Spotlight on: Deal
PUBLISHED: 16:16 01 March 2015 | UPDATED: 16:17 01 March 2015
With its lovely seafront, pubs and little independent shops, Deal is a magnet for creative types and it also enjoys a really tight-knit community spirit
Deal is a little town with a lot going on. From its heyday as an important port, mining and fishing community, through to its time as a centre for the Royal Marines and now as a popular weekend retreat for city-dwellers, this traditional seaside town is the ‘real deal’.
Even in adversity – it was heavily bombed during the war and the town’s barracks were bombed by the IRA in 1989 – the spirit of this little place has remained buoyant and the positivity of its residents is almost palpable.
It could be that they know they’re onto a good thing; Deal is a tight-knit community with good schools, a beautiful beach and all the cosy pubs and little independent shops you could ever ask for.
It’s also always been the kind of place that attracts creative people and today boasts artists, authors, poets, musicians and film-makers among its ranks.
But over the last couple of years the retailers in and around the High Street have themselves had to become a little more creative. Showing yet more of that positive streak, Deal’s shops have risen up despite the economic hardship felt by the rest of the country.
In fact, only last year Deal was named High Street of the Year by The Daily Telegraph. Praised for its local independent retailers, the judges claimed you could furnish an entire house without leaving Deal High Street.
It was music to the ears for Deal’s Town Team, a voluntary group of independent retailers. Member Esme Chilton says: “Deal is a hidden gem on the coast, but for those who know and love it, we completely understand why Deal was the winning high street.
“It is the perfect mixture of eclectic independents, selling everything from local produce, fresh fish, baked goods and fabulous wines to arty gifts and clothes, vintage delights – and there are fabulous eateries galore.”
Sonja Taylor-Jones of Taylor-Jones and Son, an independent vintage and art shop (pictured above), says: “Having an independent shop in Deal is very exciting for us. People seem to be searching for far less mundane things than they would find in big chains and we’re providing something out of the ordinary for them.
“Deal has a lovely selection of independent shops, each with its own very particular style and atmosphere and the town has become a real destination recently. Winning The Daily Telegraph High Street of the Year has certainly helped draw people in.
“We have a dedicated local customer base, but every weekend we have people in from across Britain and further afield too.”
Things to do
Go to the theatre: Deal’s Astor Theatre (CT14 6AB) is a small but elegant community theatre and arts centre with an eclectic mix of music, theatre, literary events, films and art exhibitions.
Stroll down the pier: Replacing one that had been struck by shipping during the war, the current concrete pier at Deal was opened in 1957. It might not be to everybody’s taste but it’s a Grade II listed building and the last remaining functional leisure pier in Kent.
Visit a castle: Deal Castle and the neighbouring Walmer Castle are both operated by English Heritage and feature displays on the events that led to their construction, during the reign of Henry VIII. Visit www.english-heritage.org.uk
Watch the time go by: Deal is famous for its time ball tower (CT14 7BP), a Victorian maritime signal like the one in Greenwich. At the top of a four-storey tower on the seafront, it’s working again and can be seen rising just before the hour and dropping on the hour exactly.
Eating and shopping
There are so many places to stop for a pint of real ale, enjoy afternoon tea or step out for a dinner date in Deal. Harriet’s Tearooms (CT14 6ER) and Wellington’s seafront café (CT14 6HY) are both popular, as is Victual’s & Co (CT14 6TA), specialising in seafood, 81 Beach Street (CT14 6JB) and the innovative Dining Club (CT14 6HP).
Great pubs include The Just Reproach (CT14 6HX), The Deal Hoy (CT14 6DU) and The Zetland Arms (CT14 8AF) in nearby Kingsdown.
Deal also has the spectacularly located Royal Hotel (CT14 6JD, 01304 375555) right on the beach and Dunkerley’s (CT14 7AH) is perfect if you want to stay over after a great seafood feast in the restaurant and has great pier views.
Big chain stores, including M&S and Boots, feature on the High Street but it is independents that Deal is known for.
Try Taylor-Jones and Son for art, vintage and all kinds of fascinating gifts (CT14 6BG), clothing boutique Tamarisk (CT14 6EH), Quirky Giftz (CT14 6HE) and the Swanstitch craft shop (CT14 6EG).
How long have you lived in Deal?
I lived in Deal as a child. I left in my late teens but came back often to visit family and moved back a couple of years ago. I love that the town has survived so much; the closure of the pits, the IRA bomb, storms and floods and hurricanes, and yet never lost its spirit.
We have had something of an economic revival with a lot of people visiting from London and further afield but we haven’t undergone the homogeny suffered by a lot of other seaside towns. The people of Deal are still very real and very present.
Tell us what you do
I am a writer who also teaches creative writing. I run a writing course in Deal’s community theatre, The Astor, and my first novel, This Green and Pleasant Land, is published this spring.
Why so many creatives here?
There are some very interesting people in Deal and they do some really diverse things that all benefit the community. There are literally hundreds of artists, musicians and writers living here. I think a lot of that is down to community support and encouragement; it drives people to try. Some things are more successful than others but people dare to put their creativity out there and that’s what matters.
Your favourite shops?
My three favourite shops are definitely Taylor-Jones and Son (CT14 6BG), Dunlin and Diver (CT14 6EE), and Fox and Spindle (CT14 6HX). The range of lovely things in those three can keep me going for hours. We are lucky enough to have a thriving music shop – Mark 1 Music (CT14 7BN) – and a bustling Saturday market.
Your favourite places to eat and drink?
The Just Reproach (CT14 6HX) was actually instrumental in my moving back to Deal. My husband and I had been mulling over the idea and chanced upon this fantastic micropub, three years ago, in the first weeks it was open. Our other favourites are The Berry (CT14 7EQ) – a brilliant real ale pub at the opposite end of town – and Borough Wines (CT14 6EE), a little French wine bar with a great atmosphere.
Food-wise I love Wellington’s (CT14 6HY) on the sea front, Milaad Tandoori (CT14 6HT) and 81 Beach Street (CT14 6JB).
By Penny Bearman
“Deal is not just good to paint, it is fantastic to paint. The main reason being that every time you leave the house you see something different.
People tell me constantly that Deal looks different every single day, and it is absolutely true. When it rains you see the boatmen sheltering under their bright blue tarpaulin and the rain on the shingle changes the colour of the beach to a rich dark orange.
When the first spring sun begins to turn the winter lemon light into just a hint of cadmium orange, the sunshine falls in perfect 45 degree triangles over the shops of the High Street, and the moisture in the air makes all the shadows cornflower blue. From Deal Pier you can see the impossibility of ever representing the sea in paint. The sea is lighter than the sky, then it is greener, then darker and blacker, and best of all, in the spring the boundary between sea and sky disappears altogether!
In spite of all this visual joy, it is the people who work in Deal and the constant delight of the people within the landscape who feel utterly at home here who give the whole point and poignancy to any Deal painting.”
It’s still an affordable part of the county. Five-bedroom detached homes start at around £460,000, with three-bed houses between £170,000 and £450,000 and one-bed flats kicking off at £90,000.
Jenkinson (01304 278050) and Thomas and Partners (01304 278021) are two of the estate agents with offices in Deal.
Astor Theatre: March of the Mods (6 March) live music and DJs, comedian Jo Caulfield (7 March), La Traviata (21 March) and The Blues Brothers Experience (28 March). For tickets visit www.theastor.org
Deal Farmers’ Market: the first Saturday of the month at the Astor Theatre (CT14 6AB).
Weekly markets: Wednesdays and Fridays at the town hall (CT14 6TR) and Saturdays in the Union Road car park (CT14 6EA).
How to get there
Deal is halfway between Ramsgate and Dover on the coast. Accessible by road via the A2 from Canterbury, it also has a train station that can take you to Charing Cross in just over two hours.
Satnav (town centre): CT14 6BB