Deal Maritime & Local History museum

22 st.George’S Road, Deal, Kent ct14 6ba


admission Times

April - October

Tuesday-Friday 2pm - 4pm

Saturday 11am - 4.30pm

Sunday 12 noon - 4pm

June - July - August

Also open

Tuesday - Friday from 11am

Open Bank Holidays through the season


Adults £3

Concessions & Children £2

Family ticket £9

Tea, coffee and minerals available

Become a supporter of the museum and gain free entrance throughout the season

There is Disabled Access throughout the entire ground floor and boatyard.

For the security of the collections, the museum is monitored by CCTV and your visit will be recorded.


The Deal Maritime & Local History Museum is situated in the heart of Deal, just off the High Street, behind Deal Town Hall, which was built in 1803, and opposite St George’s Church and the Chapel Field.

The museum is housed on one of the last industrial sites left in Deal, showing the way in which commercial and domestic property developed next to one another from the seventeenth century onwards in what was known as the ‘New’ Town of Lower Deal. St George’s Road and the workshop complex was built on what was originally market gardens, producing the fresh produce needed to victual the Fleet lying in the Downs off Deal. In the mid nineteenth century the site became a series of workshops, with the owner living in the cottage next door. In 1867 Willard Sawyer built and stored his velocipedes, (the forerunner of the bicycle),  in the front building, (he lived further up the road with his photographer son when they moved to Deal from Dover). A woodworking workshop on the second floor  built ladders for the hop fields surrounding the town, taken out through the first floor doorway  across the Chapel Field. Later it became stores for vegetables and then an ironmongers/builders merchant, finally becoming a garage before the site was donated to the Museum Trust by a generous benefactor.

The wealth of Deal, Walmer and Kingsdown’s  history limits display space. The Maritime Gallery on the ground floor houses many artefacts from the town’s  impressive maritime history when it developed after Henry VIII built his three defensive castles, Sandown, Deal and Walmer along the foreshore, and it was safe for the famously skilled Deal boatmen to live closer to the sea and  supply the ships which could then safely lay off in the Downs and wait for favourable winds, with fresh water, fresh produce, mail, cargo and passengers. A figurehead, ship’s bell  and the only two known examples of carved spar boards from owner of the Cutty Sark ‘White Hat’ Willis’s ships, who lived in Deal, are on display, with a magnificent collection of model boats  including the earliest known example of a working model boat. Also the Deal galley Saxon King, built in 1891 and one of  the oldest remaining Deal built boats,  a large collection of lifebelts and jackets, with many photographs and paintings of Deal, Walmer and Kingsdown’s lifeboats and crews, illustrating the many instances of the local boatmen’s skill and commitment to lifesaving over the years as well as their long tradition of smuggling, with information on the Naval Yard which employed so many townspeople are displayed. There are photographs and paintings of some of the more famous ships that have been wrecked off Deal and Walmer’s shores, including accounts from those lucky mariners who survived the Great Storm of 1703 which gave rise to Defoe’s famous slur on the boatmen of the town, so vigorously defended by the Mayor Thomas Powell.

A display of Royal Marine memorabilia of  uniforms and photographs includes personal property belonging to one of the  eleven Marines murdered in 1989, with  other material from the three military barracks and Royal Naval Hospital, which  later became the Royal Marines School of Music. Some of the photographs shown throughout the gallery are by world famous Deal born-and-bred photographer Harold Chapman. Deal is not a Cinque Port itself, merely a ‘limb’ or supporting town, but  is home to the official residence of the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports at Walmer Castle, and the museum display shows illustrations of the three castles and  the many Lord Wardens, past and present, including Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother’s response for the correct pronunciation of ‘Cinque’, the Duke of Wellington, William Pitt, W H Smith, Winston Churchill, up to the current incumbent, Admiral The Lord Boyce.

The first floor displays aspects of the local industry and  domestic history of the town, with a selection of the museum’s collection of drawings including  Moses, J R Roget and engravings of JMW Turner’s illustrations of Deal. Many of the famous residents and visitors to Deal are illustrated, including the eighteenth century author, ‘blue-stocking’ and resident of Deal, Elizabeth Carter, considered the most intelligent woman of the eighteenth century, actor Charles Hawtry, entertainer Norman Wisdom, Dame Ninette de Valois, founder of the Royal Ballet,  who started her dancing career in Walmer, authors including  Thomas Hood, J B Priestley, William Horwood, Frances Fyfield, and Robert Bridges,  and Deal’s Victoria Cross holder,  Arthur Tisdall, whose father was vicar of St George’s Church opposite. A less fortunate resident was William  Boyes, buried in the churchyard and who was guilty  of reluctant cannibalism when cast adrift with fellow mariners after the wreck of the Luxborough in the eighteenth century.

The original late nineteenth century ‘Deal Hooden Horse’, who roamed the town on Christmas Eve  delighting local children, as well as  many artefacts from local shops and businesses, including a giant shoe from a shoe shop and a stuffed rat from another shop belonging to a shop keeper called ‘Wratten’, pie dishes which could be hired from local bakers, and bottles from local breweries are just a few of the exhibits to be seen. There is an impressive collection of souvenir china depicting  Deal and Walmer from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when Deal had become more of a holiday venue, many depicting  its  famous piers. Other local industries such as mining, boat building and milling are also described. The ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ contains the famous lifeboat doctor, Dr James Hall’s, emergency medical supplies when he went out to sea with the lifeboat – a small bottle of navy rum!

The bier that Nelson’s protégé Captain Parker’s coffin was carried on when he was buried in the churchyard opposite is housed here too. The stained glass windows are from the now redundant Royal Marines Church once on South Barracks, one dedicated to a verger  in the Royal Marines himself but whose sons all joined the other armed forces!

Leisure  pursuits are marked with information on the famous golf ‘links’ courses which surround the town, as well as  football, rugby, rowing, the more ‘gentile’ sports of tennis, cricket and croquet, theatres and societies.

More Deal boats are to be found in the Boatyard at the rear of the building, Penny Ann (previously called Secret) a Deal beach boat,  as well as a Dunkirk ‘Little Ship’ which rescued no less than twenty men herself, after ferrying numerous others out to waiting vessels lying off the Normandy beaches. A Montague whaler, used by the Royal Marines and Deal Sea Scouts, as well as ‘Eleanor’, a sprat punt built in Deal in1892 are displayed on the higher area. There is a representation of an Anchor Field, where anchors and chains, dredged or ‘hovelled’ from the seabed in the Downs, were sold to the fitters working in the Naval Yard or the ships lying off shore. The whale vertebrae, lead ‘pygge’ and ingots of glass and copper inside the Maritime Gallery, were originally ballast found on sunken seventeenth century ships in the Downs, the vertebrae destined for the cutlery trade in London. A small beach area shows a hundred-year-old local cart used for transporting sprats to the fish canning factories which once provided employment for the fishermen and their families, and also made the famous canned  ‘Maconnichie’s Meat Stew’ to feed the troops in the First World War. Gravestones from St George’s Churchyard include that of an officer of the Westmorland Militia who was  killed by smugglers on Deal Beach in the eighteenth century and another  of a noted Deal boatman and life boatman who took part in many rescues in the early nineteenth century, when the lifeboat was rowed out to sea to rescue victims of the frequent storms and wrecks on the Goodwins.

The  building at the end of the yard, dating from the late eighteenth  century, was originally  a stable, used in the 1914-1918 War to house the mules that carried armaments out to the Batteries on the Sandhills to the north. It now houses a Special Exhibition Gallery.


“The best kept secret in Deal”