From the Mercury, 16 September, 1999.
By David G Collyer.
The "South Eastern Hotel" was built to cash in on the expected
upsurge in holiday traffic after The South Eastern Railway Company line
was extended to Dover. It survived until the 1980s to be demolished
following a 'mysterious' fire. (Photo via F. A. Collyer)
The "South Eastern Hotel" was designed by James Brooks, better known
for his ecclesiastical buildings, the contractor being the local builder
James Wise, work commencing in 1896. (I trace
it or a building on the same site earlier than this. 1874. Paul
The "South Eastern" as it became known locally - boasted 62 bedrooms
(36 of which had private baths), electric lighting and a lift to the
upper floors. Initially without the glazed conservatory and entrance
canopy, possibly added in response to our "north-easters."
After these were erected, it was possible to witness hotel guests in
full evening dress enjoying dinner and a fine view of The Downs - while
lesser mortals strolled along the new Victoria Promenade.
Opened in 1898, to promote business the railway company sold special
all-inclusion tickets for visitors to encourage them to use their
trains. The hotel prospered until the outbreak of the Second World War,
when it remained open for its permanent residents until closed-up after
the Dunkirk evacuation.
However, the bar remained open for patronage of townspeople and the
members of the armed forces based in the town.
After the war extensive repairs were necessary due to damage from
bombs, mines an shells, the nearest falling only a couple of doors away.
When reopened it was renamed "The Queen's," the manager being a Mr.
Richwood, who had ambitious plans to redevelop the car park at the rear
for an indoor bowling club.
Despite several attempts to obtain planning permission, this scheme
came to nought - had it gone ahead Deal would have had its own indoor
bowling facility, and an asset to the town.
One popular haunt of both locals and Royal Marines was the Dive Bar
in the semi-basement off Deal Castle Road, where resident pianist
Phyllis Burgess (Smith) recalls musicians from the barracks enjoying
impromptu "jam sessions."
By 1977 the advent of cheap foreign package holidays had led to the
hotel's decline and closure. A redevelopment scheme for flats was
But it was not until 1984, and a bitter battle to save this jewel of
the Victorian age, that the old "South Eastern" was demolished.
One of those who recalls the hotel in the early war years is Ann
Johnson, who worked in the still room with a Mary Murtah.
One evening they were walking along the promenade when the air-raid
sirens sounded "and then we heard the engines of approaching aircraft -
and Mary just froze on the spot!"
"Nearby was an Army observation post and a soldier told us to take
cover. picking up Mary and carrying her into his hut where we stayed
until the raid ended.
"We were both given a cuppa and invited to stay, but I had to get
back to work."
The following morning four torpedoes were discovered on the beach.
"Fortunately they hadn't exploded or half of Deal would have been
blown up. The seafront was evacuated but it wasn't until that afternoon
that the bomb disposal chaps arrived to deal with them!" The date was
June 6, 1940.