Deal (St. Leonard)

DEAL (St. Leonard), a sea-port, market-town, and parish, and a member of the town and port of Sandwich, in the union of Eastry, hundred of Cornilo, lathe of St. Augustine, E. division of Kent, on the coast of which it is situated, between the North and South Forelands, and near the great shipping roadstead, called the Downs, 18 miles (E. S. E.) from Canterbury, and 72 (E. by S.) from London; containing 6688 inhabitants. The origin of this place is involved in obscurity: it has been considered as the spot where Cæsar first landed when he invaded Britain; but this hypothesis is very doubtful. Leland gives the town the name of Dela, and Nennius says that "Cæsar battled at Dola," which Camden supposes to mean Deal; there are no records, however, of any town existing here till several centuries after the Romans had quitted Britain. Perkin Warbeck, who personated the Duke of York, as heir to the crown, in the reign of Henry VII., made an attempt to land here on the 3rd of July, 1495; but finding that a party which he had previously landed was attacked by his enemies, he returned to Flanders, and on Sept. 7th, 1497, landed at Whitsun bay, on the coast of Cornwall. In an ordinance of Henry III., dated 1229, this parish is mentioned as dependent on the port of Sandwich, whose jurisdiction over Deal and Walmer as one of the cinque-ports, was confirmed in the 19th of Henry VI. At that time the town was governed by a deputy and assistants appointed by the mayor and jurats of Sandwich; but in the reign of William III., the inhabitants, notwithstanding the opposition of the corporation of Sandwich, obtained a charter of incorporation from that monarch, though they were still subjected to serve on juries there as before.

The town consists principally of three long streets parallel with each other, in a direction along the shore, and connected by cross streets which are narrow and inconvenient; the houses, chiefly of brick, are for the most part irregularly built, but in those of recent erection, greater attention has been paid to uniformity of appearance. The streets are paved under the provisions of an act passed in 1790; and the inhabitants are tolerably well supplied with water, for a more ample supply of which for the town and neighbourhood an act of parliament was obtained in 1840. In 1812, an act for general improvement was procured, under which several alterations have been carried into effect. In 1833 the town was lighted with gas; in 1834 an effective police was established; and in 1837 a very important change was made, by removing several houses, widening Beech-street, and constructing an esplanade, which forms a delightful walk embracing a splendid view of the Downs, the coast between the North and South Forelands, and the coast of France. It is about 600 feet in length and 150 in its greatest breadth, protected from the sea by a substantial concrete wall faced with brick, and cost upwards of £5500, including the purchase of houses, capstan-grounds, &c. The air is pure, and free from the vapours of marshes and fogs; the surface of the land on which Deal and the lower village of Walmer are built, is composed of sand, shingle, and boulders, and retains no moisture after the heaviest rains. Near the esplanade are the Royal Adelaide baths, reading-room, and library, a handsome pile of building, erected in 1836 at an expense of £2500, raised by donations and subscriptions on shares. On the south side of the town is the strong castle built by Henry VIII., who also founded that of Walmer: it consists of a round tower in the centre, connected with four earthworks of a semicircular form, and containing apartments for the captain and other officers; the whole is encompassed by a fosse with a drawbridge, and on the side next the sea are additional batteries.

This being the nearest naval station to the coast of France, and from the number of government vessels which, in time of war, resort to the Downs, the naval and victualling establishment here is of considerable importance: the North Sea fleet, in the last war, chiefly obtained its supply of stores at this place. The Royal Naval Hospital, on the Dover road, is a noble pile of building, fitted up for the reception of about 300 patients, and completed in 1804. Further on the road, and in the parish of Walmer, are the Deal North Infantry, Cavalry, and South Infantry barracks: the North Infantry barrack has accommodation for 27 officers and 418 non-commissioned officers and privates, with an hospital for 120 patients; the Cavalry barrack is intended for 7 officers, 114 non-commissioned officers and privates, and 90 horses, and the South Infantry barrack for 33 officers, 688 non-commissioned officers and privates, and 16 horses. There is no harbour, but the sea between the shore and the Goodwin Sands forms the fine roadstead for shipping, called the Downs, which is within the jurisdiction of the port, and is of great importance as a station not only for ships of war, but for merchants' vessels, of which from 400 to 500 are frequently seen riding here in safety when wind-bound. The Goodwin Sands, commencing off the North Foreland, extend about ten miles in length to the South Foreland, and form a breakwater when the wind is easterly; according to tradition, the tract was once an island belonging to Godwin, the powerful Earl of Kent in the time of Edward the Confessor, and in the reign of Henry I. was swallowed up by the sea, which at the same time overwhelmed a great portion of Flanders and the Low Countries. An act for the construction of a pier at Deal was passed in 1838. The boatmen of the port are intrepid and excellent seamen, and are particularly active in affording assistance to vessels in distress, which they have frequently rescued from apparently inevitable destruction; the superiority of the boats is almost proverbial. The inhabitants are chiefly employed in maritime occupations: the trade is in coal, slop goods, and articles requisite for the supply of the shipping in the Downs. The making of malt, brewing, and boat-building are carried on; and the boats used by the Deal boatmen in their hazardous employment are all constructed here. An act was passed in 1845 for a branch to this place, 9¼ miles in length, of the Canterbury and Ramsgate railway: the line was opened on the 1st of July, 1847. The market is on Tuesday and Saturday, and is well supplied with provisions; fairs for cattle and general merchandise are held on April 6th and 7th, and October 12th and 13th.

Deal was constituted a free town and borough by charter of the 11th of William III., by which the corporation was styled the "Mayor, Jurats, and Commonalty," and consisted of a mayor, recorder, 12 jurats, and 24 common-councilmen, with a town-clerk and other officers. By the act of the 5th and 6th of William IV., cap. 76, the corporation is now styled the "Mayor, Aldermen, and Burgesses," and consists of a mayor, six aldermen, and 18 councillors, together forming the council of the borough, which is divided into two wards; the mayor, recorder, and four members of the council, are justices of the peace, and exercise exclusive jurisdiction. The recorder holds general sessions of the peace, and courts of record for determining all suits and actions under £100, four times in the year; the magistrates hold petty-sessions every Thursday. The powers of the county-debt court of Deal, established in 1847, extend over the registration-district of Eastry. The freedom of the borough is obtained by birth or servitude, or by marriage with a freeman's daughter. By the 2nd of William IV. the town was united with Sandwich and Walmer in the exercise of the elective franchise: the number of electors here is about 400. The town-hall is a capacious apartment over the market-place, adorned with full-length portraits of William III. and William IV., in their robes of state; it was built in 1803, principally by subscriptions in the nature of loans upon the bonds of the corporation, and with the market-house, gaol, and gaoler's house, cost £2961.

The parish comprises 860a. 2r. 38p., of which about 533 acres are arable, and 263 pasture; the soil is partly clayey, intermixed with sand, and partly chalky, and the surface is generally flat. Many acres are cultivated as garden-ground, producing abundant crops of the finest vegetables, not only for the supply of the town, but of the district for several miles round. The parish is subdivided into Upper, Middle, and Lower Deal. The Living is a rectory, valued in the king's books at £19. 10.; net income, £429; patron, the Archbishop of Canterbury. The church, in Upper Deal, was enlarged in 1819, at a cost of £1108, and will accommodate about 2000 persons; against the wall is an ancient tomb, on which is a brass effigy of Thomas Boys, who attended Henry VIII. at the siege of Boulogne, and died in 1560. A chapel, in Lower Deal, dedicated to St. George the Martyr, and in the Grecian style, was built at an expense of £1991, raised partly by subscription and partly by a duty on coal and culm; it was consecrated in 1716, and about 200 additional sittings were obtained in 1821, by the erection of galleries, towards the expense of which the Incorporated Society granted £400. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the patronage of the Archbishop; net income, £108. An evening lecturer also officiates at this chapel, whose stipend of £60 per annum, together with the income of the perpetual curate and all other charges, is defrayed out of the pew-rents. There are places of worship for Baptists, Independents, Wesleyans, and Unitarians. Elizabeth Carter, distinguished by her classical attainments, was born here, in 1717: her father, the Rev. Nicholas Carter, was curate of Lower Deal for 56 years. This is also the birthplace of William Boys, an eminent naturalist and antiquary, who was born in 1735. Thomas Gage, author of Travels in New Spain, was, after his conversion from the Roman Catholic faith, appointed rector of the parish by Cromwell; he sailed with Venables and Penn on the expedition to Hispaniola, in 1654, and died there. Anne of Cleves landed at Deal prior to her marriage with Henry VIII; and the present Queen Dowager landed here previously to her marriage with William IV. George II. embarked at the port on one of his visits to Germany.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.