Deal’s seafront is to get a boost, following news that the Grade II listed Timeball Tower is to be refurbished. The funding will allow the historic maritime monument to resume its famous Ball Drops – rejoining its fellow (and few) functioning timeballs around the world.
Exterior repairs to the museum will also take place (image: ©DDC)
It follows Dover District Council’s announcement of agreeing a key £80,000 renovation to repair the timeball mechanism and re-decorate the tower externally in this, its bicentenary year.
The Timeball Tower is a popular and quirky attraction in Deal, which has been voted one of the best places to live in Britain by the Sunday Times and was named the best seaside location in the UK following a study by the Solar Centre earlier this year.
Celebrating its 200th birthday in 2020, the present tower has played a significant part in Deal’s maritime history, for which the quaint coastal town is well-regarded. Originally a semaphore tower, it was used to signal to ships at anchor in the Downs and those passing through the English Channel.
Deal once housed the headquarters of the Coast Blockade for the Suppression of Smuggling and the tower also played an important role in sending information to other Blockade stations around the Kent and Sussex coast.
The tower has carried a timeball since 1855, linked to the Royal Observatory in Greenwich by electric telegraph wires running alongside the railway. At 1pm each day a signal was sent from Greenwich to all timeballs in England - including Deal - to synchronize their ball drops. The time signal allowed ships in the Downs to check the accuracy of their chronometers, essential for accurate navigation, before setting off on long journeys. It ceased official operation in 1927.
The tower building is owned by DDC and is run as a successful and award-winning museum and visitor attraction by the Deal Museum Trust and its amazing local volunteers. Until recently, the Timeball Tower made regular ball drops, but corrosion to the timeball’s mast due to wear and tear meant that this had to stop. The Deal Museum Trust has been fundraising to help with the renovation costs and following the announcement from Dover District Council, work is due to start before Christmas. The Timeball Tower is now set to re-open next Easter and can look forward to welcoming a new season of visitors.
Jeremy Davies-Webb from the Deal Museum Trust said: “We’re delighted to get this important funding from Dover District Council. Our thanks go to everyone at DDC as they continue to support the Trust and our hard working and dedicated volunteers.”
Cllr Oliver Richardson, DDC Cabinet Member for Corporate Property said: “The Timeball Tower is a fantastic historic asset and we are delighted to be able to invest in this renovation. We would also like to say a big thank you to the Deal Museum Trust and all the amazing volunteers who have been working so hard for this successful award-winning attraction.”