History of Deal Spiritualist Church Centre
Mary Poolman is one of the last of the original Centre members. Her father was a medium; he was part of a small gathering of Christian Spiritualists in Deal, (mostly miners wives), who used to meet in each others houses.
Anne Herbert (a forbearer of the current president of the Centre, Anne Herbert) held Spiritualist meetings above the Yew Tree Public House in Mill Hill.
One of the people that met there, a Mrs Maud Eyre (a devout medium and Energy Healer), had held local meetings and hosted energy healing (formerly known as spiritual healing) in her front parlour in Deal over the 2nd World War years. She had a dream of the Spiritualists having their own public building to meet in. Mrs Poolman became interested and involved in Spiritualism when she was only 15 years of age; her father, who was a medium, introduced Mrs Poolman to Mrs Eyre.
Prior to the appeal of the Witchcraft Act (1735) in 1947, and the subsequent introduction of the Fraudulent Mediums Act (1951) it would have been impossible to have such a centre; as recently as 1944 the medium Helen Duncan was prosecuted and imprisoned under the Witchcraft Act. Spiritualism was finally recognised as a religion with the passing of a Parliamentary Act in 1954, with the personal support of Sir Winston Churchill. (Spirit encounters website. 24/07/2006).
The First World War had been a catalyst in the development of the Spiritualist movement in the last century, in response to the terrible, brutal loss of so many young lives, and the subsequent struggles of people trying to cope with bereavement; the 2nd World War was a harrowing time when Britain initially faced Hitler and the Nazi threat alone; the people of Deal, living 8 miles from Dover, in part of “hellfire corner”, had to face death, or the fear of it, with the bombings, enemy aircraft flying overhead, and ever present shelling from Calais, only 22 or so miles away. For those civilians who remained in the area, and the servicemen that swelled the depleted population, Spiritualism, and energy healing (formerly known as spiritual healing) attracted people for the strength and comfort it could bring troubled souls.
During the 2nd World War, many of the houses in the Mill Hill area were closed up, (and were then used to house pre- D-Day invasion troops later on in the War); as many people as possible sought to escape the dangers of living so close to the English Channel, and many of the families of the miners found refuge in the geographical areas they had originated from, though the miners themselves were legally bound to remain working in the mines for the duration of the War; when war broke out, initially children were being evacuated, certainly from London and the Medway towns to Deal (BBC WW2 People’s War 04/09/2006), but when it was realised just how close the Germans were to overrunning Kent, in June 1940, 1,500 children living in the Deal and Mill Hill areas were evacuated to South Wales (Mr Harris, 28/08/2006).
In austere post-war Britain, and the working-class, poor area of Mill Hill, money was the big stumbling block for the proposed Spiritualist Church Centre; the small group of members shared a dream of having this much needed Centre; determinedly they started to scrape up the cash by collecting odd pennies and half pennies, holding jumble sales, quizzes, making toys, knitting and crocheting blankets and taking on cleaning jobs. First they bought one brick, then another, until eventually they had enough to commission the building of the Centre; the builder was actually one of the Wiltshire Regiment’s servicemen.
In the beginning there was just a bare shell of a building, with two windows on each side and a tin roof; it was plastered as a contribution from the builder, in thanks for the many meetings and sometimes supper he had at Mrs Eyres’ and friends. The Centre opened in 1952, with just 6 members; it had to close throughout December–February every year because a pot bellied stove on one side of the Centre, with a smoke stack going up through the roof was all they had, and insufficient to heat the building during the coldest months; there was just coconut matting on the floor, which had been made by Centre members. The inside of the Centre was slowly built up, with items being begged and borrowed (but never stolen); old iron chairs salvaged from a local holiday camp seated people in the building. A job lot of school chairs that were more comfortable, but because they came from a school were rather low replaced the old chairs! People were asked to donate cushions to make the “new” seats bearable, and this meant a multicoloured scene of various sized cushions. Progress was very slow, but over the years, the Centre built up, and gradually it was properly furnished and decorated, and the membership grew. The treasurer ran a tight ship; anything that cost more than a £1 was too expensive. Eventually, after several years of battling to just keep the Centre open, the membership grew, and a sincere and hardworking Committee was set up, which helped to enhance the Centre, which came more and more in demand as Deal grew in size.
These days there is good quality seating, there have been alterations to the kitchen and toilet and storage space added; there has been regular redecoration and maintenance of the building. Mrs Poolman is very proud of the Centre, and how Mrs Eyre’s dream came alive.
Energy healing (formerly known as spiritual healing) practioners are usually to be found wherever Spiritualists are, as an integral part of our belief in a higher life force, and the Deal Spiritualist Church Centre is no different: The healing is a service which has been developed over the years, starting with a few, well-motivated but amateurish healers, who had their patients seated on stools, to what is now a very professional service, with proper treatment beds being introduced in the early 1990’s, and professional training and regulation coming in at around the same time, (but with the healing always offered on a donation basis); these practices are very progressive and innovative compared with how the average Spiritualist Church or Church Centre might operate, according to Anne Herbert. It used to be the case that energy healing (formerly known as spiritual healing) would only be offered to the Centre’s own members, but this was a very long time ago, (probably prior to the Centre opening in 1952), and anyone, whether a Spiritualist, of another faith, or with no faith at all, is welcome, and regularly come to healing sessions (as well as to self-development classes or other activities on offer here). As the Centre was already offering energy healing (formerly known as spiritual healing), it was a natural progression to move on to also offering regular Reiki healing sessions, (donation only basis), and then to provide low-cost training in both disciplines.
Written in 2007
Looking to the future
Due to a growing membership, and thanks to donations, we have recently managed to extend the Centre which now offers a separate reception room. In the quest for the Centre to help as many people in the community as possible, and because of the interest amongst its members in exploring complementary therapies, the Centre has been introducing new therapies. See the Services page for details of current therapies available.