What’s the deal with Deal? The Kent gem with history
and bow-fronted Georgian houses.
Lacking a sandy beach, it was saved from the “bucket and spade” brigade, and there’s an unpretentious gentility to it. Former residents Lord Nelson, actor Norman Wisdom and Carry On actor Charles Hawtrey just about sum it up.
Yet the past 10 years have brought a few improvements, says Nigel Colebrook of local agent Bright & Bright. “The high street has become far more cosmopolitan than it once was, with a vibrant café culture and high-quality restaurants, such as that of The Rose, a new boutique hotel,” he says. “Deal is a part of England that has been overlooked for decades and there has been very little new development, which is part of the charm.”
The beautifully preserved, higgledypiggledy pastel-coloured seafront cottages of Beach Street and the Grade II listed pier are also the reason that it was chosen to feature in the forthcoming ITV dramatisation of William Makepeace Thackeray’s classic novel Vanity Fair.
Buyers are snapping up the highly prized terraced cottages (that go for £300,000 to £400,000) and townhouses (£400,000 upwards) in the Middle Street conservation area, the dozen or so roads between Beach Street and Middle Street once favoured by smugglers.
Cheek by jowl with historic pubs and much-loved shops – there are usually queues for the Middle Street Fish Bar – are newer openings such as the private-dining concept Dining Club.
There’s a rare example of a former shop for sale on the open market on Beach Street itself, a remodelled threebedroom residence for £520,000 with unimpeded views of the English Channel, through Bright & Bright.
Outside the conservation area, little Victorian unmodernised cottages start from £180,000, says Simon Backhouse of agent Strutt & Parker.
“We have sold to a number of couples who have incredibly good taste, buying these lovely little fisherman houses and turning them into some- thing truly amazing,” he says.
“The further east you go in Kent, to towns like Deal and Sandwich, you will get more bang for your buck. The number of buyers has increased dramatically recently, as they cotton on to how fast the train is to the east Kent coast [the Javelin train from St Pancras takes around 82 minutes].
“Quality housing, better lifestyle and accessibility make it perfectly possible to commute three days a week, so there is a steady flow of Londoners.”
Some buyers are upsizing from weekend pads to move down full-time into large Victorian townhouses for £500,000 to £700,000, suggests Colebrook. “There are many highly rated primary schools, with grammar schools at Sandwich and Dover that serve Deal, and also independents such as St Faith’s at Ash and Northbourne Park,” he says.
Families also like more space on the fringes of town, suggests Dee Ryall of agent Jackson-Stops. “Going towards Walmer, Park Avenue is more leafy and suburban, with a mix of family housing stock, at £350,000 to £900,000,” she says. “Further south there are prestigious areas on the outskirts such as Kingsdown and St Margaret’s at Cliffe, offering great sea views just 10 minutes from town. Houses can cost £1million to £2million.”
There is a sailing club and famous links golf courses, such as Royal St George’s at next-door Sandwich where James Bond creator Ian Fleming spent many weekends, and which is due to host the 2020 Open. Access to the Continent is speedy from Dover, the Channel Tunnel terminal at Folkestone and the Eurostar from Ashford International.
There are relatively few hotels and B&Bs in Deal, so there are good opportunities for Airbnb rentals or holiday lets, according to Colebrook, who has seen an increase in purchases for this reason. “With the nearby golf courses, rental demand is year round,” he says. “Interest from France, Belgium and Holland has notably grown with the weak pound, and the port of Dover is only 15 minutes away.”
Part of the appeal of Deal for Robert Byrne from Peckham, south-east London, is that it never gets overrun by tourists. His family owns a three-bedroom house behind the seafront.
“I have kept coming back over the years and now bring my own children for weeks every summer,” says the father of two, whose mother is from Deal. “We always head to the Royal Hotel, which is iconic. It’s usually packed with locals and so feels less transient than places like Margate.
“The beach seemed busier than usual this summer, but it is still sedate and utterly relaxing, and we feel like we have discovered a place that nobody knows about.”
Deal pier, main; below, a townhouse, £750,000 with Strutt & Parker