Deal and Walmer Heritage
Visit Deal for its Heritage
Deal has a rich and varied architectural heritage ranging from our castles to small dwellings via a range of historic public and private buildings. Much of it is within easy walking distance of the town centre.
Transformed over the years from its original military purpose to provide a comfortable residence for the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, Walmer Castle is owned by the National Trust and open to the public. William Pitt the Younger acquired extra land and began the work of creating a pleasure garden when he was Lord Warden at the end of the 18th century. The Broadwalk leading between herbaceous borders and yew hedges to grassed terraces and then wildflower meadows was laid out in the 19th century. The walled Queen Mother garden with water feature was finished in 1997 to complete the gardens as they are today. Inside, the Duke of Wellington’s room can be see as it would have been in his time as Lord Warden, 1829-1852, including an original pair of his famous boots. From the tearoom you can look out over the battlements to the sea.
Cannons that were never fired in anger for their original purpose of defending ships in the Downs still stand on the seaward facing bastions providing a perennial photo opportunity for children small and large. Unlike a medieval castle Deal is low and squat to provide a better platform for its guns and its rounded shapes are to deflect any return fire. From the air its outline looks like the Tudor rose emblem of its builder, Henry VIII. Entered across the moat by a drawbridge and through heavy iron studded doors the whole castle can be explored from the basement embrasures for musket fire into the moat to the Captains quarters at the top. Check the events schedule for children’s activities and re-enactor visits organised by English Heritage.
Where Beach Street and High Street have changed with the times Middle Street retains much of the look it would have had when the town first grew up in the 17th century. In the southern section Carter House, more for its famous occupant Elizabeth Carter, and Kent House are notable buildings but don’t miss Crown Alley that zigzags off. Where the car park now is was cleared because of damage during the war but look for the arcaded alleys that still lead to the sea front. In the main section don’t forget to explore the narrow side roads that lead off to the sea front and High Street and the even smaller alleys that lead off them. Many were named after the numerous pubs that existed here when its reputation was far more noisome than today. Look for the information boards here that, as elsewhere in the town, tell the story of the immediate vicinity. Rickshaw tours with commentary are available through this area and to the further parts of town.
The prominent tower building on the seafront with the black sphere on its roof is the Timeball Tower. Converted from a signal tower in 1853, the ball would be raised to the top of its mast to drop at 1pm when triggered by an electronic signal from Greenwich Observatory so that ships in the Downs could set their chronometers. One of a few such towers still working in the world the ball can now been seen operating on the hour from 9am to 5pm. In the museum inside you can see the mechanism and artefacts and information relating to signalling and time. It is open weekends and bank holidays from Easter to September and some weekdays during the summer.
Famous residents of Deal include Charles Hawtrey of the Carry On films, Joseph Lister, discoverer of anticeptics and Admiral Lord Nelson. The Deal Society have put together a walk that takes in all the blue plaques that have been put up to their memory. Also comedy actor Norman Wisdom grew up in Deal.
Places to visit from Deal
Dover Castle (8 miles) retains much of its Norman origins, standing on a hill from where it looks down on the town from our side, and much more besides. A stroll round Sandwich’s (6 miles) ramparts, quay and town will reveal much of its medieval character. Richborough Castle (8 miles) is the remains of the fort built by the Romans with much of its walls standing to full height, and a museum. Canterbury Cathedral (18 miles) is a world heritage sight, full of history and splendour. Wingham Bird Park (10 miles), now with more than just birds, and Howletts Zoo (15 miles) famous for its gorillas and tigers, offer a different type of day out.