Deal, Kent

From Academic Kids

Region:South East England
Ceremonial County:Kent
Traditional County:Kent
Postal County:Kent

Template:GBdot Deal is a town in Kent, England. It lies on the English Channel eight miles north-east of Dover. It is a small fishing community situated between Dover and the Isle of Thanet. Closely associated with Deal are the villages of Kingsdown and Walmer.

The town lies at the site where Julius Caesar first arrived in Britain (best guess by historians), and was named as one of the Cinque Ports in 1278. The town grew to become for a while the busiest harbour in England; today it enjoys the reputation of being a quiet seaside resort, its quaint streets and houses the only reminder of its fascinating history.

Its finest building is the Tudor Deal Castle, commissioned by King Henry VIII and designed with an attractive rose floor plan.

During the 19th century, Charles Dickens was to comment on the character of the East Kent boatmen, and on one of his visits to Deal he wrote:

“These are among the bravest and most skilful mariners that exist. Let a gale rise and swell into a storm, and let a sea run that might appal the stoutest heart that ever beat; let the light ships on the sands throw up a rocket in the darkness of the night; or let them hear through the angry roar the signal guns of a ship in distress, and these men spring up with activity so dauntless, so valiant and heroic, that the world cannot surpass it.... For this and the recollection of their comrades, whom we have known, whom the raging sea has engulfed before their children’s eyes in such brave efforts whom the secret sand has buried, let us hold the boatmen in our love and honour, and be tender of the fame they well deserve~”

Missing image
Deal Beach


Maritime history

By the time Dickens came to Deal it had been largely forgotten how the government of 1784, under Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger (who was staying at nearby Walmer Castle, and was later to be appointed Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports in 1792), 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, to freely 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 of 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.

Deal had a naval shipyard which provided Deal with much of its trade. On the site of the yard there is now a building originally used as a semaphore tower, and later used as a coastguard house, then as a Time ball tower, which it remains today, and as a museum.

The Royal Marines

The first home of the Royal Marines in Kent was established at Chatham in 1755. Because of its proximity to the continent and the fact that it possessed a thriving naval dockyard, Deal has been closely associated with the corps ever since its foundation. Records from the old Navy yard at Deal exist from 1658 and show that Marines from Chatham and Woolwich were on duty in Deal, and quartered in the town, until the Deal depot was established in 1861.

Deal Barracks has became known over its long history as the Royal Marine School of Music, the barracks at Walmer consisting of the North, East and South (or Cavalry) barracks, and all were constructed shortly after the outbreak of the French revolution.

Part of the South barracks was used from 1815 as the quarters for the 'blockade men', drafted against a threat of local smuggling. The South barracks became a coastguard station thereafter, and this duty continued until 1840.

It was the East barracks which accommodated the School of Music, until the Royal Naval School of Music was formed at Plymouth in 1903, but which moved to Deal in 1930, replacing the original depot band formed in 1891. Thus the institution became known as the Royal Marine School of Music in 1950.

During 1940, at St Margarets Bay, close to Deal, the Royal Marines Siege Regiment came into being and manned cross-channel guns for most of the remainder of the war.

In 1989, a bomb planted by the IRA killed ten bandsmen and injured a further 22.

On the evening of March 26, 1996, the Deal populous were privy to a special ceremony, the 'beating of the retreat', coming from the South barracks, as the Marines were commanded to vacate their ancient Kent depot and move to new quarters at Portsmouth.

The Deal Lifeboats

During World War I, Deal had two lifeboats, the Charles Dibden and the Frances Forbes Barton; William Stanton was coxswain of the latter, which was originally, in 1897, the legacy of a Miss Webster to the boatmen of Broadstairs. It is recorded as having remained at that station until 1912, when the Broadstairs RNLI station closed, during which time it had been taken out on 77 launches and saved 115 lives, by far the most effective of the RNLI craft stationed there.

Solomon Holbourn, Coxswain of the Mary White of Broadstairs had an aunt, Sophia who married at Folkestone in 1813 to William Stevenson. His eldest son William became a mariner and boatman, and married an Elizabeth Wellard in 1839 at St Peters, Broadstairs. One of their children, born in 1848, was named after his father William, but in his adult life was better known as Bill ‘Floaty’ Stevenson, and as such as a member of the Frances Forbes Barton lifeboat crew.

The Charles Dibden of 1907~31 saved 443 lives at sea. During the service of R. Roberts as coxswain, the Deal lifeboatmen included F. Roberts, ‘Bonny’ Will Adams, Henry and William Marsh, (the latter a Deal pilot), F Hanner (2nd Coxswain), and Henry Holbourn, nephew of Henry Marsh.

In Fiction

A renamed Deal served as the setting for the William Horwood book, The Boy With No Shoes.

Internet Links

Deal Carnival (

Official town website (

Tourist guide to Deal (


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