Aspects of Lower Deal

Cobbett (a politician), Sept 1823 visit through Deal taken from his book 'Rural Rides':

Deal is a most villainous place. It is full of filthy-looking people. Great desolation of abomination has been going on here; tremendous barracks, partly pulled down and partly tumbling down, and partly occupied by soldiers. Everything seems upon the perish. I was glad to hurry along through it, and to leave its inns and public-houses to be occupied by the tarred, and trowsered, and blue-and-buff crew whose very vicinage I always detest. From Deal you come along to Upper Deal, which, it seems, was the original village; thence upon a beautiful road to Sandwich, which is a rotten borough. Rottenness, putridity is excellent for land, but bad for boroughs. This place, which is as villainous a hole as one would wish to see, is surrounded by some of the finest land in the world. Along on one side of it lies a marsh. On the other sides of it is land which they tell me bears seven quarters of wheat to an acre. It is certainly very fine; for I saw large patches of radish-seed on the roadside; this seed is grown for the seedsmen in London; and it will grow on none but rich land. All the corn is carried here except some beans and some barley.

This was puiblished in parts in his 'Political Register' before collection for his book.

Added by Alan Buckman

WH Ireland (a historian), writing about Deal and published in 1829 'Topography and History of the County of Kent' tries to redress the impression given by Cobbett's writing of Deal. He has some interesting comments to say and most likely had first hand knowledge.

"….. thought that the wealth of Deal is not so great at present as formerly, in consequence of the summary acts passed, and the vigilence adopted by the government for the supression of all contraband traffic, for which this town was, some years back notorious.

As the inhabitants of Deal may be considered almost amphibious and the attention of those who visit the coast will be principally directed to its fine beach and the shipping, the buildings of the town, and the distribution of the streets, must not be too fastidiously criticized. If they appear dirty and narrow in those parts to which the greatest traffic occasions the greatest resort, some allowance must be made for the low and level shore on which the houses were originally errected, and for the meanness of the buildings themselves, constructed at a period when, in all probability, there was but little expectation that Deal would ever survive at its present degree of opulence and importance.

Deal affords a complete contrast to Sandwich. On visiting the latter, a stranger, as he wanders solitarily through the town in which "the pavement dreads the turf's encroaching green", and scarcely a human being is visible even at noon-day, will be induced to ask, "Where are the inhabitants?" But, as soon as he arrives at Deal, he is surrounded by so great a throng as to obstruct his pasage along the streets, and is tempted to exclaim, "Where can such a multitude find habitation?"

The air of the town, as before remarked, is extrememly salubrious, which renders this place a great resort in the summer, as well for pleasure, as the benefit of sea-bathing for which the beach at this place is peculiarly adapted, being composed of sand, free from mud, and the water consequently very clear. In addition to the above advantage it is also requisite to observe that the frequenters of this place are accommodated at much less expense than various other bathing towns, and the necessities of life obtainable at more moderate prices.

Added by Alan Buckman

Daniel Defoe writing in his A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain published in three volumes from 1724 to 1726.

"Sandwich is the next town, lying in the bottom of the bay, at the mouth of the river Stour, an old, decayed, poor, miserable town, of which when I have said that it is an ancient town, one of the Cinque Ports, and sends two members to Parliament; I have said all that I think can be worth anybody's reading of the town of Sandwich.

From hence to Deal is about [six] miles. This place is famous for the road for shipping, so well known all over the trading world, by the name of the Downs, and where almost all ships which arrive from foreign parts for London, or go from London to foreign parts, and who pass the Channel, generally stop; the homeward-bound to dispatch letters, send their merchants and owners the good news of their arrival, and set their passengers on shore, and the like; and the outward-bound to receive their last orders, letters, and farewells from owners, and friends, take in fresh provisions, &c.

This place would be a very wild and dangerous road for ships were it not for the South Foreland, a head of land, forming the east point of the Kentish shore; and is called, the South, as its situation respects the North Foreland; and which breaks the sea off, which would otherwise come rolling up from the west. And yet on some particular winds, and especially, if they over-blow, the Downs proves a very wild road; ships are driven from their anchors, and often run on shore, or are forced on the said sands, or into Sandwich-bay, or Ramsgate-Peer, as above, in great distress; this is particularly when the wind blows hard at S.E. or at E. by N. or E.N.E and some other points; and terrible havoc has been made in the Downs at such times.

But the most unhappy account that can be given of any disaster in the Downs, is in the time of that terrible tempest, which we call by way of distinction, the Great Storm, being on 17th of November 1703, unhappy in particular; for that there chanced just at that time to be a great part of the royal navy under Sir Cloudesly Shovel, just come into the Downs, in their way to Chatham, to be laid up. There remained in the Downs about twelve sail when this terrible blast began, at which time England may be said to to have received the greatest loss that ever happened to the royal navy at one time; either by weather, by enemies, or by any accident whatsoever; the short account of it, as they showed it me in the town, I mean of what happened in the Downs, is as follows.

The Northumberland, a third rate, carrying 70 guns, and 353 men; the Restoration, a second rate, carrying 76 guns, and 386 men; the Stirling-Castle, a second rate, carrying 80 guns, and 400 men, but had but 349 men on board; and the Mary, a third rate, of 64 guns, having 273 men on board; these were all lost, with all their men, high and low; except only one man out of the Mary, and 70 men out of the Stirling-Castle, who were taken up by boats from Deal. All this was besides the loss of merchants' ships, which was exceeding great, not here only, but in almost all the ports in the south, and west of England; and also in Ireland, which I shall have occasion to mention again in another place.

From hence we pass over a pleasant champaign country, with the sea, and the coast of France, clear in your view; and by the very gates of the ancient castle (to the town) of Dover. As we go, we pass By Deal Castle, and Sandown Castle, two small works, of no strength by land, and not of much use by sea; but however maintained by the government for the ordinary services of salutes, and protecting small vessels, which can lie safe under their cannon from picaroons, privateers, &c. in time of war." (Letter 2, pp136-138, Penguin, 1978.)

Added by Sarah Buckman