by Alan Clarke – reproduced by kind permission of the Deal Society
My fascination with Blue Plaques developed as a teenage policeman in Chelsea, Knightsbridge, South Kensington & Earls Court as I pounded the beat along some of London’s most iconic streets.
Many of those names were unfamiliar, but I always investigated the unknown to improve my knowledge of the city I was helping to protect. In a different life as a Public Service Vehicle Driver, taking the offspring of American diplomats & businessmen to their school in St Johns Wood, a whole new London vista opened up with many more Blue Plaques to inspect and explore.
They all belonged to English Heritage, who several years ago extended their activities to other large cities, leaving their unmistakable blue circular discs countersunk into the wall of someone’s house.
Since my arrival in Deal and my involvement with the Deal Society, I have revived my passion for knowledge of the famous & infamous that lived in the house whose doorstep I may now pass.
At the same time I combine my search for knowledge with my passion for both history and walking.
On a balmy Mid May morning I started off outside St Georges Church, turned north along the High Street a few yards to ‘Comarques’, 122, High Street the home from 1936-1939 of the composer John Ireland. Although no recognition yet of Mr. Ireland’s magnificent work, a first ‘English Heritage’ Blue plaque will soon adorn the front of this imposing house.
I walked on down the High Street and turned right into Farrier Street and at the crossroads with Middle Street the house on the south west corner, No 117, I came across my first ‘blue plaque’. This one however is raised by Dover District Council to Charles Hawtrey, most famous for his role in the ‘Carry On’ films.
Walk on down Middle Street and on the corner of Griffin Street a plaque on a house called ‘Kingfishers’ announces the name of Stephen Phillips 1864 – 1915, a highly famed English Poet & Dramatist. Mr. Phillips, who enjoyed considerable popularity in his lifetime lodged & died here in 1915. The dramatic play Paolo and Francesca was his most successful work.
Continue up Middle Street to Alfred Square, turn right into North Street to the sea front then turn left.
Walking up Beach Street towards Sandown several hundred yards to 47, The Marina where the plaque announces the famous novelist, playwright & broadcaster J.P.Priestley lived here in 1929, the year he wrote and published his breakthrough novel, The Good Companions’. Retrace your steps along Beach Street to one of Deal’s most attractive buildings on the corner of Exchange Street.
The Boatman’s Rooms are now a restored private residence, but our plaque points out that Reverend Thomas Stanley Treanor, a benefactor & author who opposed smuggling was chaplain from 1878 to his death in 1910.
Interestingly, on a concrete block is marked the name of Arnold Cawthrow (1913-1993) ‘Big Chief I Spy’ who also lived here. To the youngsters of today this would be tame, but in my boyhood days turning out with an ‘I Spy’ book & pencil to gain the first feather in my headdress was as good as it became – is there not something here we now miss? Curiously since staring this journal I came across revived ‘I Spy’ books in the National Trust Shop at Batemans on the Deal Society trip – is there hope yet?
Further along Beach Street is the home of Nathaniel Gubbins (1893-1976) who was ‘The Wars Leading Humorist’ and lived here at 109 from 1947-1958.
Walk past the ‘Royal’ Hotel and notice the plaque on the main entrance which announces ‘Lady Emma Hamilton and Lord Horatio Nelson stayed here in 1801’. These were the days when sail was king and ‘The Downs’, the roadstead harbour between the seashore and the infamous Godwin Sands was the most important port in England, with some 400 sailing ships in view.
Continue onto Broad Street & turn right then immediately left into Middle Street where the 1st of the two ‘Historic Building of Kent’ plaques, with the Kent White Horse displayed on the beautiful ‘Queen Anne House’. Note the information on the Deal Town Plaque regarding this interesting detached remnant of Middle Street, and its intriguing alleyways.
At the end of Middle Street is another notable house on the corner of South Street, a large plaque announces the home from 1762 to her death in 1806 of a famous daughter of Deal, Elizabeth Carter. Poet, classicist, writer, translator & member of the ‘Bluestocking Circle’. A friend of Samuel Johnson, her translation of All the Works of Epictetus – the first translation of this Greek Philosopher made her name.
Turn left to the seafront, past the historic Timeball Tower and right down Sondes Street in Victoria Road, turning left.
Victoria Road, a southern extension of the High Street, is full of handsome houses, none more so that No 19 where Thomas Hughes resided in 1857, the very year his most famous work, ‘Tom Brown’s Schooldays’ was published.
A long walk lies ahead now, past Deal Castle & crossing over The Strand green to follow The Beach past the beautiful terraced houses and villas best seen from the coastal path, to No 32, ‘Coast House’.
This magnificent abode was the country home and final resting place of Joseph Lister from 1908 to his death in 1912. His contribution to medicine and the relief of suffering from his work in antiseptics is incalculable.
Turn right into the short Alexandria Road and left into Liverpool Road before crossing Granville Road behind Walmer Castle. One of my favorite Walmer locations is at St Clare Road & Walmer Castle Road, where the track to Glenhill & Hawksdown Common disappears uphill from the junction.
Walk up St Clare Road past St Mary’s Church and on the opposite side of St Mary’s Road from the church is Cedar Lodge, where a son of Walmer, novelist Dornford Yates (alias Cecil William Mercer) lived from his birth in 1885. His humorous and thriller stories were best sellers in the years between the two world wars and he died in Rhodesia in 1960.
Carry on up St Mary’s Road into the footpath directly ahead & onto Dover Road & turning left a few yards to the small Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart, the bell tower straddling the Dover Road footpath. Opposite the entrance, on a wall, is the plaque to Poet Laureate Robert Bridges (from 1913 – to his death in 1930), who was born on this site in 1844. He was the only medical graduate to hold that esteemed office.
Take care crossing Dover Road, retrace your steps a few yards and turn left up Church Street. Turn right into the footpath just past York & Albany Close. Turn left when you reach Salisbury Road.
Cross the railway bridge into St Richards Road. After 100 yards on the right a large white house was the home of Richard Aldington from 1903-1906, best known for his 1st World War poetry. Permanently affected by that war Aldington won accolades for his biography Wellington in 1946, but hostility for his portrayal Lawrence of Arabia in 1955. He is one of 16 ‘Great War’ Poets commemorated in Poets Corner at Westminster Abbey.
Walk on up St Richards Road and turn right down Mill Hill, taking 3rd left into Redsull Avenue and on into Pilots Avenue. Turn left into Addelam Road. When the end of this short road reaches Rectory Road, Tormore Mews is a handsome Georgian building on your left.
The plaque on the wall announces G.P.R.James (George Payne Rainsford) lived here from 1843-1845. Novelist and principally a historical writer he held the somewhat fanciful title of Historiographer Royal during William 1V’s reign.
From here your quest is over. Walk through the churchyard of St Leonard’s and descend the stairs to Manor Road and cross opposite to the ‘Admiral Keppel’ and the footpath alongside the pub.
This walk is concluded by taking one of my favorite Deal thoroughfares, Church Path.
Note the St Leonard’s ‘Gardens of Rest’ immediately on the right and just inside the gate the metal plate which announces – These trees were a gift in 1970 from the Deal Society’.
A brown triangular plaque of the 2nd ‘Historic Building of Kent’, with the Kent White Horse, is at no 132, but observe the huge variety of houses all along Church Path.
Follow Church Path all the way to the residential homes in Victoria Mews behind Deal Railway Station, taking care crossing Albert Road.
Before the construction of the railway Church Path continued into Century Walk and was a route for a cortege between the then only St Leonards Parish Church to St Georges Chapel, later St Georges Church.
However, it is now necessary to turn right up the steps onto London Road, then left & left again to cross the railway station footbridge. Turn left along the footpath between the railway & Sainsbury’s, turn 1st right into Century Walk & cross West Street to St George’s Gardens.
Immediately as you enter and on your right is a Deal Society metal plate next to the tomb of one Captain Edward Parker of Nelson fame, who died of his wounds following an abortive attack on Boulogne in 1801. Nelson attended the funeral & contributed towards the cost. Next to the plaque is Captain Parker’s tomb.
Finally carry on and return to the High Street.
This wonderful walk encompasses not only all 10 Deal Society Blue Plaques & that of Captain Parker, it takes in every quarter of our town, historical, rural, seaside and suburban. Churches, castles, villas, mansions, cottages and homes of every era. The variety of Deal & Walmer buildings is truly astounding.
This walk took me just over 2 hours and although no longer the Fellwalker of a few years ago, am still a reasonably strong walker. This walk is not for the faint hearted.
However, you can limit your activities to the first 5 around the conservation area or even the 5 that take in Walmer & Upper Deal.
Whatever you decide, I thoroughly recommend ‘Blue Plaque Deal’.
The Criteria for Qualification (derived from English Heritage) are contained in the Deal Society Established Policies, as follow:
- They must have been dead for at least 20 years, or were born more than 100 years ago.
- They must have contributed substantially to the Area and/or the Nation.
- They must be persons of good repute, and eminent in their profession or calling.
- They should preferably have been born in our Area, or
- They should have been resident during the time of their endeavours for which they achieved prominence.
- Those of Foreign birth must have had an International reputation or significant standing in their own country, and their time here must have been important to their life and work.