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Maritime landmark the Timeball Tower at Deal gets £80k cash boost to repair time piece mechanism and redecorate

Cash to the tune of £80,000 has been approved to restore Deal's iconic Timeball Tower.

Members of Dover District Council's (DDC) cabinet voted unanimously to refurbish the Timeball mechanism and also redecorate the seaside landmark externally.

The Timeball Tower at Deal now
The Timeball Tower at Deal now

Currently, the Timeball mechanism is not operating as it is no longer safe to do so due to corrosion.

The cash boost will allow for it to be removed and fixed before it gets any colder, which could see it deteriorate further.

Cracks have also appeared on the outside, leading to water ingress, and the Timeball mast has also corroded.

A report warned that further delay to address the issues would see the 'speed of deterioration and resulting damage accelerating with the inevitable result of not only significantly increased future repair costs but also avoidable damage to a grade II listed building'.

Work is now expected to start straight away, and be completed by summer 2021.

The Timeball Tower structure in 1913
The Timeball Tower structure in 1913

The money is coming from DDC's Medium Term Financial Plan.

Speaking at Monday's meeting, Cllr Oliver Richardson (Con) thanked volunteers who have raised £5,000 which will also go towards the restoration project.

In October the trustees and volunteers of Deal Museum Trust paid tribute to those who helped their fundraising drive through the curtailed season.

A statement on its website said: "We didn't anticipate that the Tower's Bicentenary Year would be marked in quite this fashion, but the building has undoubtedly seen worse than Covid in its time from 1820 and it’s still standing, so we’re still dedicated to keeping it open.

"We are hopeful that the mast will be replaced over the winter. Therefore, it is very unlikely that the New Year’s Eve drop will take place for both repair and social distancing reasons.

An old view of the Timeball Tower on Deal seafront, with the old bandstand in the foreground. Picture from the Tony Arnold Collection
An old view of the Timeball Tower on Deal seafront, with the old bandstand in the foreground. Picture from the Tony Arnold Collection

"We've also received many generous donations of cash, some of which have been made by local people almost anonymously - thanks very much

The Timeball Tower, which is owned by Dover District Council, is one of only a handful worldwide with a functioning Timeball mechanism.

It was constructed in 1820 as a semaphore tower with a semaphore mast at the top, used to signal to ships at anchor and ships passing through the English Channel.

It was also used by the coastguard to pass information along the coast for the purposes of suppressing smuggling.

In 1855 the Timeball mechanism was added by the Astronomer Royal, George Airy.

The Timeball, which is similar to the Greenwich Timeball, was designed to fall at 1pm precisely, triggered by an electronic signal transmitted along the telegraph lines of the South Eastern Railway Company.

The building is currently run successfully as an award-winning museum and tourist spot.

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.

"We’ve also been fundraising ourselves and raised over £5,000 for the renovation.

"We have high hopes of doubling this amount over the next month.”

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.”

You can donate to the Timeball Tower by sending a cheque to Deal Museum Trust, Victoria Parade, Deal CT14 7BP. UK tax payers can sign a form for Gift Aid form accessible from dealtimeball.co.uk/

Read more: All the latest news from Deal

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