] jazz musician and composer. He played the tenor sax, soprano sax and flute.
  • Adrian Brett (born Deal in 1945) is a British flautist.[37] His album, Echoes of Gold appeared in the Top 20 of the UK Albums Chart


  • Elizabeth Carter (1717 in Deal – 1806)[38] poet, classicist, writer and translator, and a member of the Bluestocking Circle around Elizabeth Montagu
  • Stephen Phillips (1864 – 1915 in Deal) poet and dramatist, who enjoyed considerable popularity early in his career. Lodged & died in Deal[39]
  • Nathaniel Gubbins (1893–1976) journalist and humourist,[39] lived at 109 Beach Street from 1947-1958, known as ‘The Wars Leading Humorist’
  • Elizabeth Bartlett (1924 in Deal – 2008)[40] poet
  • William Horwood (born 1944) novelist,[41] he grew up on the East Kent coast, primarily in Deal
  • Sean Gabb (born 1960 in Chatham)[42] writer, lecturer and broadcaster, lives in Deal. He was the Director of the Libertarian Alliance from 2006 to 2017


The nearest UK Met Office weather station is in Langdon Bay. Deal has a temperate maritime climate, with comfortable summers and cold winters. The temperature is usually between 3 °C (37 °F) and 21.1 °C (70.0 °F), but the all-time temperature range is between −8 °C (18 °F) and 31 °C (88 °F). There is evidence that the sea is coldest in February; the warmest recorded February temperature was only 13 °C (55 °F), compared with 16 °C (61 °F) in January.[43][44]


  1. "Deal Middle Street". Retrieved 24 September 2015.
  2. Eilert Ekwall, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-names, p.140.
  3. Lavery, Brian (1989). Nelson's Navy. London: Conway Maritime Press.
  4. "Museum website".
  5. Coad, Jonathan (2013). Support for the Fleet. Swindon: English Heritage.
  6. "WalmerWeb: Local History - The Royal Marines". Retrieved 24 September 2015.
  7. "Deal Pier - National Piers Society". Retrieved 28 September 2016.
  8. "Monday 30 April 1660". The Diary of Samuel Pepys. Retrieved 24 September 2015.
  9. Chapter XLV
  10. "The Boy Who Led Them: George Chittenden: 9781849631280: Books". Retrieved 24 September 2015.
  11. "The Boy Who Felt No Pain: George Chittenden: 9781849634489: Books". Retrieved 24 September 2015.
  12. Chapter 8
  13. William Horwood (2004). The Boy with No Shoes: A Memoir. Review. ISBN 978-0-7553-1317-4. Retrieved 24 September 2015.
  14. Frances Fyfield (4 October 2012). Undercurrents. Little, Brown Book Group. ISBN 978-1-4055-2048-5. Retrieved 24 September 2015.
  15. David Donachie (1 April 2002). A Hanging Matter. McBooks Press. ISBN 978-1-59013-016-2. Retrieved 24 September 2015.
  16. "Deal Community Radio - Something for everyone". Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 24 September 2015.
  17. Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography retrieved 3 October 2017
  18. 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 13 retrieved 3 October 2017
  19. Perkins, Eleanor (25 September 2019). "Transgender dad and Seahorse star Freddy McConnell loses court case". Kent Online. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  20. Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10 1986 retrieved 3 October 2017
  21. Sports Reference LLC retrieved 3 October 2017
  22. The Aerodrome website retrieved 3 October 2017
  23. retrieved 3 October 2017
  24. The Peerage, Person Page 12487 retrieved 3 October 2017
  25. Members of the House of Lords retrieved 3 October 2017
  26. Sports Reference LLC retrieved 3 October 2017
  27. IMDb website retrieved 3 October 2017
  28. IMDb website retrieved 3 October 2017
  29. IMDb website retrieved 3 October 2017
  30. IMDb website retrieved 3 October 2017
  31. IMDb website retrieved 3 October 2017
  32. IMDb website retrieved 3 October 2017
  33. Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 19 retrieved 3 October 2017
  34. Stewart R. Craggs, John Ireland. Ashgate Publishing (2007) retrieved 3 October 2017
  35. "Blue Plaque Walks in Deal". High Street Deal. Retrieved 28 May 2016.
  36. The Guardian, Thursday 9 November 2000, Obituary retrieved 3 October 2017
  37. Biography on Becker Ensemble of London site retrieved 3 October 2017
  38. Encyclopædia Britannica retrieved 3 October 2017
  39. Blue Plaque Walks in Deal retrieved 3 October 2017
  40. Guardian Obituary Tuesday 29 July 2008 retrieved 3 October 2017
  41. William Horwood website 2017 retrieved 3 October 2017
  42., Own website retrieved 3 October 2017
  43. "Deal climate". Retrieved 24 September 2015.
  44. "December Climate History for Dover - Local - Kent, United Kingdom". Retrieved 24 September 2015.


  • Green, Ivan. The Book of Deal and Walmer, Barracuda Books Ltd, 1983, ISBN 0-86023-156-9
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