An Attractive Health Resort
Transcription of Article in the Christian Messenger by I. Dorricott
This quiet coast-town (anciently called Dole – an open place on the sea) is a branch of the old Cinque Port of Sandwich, and has considerably outgrown its mother, both in size and attractions. Its temptations to the holiday-seeker are varied and powerful, especially if health and quiet are desired. Deal, like most of these south-coast towns, is of considerable age, but only vestiges and relics remain of its old-time powers and doings. The present political status of the Cinque Ports, and their associated towns, is only a shadow compared with past realities.
Deal was once under the special jurisdiction of Sandwich, six miles distant. But it has long since shaken off guardianship and claimed independence. The parish, styled Upper, Lower, and Middle Deal, in an ordinance of Henry III., dated 1229, is named as a member of the Sandwich Cinque Port. It was governed by a deputy and assistants, appointed by the Mayor and jurats of Sandwich, until 1699, when the inhabitants obtained a Charter, and Deal became a borough, with its Mayor, twelve jurats, twenty-four Councilmen, a recorder, town clerk, etc. It has its “Establishment of pilots for the more safe conveyance of shipping into and out of the Downs.” They are a truly useful class of men, and as brave as they are useful; by their skill many lives and much property have been saved. “The Deal pilots rank amongst the most skilful of British seamen, and, like the boatmen, have a well-deserved repute for courage and daring.” Its people hold hard by the justifiable inference from Caesar’s words in reference to his landing after being repulsed at Dover: “Having made the signal, and weighed anchor, he sailed eight miles further up, and brought to his ships on a plain and open shore.” The high cliffs, which form the coast-line from Dover for a distance of seven miles, gradually slope down, and a level, open country appears about one and a half miles before reaching Deal. Hence Caesar’s landing became easy from a topographical point of view, and must have taken place not far from the present Deal Castle. It must not be inferred, however, that Deal was then a centre of considerable population, though Nennius says “Caesar battled at Dole.” The town, as such, can scarcely be said to be three hundred years old, yet, like Sandwich, it had probably been a growing centre for centuries past, It remained in the pariamentary borough of Sandwich until 1885.
The town is also notable for its proximity and intimate relations to the Downs and Goodwin Sands. “A place near the Downs became essential, at which victuals and stores could obtained by vessels wind-bound or otherwise detained in the roadstead, and where the shipping and trading interests could be represented by conveniently-placed agencies.” The Goodwin Sands have been for ages past more or less of a death-trap to unwary mariners, especially in stormy times. Many a vessel, heavily-freighted with rich cargo or human life, has been engulfed there. Still, the Goodwins have their beneficent uses. “By them the Downs are constituted a road for shipping. In all easterly winds they serve as a pier or breakwater, and greatly mitigate the force and immensity of the waves, which in stormy weather would otherwise roll upon the shore, with unabated fury.” The Sands are about ten miles in length. Deal has not the attractions of larger and more fashionable watering-places. Yet it has all the accessories which constitute a pleasant, attractive, and bracing health resort. The air is salubrious and dry, the water supply is good, the sea frontage is nearly three miles in extent, the sea water is clear and excellent for bathing, a fine promenade pier, with its large pavilion, affords immense attraction, and the country around is charming for walking and cycling exercises. Dover, Ramsgate, and Margate are within easy distances, so that Deal is a growingly-popular seaside resort, and in that respect is of vital importance to Primitive Methodism, to a brief history of which we now turn.
In the midsummer of 1848 Ramsgate Station decided to send a preacher to mission Deal and the villages around. Mr. John Crowe was appointed, and wrote in his journal concerning his early labours there. “After I was stationed to the Ramsgate Mission, the brethren, wishful to extend their borders, sent me to Deal, where I found plenty of work. Seeing the shops and alehouses open on Sabbath evenings has often caused me in secret to fall on my knees in great grief of soul. My first preaching-place was in a large square, . . . near which some of the most notorious transgressors reside; and when the work of the Lord broke out these lions of vice began to roar. Indeed, we have been opposed by clergymen, the world, and the devil. The minds of the people were for some time so much prejudiced against me that I could gain access to only a few families, and hence I laboured for three months with but little success, though, thank God, I saw a few souls converted, and formed a society of six members. On the 9th of September the Lord poured out His Holy Spirit upon us, and one soul was saved. On the 14th, while I was holding a prayer meeting, two believed and were justified. On the 15th, while at our class meeting, four found peace. On the 26th I preached at Deal, and one sinner was converted. October 12th we had a fellowship meeting, and several persons spoke of the good which they had received since I came to the place. While one of our members was speaking the power of God was felt by all present; some seemed much alarmed, and one found redemption. The rabble outside the room cried, ‘Burst in, Crowe is killing the people.’ On October 17th I preached morning and evening, when we had to contend with the powers of darkness, but the Lord saved one soul. Lately we have had souls converted nearly every week, and these say they shall bless the Lord to all eternity that Primitive Methodism ever came to the town. The number of our converts is about thirty, many of whom are young.”
Mr. Crowe still lives, I believe, in Doncaster, though much enfeebled by old age. In a comparatively recent letter to me the aged saint says : “When winter came I took a boat-builder’s shop, which would seat about 150 people. We were doing well, and had a good society in the town. The congregations were usually good, but oh! the darkness and infidelity that reigned in the minds of many of the people. To hear them ridicule God’s cause, His followers, yea, God Himself, and to see the behaviour of some of them when in His House, was appalling. Yet the Lord was a present help in trouble, and has given us souls for our hire. At that time we had fifty members in society, and most of them could read their title clear to mansions in the skies.’ I was summoned before the magistrates twice, once for holding noisy meetings, a nuisance to the neighbourhood, and once for blocking up the thoroughfare (which I don’t agree to). I was my own lawyer, and pleaded my own cases, both being dismissed. We made all arrangements for holding a camp meeting, and put bills out. The magistrates sent me a note on the Saturday night to say I must not proceed to procession the town on the Sunday. The policeman who served me with the notice said, ‘You must not blame me, Mr. Crowe.’ I answered, ‘You must mind your business, and I will mind mine.’ I requested a local preacher to come from Ramsgate and another from ,Margate, and mustered all the force I could.
I was told the police would come and stop me, but whether they would succeed was another matter. When we had gone about half way up the street singing I saw three or four policemen coming towards me. One put his hand on my shoulder and said, ‘Mr. Crowe, I am come to stop you by order of the Mayor.’ I replied, ‘I shall proceed by order of the Lord, the King of kings, Who is above the Mayor. Stand aside, policemen, you have no right to stop me in the street. I have a licence. Sing up, friends; we shall proceed to-day, and they shall proceed to-morrow.’ ”
Now a record like that reads well, and should not become obsolete or repugnant to more modern taste. Fighting for the truth, and for justice, and for Christian liberty, must not become a lost art. The call to arms is coming again; the scene is shifting, and the foe is near the gates. The Papal hand is tearing down the children’s Gospel banner, and we’ll have to stand where our fathers fought and suffered. May we not be less brave and true to Christ and the Covenant. This story, after half a century’s silence, is breezy and inspiring. To Christian ears it reads more like a sacred poem or a spiritual idyll.
I have also gathered some traditions of that stirring past. Mr. Bowbyes, of Griffin Street, an eyewitness and, to some extent, a partaker in the exciting events of those days, has a vivid remembrance of John Crowe, of the open-air gatherings at the top of Ark Lane and elsewhere, of the fiery indoor meetings in one of the four old cottages near the gas works, occupied by a Mrs. Buttress, in the glorious times in the boat-builder’s workshop in North Street, and of the brutal persecutions of godless mobs with stones, sticks, mud, etc. In those days the whole family of Bowbyes were brought under the power of the Saviour’s Gospel. Two of the brothers went to New Zealand, one of whom, a retired successful business man, continues to this day a staunch and valuable adherent of Primitive Methodism. The third brother, who has furnished me with various information, is a respected member with us in Deal at the present time. A sister, a saintly devoted woman, became a great force as an evangelist. She was a choice and beautiful life. Shortly after her conversion she began to conduct services, to exhort sinners to flee from the wrath to come, to travel from village to village, visiting the people and winning many to Christ. She walked to Dover and other distant places, stood in the open air, and proclaimed the Gospel message. Here is an interesting snapshot portrait of her: Walking along a village you come to a cottage. They are singing with great fervour inside, “Come ye sinners, poor and needy.” You lift the latch and enter. What an atmosphere of heavenliness! You listen! This handmaiden of the Lord is wrestling with the Almighty in front of that congregation; next she pleads with the sinners present to at once forsake their evil ways and live. At the end of her impassioned appeal the people fall on their knees, and the cry for mercy goes up to God, and someone goes home justified and joyful. This godly sister was afterwards united in marriage with William Phillips, a mariner, a Christian man who had been converted under the ministry of that eminent clergyman, Henry Francis Lyte, the author of “Abide with me, fast falls the eventide.”
It has sometimes been asked, and not unreasonably, how it is that greater progress has not been made after so vigorous a start in Deal. It is a question that anyone interested in the work must have seriously pondered, but to which it is not easy to form or find an explicit answer. We must distinguish, however, between the actual good accomplished there and the merely outward sign of prosperity. No Christian Church ever discovers the full value of its own service to humanity, and it is a notable fact that the smaller churches suffer greater proportionate loss than the larger ones, because their attractions are not so great, nor their institutions for the young so perfect, nor their pulpit supply so reliable and satisfactory. The lack of training, experience, and continuity in the pastoral oversight at Deal has been an undoubted and serious weakness, and has made comparative failure inevitable. It has also been, until recently, too much of a law, written or unwritten, that ministerial appointments must be of short duration, and that their pulpit work should be distributed equally among all the places in a station, whether large or small. This has been a source of unspeakable suffering to the larger centres of our work. This procedure grew out of the providential circumstance that, as a denomination, we began and continued by means of a fiery and unsystematic evangelism, which paid but little heed to administration or a “conservation” of the energy.
Moreover, the diminutive size of our building has been an unattractive and a crippling factor. There was a definite faith in its erection; but it was small, it had no bright or large outlook.
Amid all drawbacks much excellent work has been done, and our hopes are surer and brighter. The present chapel has rendered valuable service since its erection in 1852. It is free of debt, and about £120 is in hand towards the new erection. The proposal is to take down the cottage, build a neat, modern structure to seat about 250 people, and adapt the present chapel for Sunday school, week evenings, and other meetings. Some time ago I laid our new scheme before the Missionary Committee. It was warmly approved, and a generous promise of £200 was made towards the undertaking. With this scheme accomplished, and a minister stationed at Deal, a new and brighter future will open for our church there.
Christian Messenger 1903/172