Bob and I are fortunate enough to live in Deal with our three daughters, Anna, Louise and Chantelle and we were delighted to welcome 40 guests from the Architects’ Company to our hometown, for the weekend of 27th to 29th September. Deal is an extraordinarily beautiful and interesting place – full of architectural heritage, history and smugglers! – as well as award winning design.
Friday 27th September: The weekend started on Friday night, with a lovely meal at the Courtyard Restaurant, an interesting converted coaching house, where we enjoyed a fascinating talk by the Chair of the Deal Society, David White, who entertained us with smugglers tales and educated us about Deal castle, which was built by Henry VIII and originally comprised a great wall, built from the stones of dissoluted monasteries, running for three miles from Walmer castle to Deal castle and then Sandown castle, with forts in between each the castles. It was an important front line defence against invasion by the Spanish Armada. He also talked passionately about Deal Middle Street Conservation Area. The Deal Society saved Middle Street from demolition and redevelopment in the 1960s by campaigning for its survival, and it was the first Conservation Area to be designated in the whole of Kent, in 1968. The Society is leading on the preparation of Conservation Character Appraisals in this extraordinary town, which was mostly built in the 17th and 18th centuries
Saturday 28th September: Saturday morning dawned bright and clear, with glorious sunshine. We split into two groups and started exploring the town. In my group, we began with a tour of the Royal Marines Barracks, led by volunteers from the Royal Marines Heritage Trail, a local charity supporting and preserving the rich heritage of the Royal Marines in Deal.
The Royal Marine Depot began as a complex of Army barracks: Cavalry Barracks, South Infantry Barracks and North Infantry Barracks (which began as an Army hospital), together with a separate Royal Naval Hospital, established in the wake of the French Revolution. The whole site was given over to the Royal Marines in the 1860s.
Eleven Royal Marine bandsmen were murdered in their beds following a devastating terrorist bombing by the IRA in September 1989 after which, in a terrible blow to the town, the 60,000 serviceman and their families were relocated to Portsmouth. The Ministry of Defence, sold the sites for residential use and they were converted into housing from around 2005 to 2010. It was a lovey surprise when, seeing our group pass by, a local resident opened his front door (to the old Tailors’ shop) and invited everyone inside to look around!
Afterwards we walked to Deal castle and were hosted by volunteer Guides from English Heritage, who took us on an interesting tour of the castle which, as explained earlier, was built by the order of King Henry VIII. It is one of the finest Tudor artillery castles in England, and among the earliest and most elaborate of a chain of coastal forts.
We enjoyed exploring this impressive castle, the largest of a chain of coastal forts built by Henry VIII, with its round bastions and great views across the English Channel.
After visiting Deal castle, we went to the Time Ball Tower Museum and had a guided tour of the Tower museum by some enthusiastic volunteers from the Time Ball Tower Trust.
Deal Time Ball Tower has been telling people the time since 1855. It is one of only a small number of structures that continues to operate a time ball every day, including Christmas day, all year round. Uniquely, it is the only Time Ball Tower that can be visited by the public. From the top of the tower, there are wonderful views over the roofs and chimney pots towards Deal beach and the pier. We could not have been luckier with the weather!
After a delicious lunch of ‘posh’ fish and chips at Number 81 restaurant on Beach Street, we met George Chittenden, another local volunteer who runs the Deal History Society. We formed a single, large group and George took us down the Georgian alleys in the Deal Middle Street Conservation area where he told us animated tales of smuggling and Admiral Nelson.
Middle Street, in the heart of the Deal town, has quaint narrow alleyways, well-preserved, handsome Georgian houses and a striking Town Hall.
In the afternoon, we had a real treat! A walk down Deal pier to a private afternoon tea in the ‘Pier Kitchen’ café, where Anne Schroell from Niall McLaughlin architects, gave an excellent talk about the RIBA Award winning Deal Pier café, which opened to public acclaim in 2008. The structural engineers were Price & Myers and we were delighted when Company Member Tim Lucas (the engineer for the scheme), contributed to the talk from an engineering perspective. Imagine designing a roof and large picture windows, to withstand violent stormy seas crashing on top of them!
In the evening we had a sparkling wine reception and then a formal dinner in the Royal Hotel, where everyone had a lovely time catching up on the days’ events and enjoying each other’s company. The evening closed with an excellent talk from Charles Holland Architect, about the Chalk Up 21 Project, a 21st-century architectural coastal trail that links 9 examples of contemporary coastal art and architecture along the Strait of Dover, many of which have received prestigious industry awards. Charles was commissioned by Chalk Up 21 to design the bronze plaques which mark the trail.
Sunday 29th September: We awoke to wind and rain on Sunday morning and knew we would not be so lucky with the weather today! We were privileged to be invited into the home of Mr and Mrs Paul Edlin, who kindly agreed to show our party around the Old Operating Theatre in the Clock House at Admiralty Barracks. Mr Edlin laid out the original architects’ drawings on the operating tables and easels and also had a series of banners telling the story of the IRA bombings in the Royal Marines Barracks and how the ‘band played on,’ parading through Deal exactly one week after the atrocity, with eleven empty spaces where the eleven men who were murdered, should have been proudly marching in the parade.
Mr Edlin is the Director of Music at Queen Mary’s University in London and has converted the operating theatre into a music room; one of the pianos was put to good use by Past Master Jaki Howes, who lifted everyone’s spirits with her playing. Afterwards we had an interesting talk by Mr Edlin’s neighbour (who whimsically told us he lived in the Old Mortuary!) and who talked about the architectural design of the operating theatre, which has a ‘horseshoe’ plan form, as it
was literally a theatre in the olden days when townspeople came to watch operations. He joked that some of the bite-sized chunks in the stone tables were made by patient teeth marks!
From the Old Operating Theatre, we walked along the seafront to the Royal Marines Memorial Bandstand on Walmer Green and laid a wreath on behalf of the eleven Marines lost in the IRA Bombing in 1989.
From the bandstand, we walked further along the seafront to visit Walmer RNLI Boathouse where we listened to an inspiring talk about the building and the heroic volunteer lifeboat crews.
The rain finally beat us, so we took a fleet of taxis to beautiful Walmer castle. Originally a Tudor fortress, Walmer Castle evolved into a stately home for the Lords Warden of the Cinque Ports and became the residence of famous names from the Duke of Wellington to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Like Deal castle, Walmer castle was also built by the order of Henry VIII and is one of a series of coastal forts in this part of east Kent.
Then, after a delicious traditional Sunday lunch at Number 81 Restaurant on Beach Street, we visited Deal Maritime Museum, which is housed in a small building on St George’s Road, in the heart of Deal Middle Street conservation area. The Museum is packed to the rafters with local nautical treasures, including one of the ‘little ships’ which sailed to Dunkirk as part of Operation Dynamo (see top left photo, below.)
We received some delightful feedback from participants:
- ‘What a fantastic weekend you gave us and all the hard work you put in. A really big thank you from Sylvia and me. A marvellous introduction to me as a new boy on the block to the Company and the informality of all those that were there. But also, a special thank you to your lovely daughter Chantelle and what an important part of the weekend she was for both of us. She told us about the annual Deal carnival every July, it sounds great! Another big thank you.’
- ‘Just a short note to thank you and everyone involved in creating and caretaking a wonderful weekend. It was a delight and a great chance to catch up with friends old and new. Thanks a million.’
- Thank you for organising such a memorable weekend. It was lovely to discover this corner of Kent, to hear about the new projects in Chalk Up 21 and all the ball-dropping military/sailing/smuggling! Hope you are getting a good rest to recover. Thanks to all the family, too.’
- ‘What a success; thanks for the organisational slog. We start to expect grand things of the new Master!’
- ‘Thank you for a great weekend in Deal. Most enjoyable and stimulating, with great sights, company and (most of all) infectious and well justified enthusiasm for Deal! You put in an immense effort and it all paid off. Thank you so much!’
- ‘Thank you so much for a triumphant introduction to Deal. Patrick and I enjoyed our day there enormously and particularly enjoyed the deep sense of history emanating from every corner of Deal. We loved the tour around the castle and thought the guide really brought it to life. Our afternoon walk around Middle Street and the sea front with George was great fun. We absolutely loved the Deal Pier restaurant, (delicious scones and tea) and Anna’s talk was really illuminating. All this woven through with really enjoyable food and drink and of course convivial company. Great to meet even more Livery members as well as catching up with old friends. All in all, a wonderful sunny and truly memorable Deal!’
- ‘Ideal! Many thanks to the Dealers!’
- ‘Andy and I really enjoyed exploring your lovely town and meeting up with friends made in Hamburg and making new friends. Looking out now at grey skies and pouring rain I’m so pleased that the weather was kind to us on Saturday. We have some lovely photos of views and buildings set against blue skies. It was all arranged to the smallest detail and you must have worked hard to accomplish everything with such ease for large numbers of us. I’m not sure when I will see you again although I expect you will meet up with Andy at some time, meanwhile many thanks for a most enjoyable seaside break and very best wishes to you in all your endeavours.’
- ‘What a wonderful weekend; thank you so much, Sarah and I thoroughly enjoyed it all!’
- ‘Thank you so much for a lovely weekend, it was a real pleasure to visit Deal and to meet the group, and also your wonderful family! We had a splendid time and it was a wonderful introduction to the Company, thank you.’
Valerie Owen Le Vaillant
Bob Le Vaillant
Anna Le Vaillant
Chantelle Le Vaillant
Louise Le Vaillant
Andy Von Bradsky
Judith Von Bradsky
Stuart Le Sage
It was a real pleasure to host members from the Architects’ Company in Deal – do come again!…