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Sep 2019

Kent Coat of Arms

This seaside town on Kent's East Coast is probably most famous as the home of famed Carry On collaborator  Charles Hawtrey[1]. Hawtrey would become an alcoholic nuisance in later life and there's a man on a bench here who looks to have assumed the mantle.

He has, unsurprisingly, no interest in today's braderie making Deal a town of two halves and the half that embraces the braderie means that Deal is just a little bit that kind of place.

[1] That and when  Tommy Cockles' wife Marie threw a piece of coal at a barbecue.

A braderie? A whatterie? A  street market dealing in discount bric-a-brac and knick-knacks[1], since you ask.

The word comes from Dutchland via Northern France, as do some visitors although that 25-mile journey is complicated by the Channel.

Now that you know there should be no need to enquire and no need to be met with a response that assumes you're visiting from the moon. That should have been expected, really, because braderies are such a big thing in Blyth, right?

[1] More of a middle-class car boot and yes madam, £20 is reasonable for what might be a Wedgwood™ butter dish even if it is a little chipped.

This all happens along the rather marvellous high street, which is handy for some fags. Other highlights include Deal Town Hall, which still deals in all town matters.

Fleshpots are plentiful with not too much repurposing required of the original Rose Hotel. The local Thomson brewery was all hands to the pumps before the big boys started to strongarm and swallow the smaller suppliers as early as the '50s.

It's now back in the Thomson family and they serve up a micro-reimagining of their once famous Walmer Ale. That, by the way, is pronounced as in 'not colder' and not as in 'follows the same rules as Wilma' although why anybody would say it like that is a mystery to the young barmaid, as well.

It's not all about the beer, they have some serious  culinary connections but couldn't accommodate this peckish pair. Fully booked, they said, although this was just after asking about the correct pronunciation of 'Walmer'.

Might as well have asked her if she knew what a braderie was?

  The Sir Norman Wisdom (Queen Street)

Not that they need the publicity but worthy of a personal mention, perhaps? Mrs Guff is an easy-enough-going individual but harbours a deep dislike of the little fella. It's ironic, then, that you find yourselves inside when the Rose is 'full'.

The diminutive dolt spent an unhappy period in a children's home in Deal before running away to join the Merchant Navy.

Wetherspoon™s consider this worthy of 'celebrating' and they've gone and done just that, complete with comedy font as well as the out-of-date ale.

Three parallel streets here and separating the high street from the seafront is Middle Street.

This narrow stretch of quirky, Georgian terraces makes for some similarity with Naples, seriously, and while it's hardly UNESCO™ it does have Conservation Area stamped all over it.

Here is where Hawtrey, in between abusing locals, used to get his head down and you too might accidentally stumble on his, not-so-humble, abode.

This, by the way, was completely by chance and no claims are being made to being connoisseurs of the Carry On. No, the eyes were simply drawn to the sturdy front door and a magnificent pair of... oh come on!

  The Marina

It's not far from and there's a nice view of the front, stop it, and the dwellings that benefit provided some recent, TV backdrop.

Yes, ITV™'s you-soon-know-why-but-who-what-dunnit serial drama  Liar has Deal to thank for the domestic and moody beach scenes.

The seedy subject of Rohypnol and a video camera[1] made for a surprising smash with the action flipping between here and Essex, a journey that will take you about three episodes, with ads, in reality.

[1] Hardly a spoiler, it was broadcast in 2017 man!

The beach would be described as, erm, serviceable but Brighton seems to have gotten away with some similarly shaped shingle, not shown.

It's potentially popular and there's a touch of the traditional overlooking it all. What can't be described as that is  Deal Pier, what a concrete monstrosity, eh?

Well, just hold on a moment. The material is necessary thanks to an errant Dutch navigator who saw to the 1864 original when his water brakes failed.

In his defence, he had just been blindsided by a mine during World War you-know-when and the 1950s replacement fits well with the Art Deco nods elsewhere.

The earlier pier was a replacement, itself, for one that lasted only 20 years and not for no, taps nose, fire, neither.

An attack of sandworm, they say, sandworm? Given this is where piers are normally found, that must surely be an issue for every other wooden one in the world, which, let's face it, really just means the UK?

  The Just Reproach (King Street)

Now, there's old-skool and there's old-skool. This single-room boozer is even older-skool where a man disappears out back to fill your dimpled pint pot, last seen in a novelty gift set with shampoo in it[1].

There are fines for your mobile going off and everything's poured straight from the cask. Oh! The man serving tonight also knows more about football than even your dad does and the chatty bunch of regulars can fill you in on where's best to eat.

That, they say, is  Dunkerley's although this pair also found themselves partial to the pasta and pizza at  Salentino's.

[1] Or did I dream this?

The driver of that Dutch vessel was lucky, he could have added to the tally of 2,000 others who have ended up wrecked on Goodwin Sands. Ten miles long and some seven offshore, this treacherous bank provides natural shelter for those inshore of it but has also contributed to the creation of convenient places to land.

That means some defending of Deal has been necessary over the centuries and Deal Castle would have seen them off, eh?

That's a joke, of course, Sandown Castle was, and is, the weakest link but head a mile-or-so south and here's the real Deal Castle.

Having peed off the Pope, they're both Henry #8's handiwork when the Holy Roman Empire threatened to visit for the first time since the BCs.

 English Heritage™ will demand a handful of GBPs for your entrance where highlights include walking within a narrow, inner wall, some parts of it in total darkness.

If the prospect of that is a little too exciting, head another mile-and-a-bit south where there's a calmer experience at Walmer Castle. but that's another story.

That, by the way, will get you the full set and is an unplayable hand in Henry VIII's 'Castles of the Downs' poker.

So, there has been an important, nautical, Tudor history lesson, some saucy reminiscings on the '60s and '70s and a new word for a car boot, to boot.

None of those, though, are the real reason for being here? That's because the  Deal Timeball Tower is the main attraction and no, nobody else seems to have heard of it, neither.

Remember when you were happy enough with your latitude but that refracting telescope just ain't cutting it longitude-wise. For that you need the local time but, with pendulums at sea not being particularly reliable and these the days before radio beeps, how to know that?

The principle is simple enough, the Ancient Greeks were doing it long before they first did in Portsmouth. Drop a ball at a pre-determined time and any observers instantly know although if you blink you might miss it.

Even this pair can get their heads around that and they still do it in Deal, one of only half-a-dozen-or-so in the UK. The gentleman in charge is passionate about his timepiece and is thrilled that there are two interested-in-the-anachronistic observers.

He's so thrilled he'll let you up top for a small admission where a pair of binoculars can just about see the shimmering of Goodwin Sands.

He'll even chuckle at, when on leaving you ask, 'Excuse me, do you have the right time?'