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The Origins of Deal Carnival


The history of the Association can be traced back to 1826.  After the closure of the Naval Dockyard in Deal the towns people started to become restless. A great number of dock workers and sailors with very low spirits living locally became a worry to the local Council, they saw a need to raise interest and attract people into the area and came up with the Deal and Downs Regatta. At this time, all the events were water borne and the press of the time reported that they were a tremendous success, with what was described as 'a very colourful display out on the sea'.


Royalty became associated with the Patronage starting with the last Naval Commander of the former Dockyard, the Duke of Clarence, who later became William IV. Followed years later by Queen Victoria.


Sailing and rowing events were the mainstay of the celebrations, usually over just one weekend in August, or in later years, September.


The title 'Royal Regatta' appears on many Programmes from earlier this Century, right up to the Second World War when the title was dropped and became just 'Deal Regatta'.


There have been breaks in the running calendar for the regatta, these have been due to many of the towns people fighting away from home as the breaks all coincided with wars.


Since the late 1940's the Regatta has been held every year, proving that the original idea was a good one, bringing revenue and a large number of tourists to the area.


Now, after more than 180 years - Deal Regatta is still here.


As the event evolved, the Regatta Association organised water-borne events, pet shows, motor shows, carnivals, open-air concerts, firework displays and even an 'It's-A-Knockout' tournament. The current calendar of events, put together by a Committee of less than 10 volunteers, now takes up more than a week of days and nights.


The committee take the whole year, from the end of the previous year's Regatta to the beginning of the next, to piece together all the intricate details into one entity. Members of the committee are extremely grateful to the other local clubs who kindly lend a hand by helping us set up events which help ensure that the traditional Sailing and Rowing Regatta events are kept going.




For centuries Deal had been dominated by the ancient Port of Sandwich, increasing sea traffic in the Downs due to the Dutch wars and expanding trade with our new colonies impelled the Parish Vestry (the local authority of the day) to appeal for Deal to be given its own charter.


The appeal was successful and King William III signed the Charter of Incorporation on October 13th 1699, this Charter gave Deal the status of a 'borough and market town', and the right to elect its own town Mayor and allowed it to run is own affairs. The Charter can still be seen in the Mayor's Parlour at the Deal Town Hall. Captain Joshua Coppin was duly elected the first Mayor and '12 good and lawful men' were appointed as the Jurats who held office for life, unless they misbehaved themselves in the execution of their office.


In 1949, Deal's Town Council decided to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the granting of the Charter with a series of events throughout the entire year. To this end a sub-committee was formed, called the Deal Town 250 Charter Committee. The Committee became involved with many events and not only organising special celebrations for the year, but the town's annual events, such as the carnival and regatta. The 1949 Carnival Queen and Regatta Queen (back then, they were two different titles) was Jean Chandler. Jean had also been chosen to represent Deal as Miss Deal in the Miss Kent contest. Jean competed against girls from towns all over the county for the honour of going forward to the Miss England final. Although she didn't win, she still did her town proud. When the Deal 250 Committee wanted to find someone to represent their town during the Charter celebrations, what better choice could they have for Charter Queen than Jean. Jean's year was an exciting one, filled by civic receptions, luncheons and dinners throughout Deal and the neighbouring coastal towns of Folkestone, Ramsgate and Margate. She also got to meet celebrities such as actress Elizabeth Taylor and band-leader Eddie Carroll. But undoubtedly the highlight of her year was the Regatta parade when she was seated high on the bow of the Saxon King, pulled along by the Sea Scouts to whom the boat belonged.


The event was recalled some 46 years later on the 'Memories' page of the East Kent Mercury.




A lot has happened in the intervening years but when the 1996 Deal Town Council was formed in May 1996 it quickly decided that the forthcoming 300 year anniversary was an opportunity to promote the town and celebrate its history. A committee was formed to plan for the celebrations. It was agreed that as in 1949 (the 250th anniversary) the whole of 1999 was to be used to commemorate this occasion.


In 1999 the Deal 300 Committee decided that it too should commemorate the 300 year anniversary of the granting of Deal's charter by appointing the new Charter Queen. The Deal 300 Committee turned to the most successful Deal Regatta Court of the 1990's when it came to choosing the girl who would he the representative for the town during the celebrations. Michelle McKeown, who had taken over the role of Deal Regatta Queen after the resignation of Natalie Smith, was the natural choice for Charter Queen. She had lead her Court during one of Deal Regatta Association's most successful years on the Southeast England carnival circuit. The Court had won 15 prizes: 6 Float, 2 Tableau, 2 Princess, 2 Queen, 2 Court and Michelle was a runner-up in the Southeast England Belle of the Ball contest. More important than their success outside of Deal, they were also a big hit with the citizens of Deal - people would frequently stop the girls and tell them how proud they were of them. The Deal 300 Committee decided that the ideal occasion to sash it's new Deal Charter Queen, a title which is held for fifty years, would be the Deal Christmas Carnival. It would make a fitting end to the Deal 300 festivities and a sensational finale to the carnival celebrations. At the meal after the parade, a surprised Michelle was sashed by the Mayor of Deal Jim Rees and presented with a cup to keep for the rest of her life. The other members of her Court were presented with limited edition Deal 300 medallions in recognition of all their work in supporting a superb Queen for Deal.


Memorabilia and Old Photographs


Following an appeal for memorabilia, the Committee has received a number of items on loan. Special thanks must go to the Rowing Club who have loaned some early century Programmes.


There are still large gaps in the history of the Regatta, which need to be filled, and many questions still await an answer. Can you help? If so, please contact us by e-mail.


compiled & written by Roy Stone