Old Flemish House is an exceptional and meticulously restored late 17th-century Grade II-listed house, located on a quiet street a short stroll from the seafront and High Street. Situated in the heart of Deal’s old town, it lies within the Deal Middle Street conservation area – the first designated conservation area in the whole of Kent. At almost 2,000 sq ft, the home unfolds over three exquisite levels; it has five bedrooms and a private walled garden. It has recently undergone an extensive restoration by Anthony Swaine Architecture to preserve and enhance the countless original details. Historic features have been revealed, celebrated, and, where necessary, reinstated; there are countless chamfered beams and inglenook fireplaces with working fires. Contemporary yet sympathetic interventions include a beautiful DeVol kitchen and a series of outstanding bathrooms.
Setting the Scene
Old Flemish House has a handsome appearance at street level. Unusually double-fronted, with 8×8 box sash windows, it has a tall Georgian doorcase rescued from a grand house in Faversham by architect and former owner Anthony Swaine. Something of a palimpsest, the interior is vernacular in character, with Georgian elements harmoniously introduced. Two dormers are set into the Kent peg tile roof, featuring leaded casement windows and unusual Dutch gable ends. To the rear are a series of 18th-century additions, unified behind a traditional weatherboard façade and under a catslide roof in identical hand-crafted Kent peg tiles.
The house has undergone a highly sensitive overhaul throughout, with the roof’s tiles relaid and the dormers rebuilt and releaded. Chimney stacks were repaired and repointed, with lime mortar and plaster used for both the interior and exterior. Windows were carefully repaired where possible or replaced. Burnished cast-iron radiators feature in all rooms, with heated flooring in the kitchen and bathrooms. Ironmongery throughout was supplied by Jim Lawrence, and the pigment-rich paints used in the entire house are by Farrow & Ball. As well as being completely replumbed, part of the total electric rewiring includes a 5-amp circuit installation, exceptional wifi coverage via a high-spec data cabling network, an extensive security system, and high specification smoke and fire alarms. Many of the services can be controlled remotely. A lighting designer consulted on the project to help create a beautiful, sophisticated ambience, night and day, and master craftsmen worked on every aspect of the entire plan. For more information, please see the History section below.
The Grand Tour
The entrance opens to a private porch with a flagstone floor leading to the spacious hall. An open hearth with a wood burner lends a sense of warmth to this room, as do the exposed timber beams. Panelled cupboards are built into both alcoves, with one cleverly concealing entrance to the box staircase. The rooms on the ground floor flow effortlessly, with doors connecting all spaces on a circular plan.
The hall leads to the sitting room, which features a second open hearth and inset wood burner. There is an exceptional 12ft bressummer bearing apotropaic markings; ancient symbols found in many civilisations that are meant to ward off evil spirits. Untreated wooden floorboards feature here and to the rear of the plan in the dining room, where the walls are half-clad in simple reclaimed Georgian horizontal plank panelling. The charming bay window has a Regency architrave and fine mouldings.
The kitchen is a beautifully conceived space, skilfully marrying both form and function. Terracotta rectangular-tiled flooring is laid in a herringbone pattern, with a beautiful, highly individual patina. Supplied from one of the only remaining wood-fired kilns in England, the technique gives a unique effect and is sealed with traditional boiled linseed and beeswax. Cabinetry has been designed and supplied by DeVol, painted pale grey and with light quartz work surfaces atop. Appliances, including double fridge-freezers, are concealed behind a larder unit, while a smart Steel Cucine stove acts as a centrepiece. ‘Frisian Whites’ by Rozendonk are used for beautifully tiled surfaces and feature both here and in the bathrooms. Imported from Holland and made using traditional 17th-century materials and methods, these act as a subtle nod to the house’s name and roof design, as well as being utterly exquisite. The double butler sink has brass taps by Perrin & Rowe and a separate hot drinking water spout; these look out through quadripartite leaded casement windows to the beautiful garden beyond.
There are three bedrooms on the first floor, with one currently used as a study/library. Wedding doors open to a rich and cosy room, with ikat-print wallpaper and walls lined in custom-built shelving. A charming original wig cupboard complements a wood burner with a bolection surround. The main bedroom is painted a deep green and has an open fireplace with further prominent apotropaic markings. The en suite shower room has an almost cabin-like atmosphere, with butt and bead panelling and a window to the garden. Aged chequerboard floor tiles are from Fired Earth, with Frisian White wall tiles lending their magical individualistic quality to the wet area.
The main bathroom is positioned in the centre of the plan on this floor and has a grand bateau tub by the Cast Iron Bath Company. It is placed carefully in front of a deep-set dormer window with surrounding shutters. Brassware here, and in all bathrooms, is by Ashbee & Stone. A separate shower enclosure is cleverly set into the roof pitch, with an inset glass screen and ceiling encased in micro cement with a historic finish. Lighting is particularly well-conceived in this space and is designed to create a wonderful ambience for indulgent night-time bathing. A further bedroom also lies on this floor, with walls entirely clad in panelling and featuring thoughtful joinery interventions.
At the apex of the house, there are two further bedrooms set within the roof’s pitch and a connecting spacious landing area. The main bedroom has a large open hearth and a convenient en suite WC with a washbasin cleverly concealed behind a cupboard door. A wonderful quality of light enters these rooms through dormer windows set into the pitch at both east and west aspects.
The Great Outdoors
Entered from the kitchen with additional side access from Farrier Street, the walled garden is exceptionally private and spacious. Most gardens in Deal’s Old Town are merely courtyard gardens, so this represents something of an anomaly. A paved terrace leads to the lawn with mature shrubs and space for seating – the perfect spot for alfresco drinks in warmer months.
To one side of the garden is a discrete and secure outdoor utility room, fitted for a washer and dryer. To the other side is the old vernacular wash house, a charming structure with an exposed timber frame; this would make a wonderful potting shed or garden folly.
Out and About
Old Flemish House is equidistant to the seafront and the High Street, each less than a minute’s walk away. Deal Castle Beach and famed Deal Pier, the last fully intact leisure pier remaining in Kent, are incredibly popular with the local community. The Rose Hotel is known for its excellent bar and restaurant, as is the Frog & Scot. Real Deal Roasters is a renowned coffee supplier and shop, Arno & Co are the preferred grocers and Merchant of Relish, the favoured deli. The Black Pig butchers and Jenkins & Sons fishmongers are also both noteworthy. There is also a fantastic Saturday farmers’ market selling local produce.
The High Street has many other independent antique, clothes, and homewares stores. Of particular note, and just a short walk away is the ever-popular lifestyle and homewares emporium Green & Found. Built in the early 1800s within the Captain’s Gardens at Deal Castle, it provides creative spaces for local craftspeople to work and offers workshops, talks, and events. Other local attractions include the famed Deal Castle, nearby Walmer Castle, and slightly further afield, Sandwich Bay and St Margaret’s Bay.
Sandwich, Dover and Canterbury are all easily accessed by car, via the A2 and A258. High-speed trains run from Deal to London St Pancras with a total journey time of 84 minutes, with alternative direct trains to London Charing Cross and London Bridge. Access to the continent is also excellent via the Port of Dover, the Channel Tunnel at Folkestone and Eurostar from Ashford International.
Old Flemish House is one of the older houses in the area and has a charming story that follows a wonderful full circle. Something of a sleeping beauty for many years, the noted post-war conservation architect Anthony Swaine bought the house in 1975 and set about uncovering the building’s history, including inglenook fireplaces and original joinery. Swaine was instrumental in working with Historic England to create Deal, and Kent’s, first conservation area, therefore protecting Deal’s rich heritage for future generations.
Swaine remained a working architect until the grand age of 99 when he sadly passed away. His highly regarded Canterbury-based architectural practice remains active; when the current owners bought the house, the firm was commissioned to bring the house back to life, carefully restoring the house using Swaine’s own plans and drawings, with traditional methods and materials, yet making the home fit for contemporary living.
Deal was first mentioned in the Domesday Book. By the end of the 13th century, it had become a ‘limb port’ of the larger Cinque Ports nearby, and at one time was the busiest port in England. Its rich maritime history is complemented by its role as a key garrison town, as well as having a noted mining, fishing, and perhaps less salubriously, rich smuggling heritage.
After its role as a resort town declined in the late 20th century, Deal has experienced a great renaissance as something of an artistic haven in recent years, with people attracted by the beautiful historic architecture within the town, the creative community and excellent independent provisors that centre around the High Street, and its position on the beautiful Kent coastline.
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