Peacehaven in old picture postcards

Peacehaven in old picture postcards

:   A.S. Payne and Eddie Scott
:   Sussex, East
:   United Kingdom
:   978-90-288-4542-8
:   80
:   EUR 16.95 Incl BTW *

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Fragmenten uit het boek 'Peacehaven in old picture postcards'

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Peacehaven is interesting in that it grew to prominenee after the First World War yet was conceived, clearly with great foresight, before the start of that same war. The town grew quicklyon The Right Honourable Lloyd George's Band Waggon of 'Homes Fit for Heroes to Live In', and it prospered on the grants that the grateful British Government gave to builders and estate developers who produced these same homes.

It was one of the first new townships that tried to shrug off the trappings of red tape and bureaucratie interference, and its founder and developer successfully achieved this ambition, at times to the annoyance of the local authority.

The founder of Peacehaven was Charles William Neville. His mother and father were greatly involved in the promotion of exhibitions, and we are told that they were closely connected with the 1898 Paris Exhibition. They were widely travelled and both were accomplished linguists. Charles was born in 1881, in the Northem Town of Darlington and he quickly showed that he had inherited his mother and father's flair for promotion. Charles' father was born into the Ussher family, but the family did not approve of his marriage and so he changed his name to Neville, as a result of this rancour. It was Charles' grandfather , Captain Sir Thomas Ussher, who accompanied Napoleon Bonaparte to Elba and the details and incidents are wellcovered in a book narrative that was published in 1841.

After a year or so at Darlington the family moved to Canada in conneetion with exhibition work, where Charles' father died quite suddenly, leaving Mrs. Neville in somewhat straitened circumstances. Charles was sent to relatives in Northem Ontario where he stayed until he was 16, often commenting after on the hard pioneering days that he experienced. He ran away to Toronto, where we are told he put hirnself through college and university. After leaving university Charles started a newspaper

which proved quite successful, but tiring of Toronto, and its bigoted and churchified atrnosphere (his words), he left. Ever adventurous, Charles made his way to Australia, where he went into partnership selling real estate, having offices in both Sydney and Melbourne.

This was the time of a booming market in property. He and his business partner purchased from Jack London, the famous author, a luxury yacht named "The Snark' (see Jack London's book 'The Voyage of The Snark'), and he then sailed to the Great Barrier Reef and on to New Guinea, where he settled briefly at Port Moresby before going up-county gold prospecting; having heard of rich mineral finds in the area; he did not appear to be deterred at all by the fact that the New Guinea Highlands were the home of dangerous head hunters. Charles always maintained that he found gold, and he was photographed standing in what appears to be a mine shaft pointing to a lode. He was unfortunate enough to catch blackwater fever, and he returned to Australia. When he recovered he disposed of all bis interest in Australia and went back to Canada and thence to England eventually settling in London, where he set up offices in Shaftsbury Avenue.

In 1912 he married Dorothy Roehard and they started their married life in the nearby suburb of Twiekenham. This was prior to the First World War and it was at this time that Charles and his wife, whilst driving from Eastbourne to Brighton along the Dover Road, saw the tract of land that was to become Peacehaven, his 'Garden CitybytheSea' andmuchofhislife'swork. Atthistime there was very little habitation on the land in question ; the Dover Road, now the A259 South Coast Road, crossed from east to west. There was the Hoddem Toll House, locally known as The Pay Gate, at the eastern end, and at the western end there were the Coastguard Cottages, part ofthe earlierCoast Blockade.

Smuggling in the past years was so rife on this part of the coast that the government were compelled to establish a Coast Blockade, and Dragoons, cliff watchers, preventive officers, were stationed all along the coast, they in turn being supported by a Man of War, H.M.S. Hyperion, based at Newhaven.

At the western end of the state was the Controller of Customs' House, now known as 17th century cottage, but in fact being a 19th century farmhouse, with very fine chalk block cellars.

Further on to the west on the north side of the Dover Road, just below the brow of Telscombe Tye, there stood in earlier days the 'Lifeboat Inn', the property ofWilliam Balcombe Langridge and his partner Christopher Kell, both public notaries from Lewes. Langridge was a man very deeply concerned with the loss of life from shipwreck, being himself involved with legally recording all details of wrecks and rescues on this part of the coast, in the official 'Protest Book'. Our records teil us at this time that a lifeboat, or lifecar type of vessel, was kept at the 'Lifeboat Inn' with a view to it being lowered down through a shaft in the cliff in times of need. A modelofthis early vessel was identified by the chronicler some years ago, the model being in possession of the Royal Lifeboat Institution, and clearly marked William B. Langridge - Lewes, and named 'The Messenger' . From its humbie beginnings The Garden City prospered, it was said that in 1921 the population was just 24 souls and in 1925 it was just over 3,000. Charles William Neville decided that Peacehaven, his Garden City by the Sea, would be different! People would be able to build just what they wanted, on land they wanted, where they wanted, and no-one would stand in their way. Fm instance, when Charles had problems with the local water suppliers, he formed his own water company, opening up wells in the Valley Road area and at Saltdean. He.

founded his own block and brick making company, in buildings on a disused First World War aerodrome, and he also founded his own timber works, where window frames and roof trusses etc., were made: and then, with a masterly stroke, he founded the Peacehaven Electric Light & Power Company, one of the earliest private electricity stations in the country. In those days they boasted of their ability to wire a new property for just fifteen shillings per point (75p.) and three shillings per pendant light (15p.). A brand new electric cooker cost just nine guineas (f9.45p.).

The Peacehaven Building & Supply Company was formed, together with many other allied companies, all under the umbrella of the South Coast Land & Resort Company.

With the war over and building in great demand, there was great difficulty in obtaining any form of building material, and yet it was essential to make a start building new homes in order to get the grants from the Government and to allow hirnself thereby to buy further land. With his usual flair he purchased from the Government to complete army camps at Seaford and he dismantled them and took out all the building materials including asbestos sheeting, timber, miles of wiring, drainage goods etc. , and he had a start. Charles Neville boasted frequently that he built some of the very first new hornes in England after the War.

In its infancy The South Coast Land & Resort Company's lands extended from Newhaven (The Valley Estate as it is now), The Harbour Heights Estate, Peacehaven Heights Estate, and going back as far as the banks of the Ouse at Piddinghoe. In the west was the Telscombe Cliffs Estate, bought from the Cavendish Land Company, and at Bannings Vale there was the Beach Estate, followed by Greater Saltdean and on to Rottingdean where Charles performed miracles with old farm buildings and barns, that later became Tudor Close, a credit to the brain of the

scheme and a fine example of Sussex craftmanship.

It must also be said that not content with all his work on the coast, Charles Neville was responsible for developing many superior properties in London such as Sloane Square Mansions, Ducann Court, NeU Gwynne House, High Trees, Balham Way, The Isle ofWightEstates, and also a further estate in Wales. Our story really starts in or about 1914, when Charles bought some 600 acres of land from the Marquis of Abergavenny, at f.l5. per acre. In a bold self -confessed admission Charles Neville admitted that he had no money but he had 'a scheme'. His scheme was to firstly clear all his newly acquired lands, and divide them into building plots measuring some 25 feet by 100 feet, together with accompanying roads etc. He founded The South Coast Land & Resort Company and then offered the land to the public by advertising in National Newspapers etc. in the form of a competition to find a name for the new Garden City by the Sea. The company advertisement stated that fifty of the company's building plots would be offered as prizes for the best name submitted, all entries beingjudged strictly on their merits. In fact over 80,000 replies were attracted, with New Anzac on Sea being the winning name, influenced perhaps by virtue of the fact that there was a detachment of the Australian & New Zealand Army Corps based at the eastern end of Peacehaven at that time. The tragic events at Gallipoli caused feelings of misgiving and it was decided to drop New Anzac on Sea as a name, and hold a further competition for a new name, with Peacehaven being the successful entry, chosen by two of the new entrants, and also it must be admitted by a number of the first contestants. At this time there came to prorninence the first of a number of attacks upon the Peacehaven Company. The competition rules stated that each and every winning competitor should pay some three guineas (f3.15p.) for legal fees and a conveyance, thus

earning Charles Neville a not inconsiderable surn of money by giving land away! Whilst most of the competitors were happy with their prizes, some felt the need to complain, prompted and supported perhaps by one of England's national daily newspapers. The complaint appeared to be based on the fact that the awards were not limited in nurnber to fifty as advertised but in fact 2,445 plots being awarded fornames. Also the complainants stated that they purchased the land and were led to believe that Peacehaven had a promenade, fresh water supply etc., whereas in fact the estate was bleak and thickly overgrown with gorse, there was no beach and at high tide the cliffs were awash. However, with his usual flair Charles NeviUe turned what would appear to have been bad publicity to his advantage on the prernise that no publicity is bad. The name ofPeacehaven was known the country over and the town continued to thrive and prosper and now, in 1987, it is in fact becorning something like the Garden City that Charles Neville dreamed of. There is a bustling new town centre which is the envy of many adjoining towns. There are a fine sports park, sports hall and pavilion, municipal buildings, new schools as well as a very attractive underdiffwalk. The population has, of course shot up. So has the price of property. Peacehavens main attractions are though, still the same as then: close proxirnity to the sea, the downs and London. There is abundant good pure air and unspoiled countryside as well as difftop and downland walks aplenty.

Most of the photographs used have come from the authors own extensive collection. A number have come to us from various sourees and particular thanks are paid to the memory of Gordon Volk of Peacehaven Post farne, Jack Wagstaff, Malcom Troak, Eddie Scott, Mrs. Bagnall, Mrs. Sayers, Doug D'Enno and others. Our personal thanks to Patsy Elliott for typing the manuscript.

1. The old 'Dover' Road was a toll road. This in effect meant that if you wanted to travel over a given stretch of road, then you paid your toll and went on your way. A system much used abroad today. This strange building was the old Toll House, known to many early settlers simply as the 'paygate'. This was one ofthe earliest buildings in the area and it stood at the eastern end of town on the south side of the road by its junction with Cornwall Avenue (the eastern pylon is right in front). The toll keeper was paid a modest wage and he would supplement his meagre income by selling home grown produce to wayfarers and passers-by, Another method of 'earning a ernst' was by covert co-operation with the smuggling fraternity for this part of the coast was bare and bleak in those days, ideal for 'running' a cargo. Paygate was also for a long time the only souree locally of fresh water. The oid wel! head is today preserved in Bob Poplett's Museum.

2. Thisis the oldest structure in Peacehaven. At the turn ofthe century, andindeed priorto that date, the bluff downs were covered with sheep, almost as plentiful as the blades of grass. The days of the great sheep fairs saw sheep converging in their thousands to attend Lewes, Findon and other great centres. The hills were of course sometimes bleak, uninviting, and these little 'cots' were erected every 15 miles or so to allow the shepherd to find some shelter, to attend to a sick lamb perhaps, and to find warmth and comfort for hirnself. The building size can be gauged from the 6'ranging rod at the side. There was a single doorway, a hearth and that's all. The window is of modern times. It is hoped to have the building restored to its former condition, and it is intended that it will be preserved for future generations. The 'cot' is at the rear of No. 8 Stanley Road, Peacehaven.

3. At the end ofthe Great War, a boom was encouraged for the building of new homes, 'fit for heroes' as Lloyd George had said. Alas there were few materials to be found for building these homes, in spite of a quite handsome subsidy being offered. The Peacehaven Company, not to be dismayed, purchased two entire army camps at Seaford, and taking from there miles of cable and wire, drainage goods, boards, general timber, asbestos, tiling etc. Here we can see what is generaUy accepted as being the first new bungalows built in Peacehaven. They were erected at Seaview Avenue, on the left hand side, going from the South Coast Road towards Arundel Road. Their army hut parentage is fairly apparent, but they served for many years, providing homes for the homeless. One of the gentlemen standing on the scaffold is Mr. Frank Parks, and he stilllives in Peacehaven to this day.



4. The monthly Peacehaven Magazine, 'The Peacehaven Post' and later "The Downland Post', kept readers up to date with developments in the Garden City, and on the various estates. These magazines were really nothing more than advertising vehicles for the Estate Company, but they were widely read and, editorially, every effort was made to keep people abreast with the times. Each edition would illustrate the new developments taking place in the Garden City, and this illustration shows the southern end of Roderiek Avenue (eastern side), boasting these fine new homes, as they were shown to the very best effect in the Peacehaven Post.


5. This is a twenties view of the Estate Company's western office, on the corner of Central Avenue, and the South Coast Road on the north side. It was originally part of the Telscombe Cliffs Estate, commenced some years before Peacehaven proper. Charles Neville bought the estate because he wanted the fresh water wells to supplement his own company's water supply. This building is still much in evidence as the 'Cliffs Club'. In those early days it doubled as a Post Office, and even a restaurant. In the background can be seen Telscombe Tye, and the controller of customs house (with flagpole).

6. Next to the western estate office, there was a private estate and land agent, Mr. T. Cartwright, and here we see the learned gentleman with a much pleasanter mode of transport than today's noisy and smelly motor cars. These early Telscombe Cliffs buildings were considered to be of a very good standard, although sad to relate the estate itse1f failed.

7. In this view of the Western Estate Office (see picture No. 5) the signs proclaim the building to be a 'Boarding House', a hotel, a restaurant, and an estate agents office. It also found time and space to be the local Post Office and outside stands a 'wicker' basket on wheels, pulled by a contented donkey. In the cart can be seen the tops of mail bags and the post man would have had to walk many miles to deliver to, and pick up from, his customers.

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