A little town with a lot to offer
Earlier this year a small fishing town in the beautiful county of Kent won the Telegraph's prestigious high street of the year award and the town seems to be going from strength to strength.
Nestled on the English Channel, eight miles north-east of Dover and eight miles south of Ramsgate, the town of Deal has always been a talking point over the years. Due to its location on the Kent coast the town has seen its fair share of skirmishes over the years, from the arrival of Julius Cæsar when local warriors lined the shoreline covered in war paint ready to do battle with the Roman army to the battle with the Spanish Armada which lit up the English Channel. Local novelist and historian George Chittenden, who was born and raised in the town, says that 'Dealies' as they're known have always had a terrible reputation, but now with a growing artistic community the town seems to be making amends.
Much of the damage was done on one stormy winter night in 1703 when a hurricane whipped up the English Channel into a fury. The storm itself killed between 8,000 - 15,000 people and to this day is the greatest natural disaster the south of England has ever experienced. Local men who survived on the scraps the sea had to offer saw an opportunity, and instead of assisting the hundreds of ships floundering on the notorious ship swallower, the Goodwin Sands, they chose to plunder them instead. On that night around 1500 sailors drowned and as the country picked up the pieces in the following days blame soon fell on the townsfolk of Deal, tarnishing its reputation forever. Daniel Defoe wrote of the town :-
'The barbarous hated name of Deal should die,
Or be a term of infamy;
And till that's done, the town will stand
A just reproach to all the land'
Local men always survived by plying their trades on the sea, and with its location so close to the continent it isn't too surprising that tough local fisherman would eventually turn to a much more lucrative way of earning a crust . . . by bringing contraband over the channel and avoiding the dreaded burden of taxation! The smuggling trade in Deal grew from strength to strength over the years as illegal cargoes of liquor and tobacco landed on our shores. The trade was such a problem in Deal that eventually drastic action was required and the Prime Minister William Pitt the younger sent an army down to the town to deal (excuse the pun) with the problem once and for all. The soldiers marched along the seafront pouring paraffin over every seaworthy vessel in front of the entire townsfolk. Moments later those same townsfolk watched the town's livelihood go up in smoke, as if you weren't a fisherman you were a smuggler. This drastic action was only ever employed in Deal.
It was these events that inspired George Chittenden to begin penning his smuggling series, and in 2012 releasing his debut 'The Boy Who Led Them' which has been read and reviewed by readers from all over the world and has a higher average customer review than every Harry Potter book. The novel follows the rise and fall of a smuggling gang leader in the town, and was described by Bygone Kent as an 'absolute page turner they'd highly recommend'. In 2013 the young novelist followed it up with an epic prequel 'The Boy Who Felt No Pain', and is currently writing the final chapter in the series, which is due out later this year.
So with its Tudor castle, thriving high street, golf course and award winning pier, Deal has something to offer for all walks of life.