There is but one listed building in Peacehaven which may surprise many people who consider that being a new Town there can be nothing old. The Shepherds Cot has been preserved as a reminder of Peacehaven’s past as farmland when it was part of the old Parish of Piddinghoe before the new Town started in the 1920′s. Although now found in The Compts off Stanley Road in the north of Peacehaven, when built it would have been in an open field.
Built somewhere around 1880 for shepherds during the lambing season would have possibly spent the night there. Only about 4 x 2 meters it was used as a shelter from the wind and rain that comes straight off the sea. It was situated between 2 natural dew-ponds on Telscombe Tye and the Bull Pit to the east of the building.
After Peacehaven was handed back to the South Coast Land and Resort Company a few short years after the end of the First World War a real start was made on developing a new Town. The early residents were at the time called pioneers as there was nothing here, tracks for roads, buildings could be as far as a mile apart and no street lighting.
Part of the appeal of this new Town, was in the promotion of it as an ‘arcadia by the sea’. The Oxford English Dictionary defines an Arcadian as “an idealized contry dweller”, part of this idyll came from the few facilities that he had built. This will surprise many, but for all the talk of a frontier Town with a community spirit formed out of adversity there was entertainment. The main focus was the Hotel Peacehaven built in 1922, also Lureland Hall which was built almost opposite around the same time by the Company. These buildings may have gone but they were in many ways landmark buildings, with electricity and telephones. But what made these and other buildings special was that they were places of entertainment and as such, drew in up and coming stars. Somehow through the promotional genius of Charles Neville many famous people came to Peacehaven.
To some they would say that she was the greatest actress of all time, and in 1924 (it may be a year either side depending on the book you refer to) that Flora Robson made her stage debut at the Rosemary Tearooms on the South Coast Road. If you look carefully you will see a blue plaquue on the wall of a house at the corner of Piddinghoe Avenue and South Coast Road when you come out the car park after recycling your waste! How times have changed!
Perhaps one the greatest singer comedienne fromn the war time to live here was Gracie Fields. “Our Gracie” never forgot he origins in Rochdale, but for some years made her home in Peacehaven, in fact she had three overthe years. As soon as she started to earn some real money from her singing she bought her first home for her Mother and Father in Telscombe Cliffs. The building is now the Haven Nursing HOme, and like all properties here in the 1920′s it was built on a muddy lane.
She had her own retreat in Peacehaven on the cliffs overlooking the sea, which may have reminded her of the other home she had made for herself in Capri. Besides paying all the expenses of ther parents’ home at the Haven, in 1936, she bought a proerty in Dorothy Avenue. This was Gracie Fields Home and Orphanage, although there were few orphans, it was a term used to describe the children of show people who had to stay at home whilst their parents travelled the world entertaining. Again she financed the home although she left the running of it to the Theatrical Ladies Guild. Today, as Dorothy House, it is still used as a home, but for the elderly as a rest home. For further information follow this link: www.PTHA.co.uk
With such a famous singer in the Town it is hardly surprising that another eminent person connected with music should make Peacehaven his home. Although less well known the composer of the fisrt world war hit “Pack Up Your Troubles In Your Old Kit Bag and Smile, Smile, Smlile”. Felix Powell not only made Peacehaven his home but was an active member of the growing community. He lived here with his brother Geoprge Asaf (a pseudonym that was derived from the town in Wales where they were born that he seems to have always used.) It was Felix who wrote the music and Geoprge who wrote the words, they produced another song that some locals preferred to forget! “Come to Peacehaven” in the 1920′s.
They wrote the operetta “Rubicund Castle” which the Peacehaven Philharmonic and Orchestral Society put on in 1933. Felix would produce most of the musical productions of the Society, while his brother helped Charles Neville with some of the promotional material for the town. Unfortunately in 1942 Felix committed sucicide whilst with the Peavehaven Home Guard, and Geoprge did the same in 1951.
Peacehaven was also made famous in 1936 by Graeme Green in his “Brighton Rock”, and has been included as the last resting place for a character from the soap opera ‘Eastenders’.