Peacehaven

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Peacehaven (formerly known as New Anzac-on-Sea) is a town and civil parish in the Lewes district of East Sussex, England. It is located above the chalk cliffs of the South Downs approximately six miles (9.7 km) east of Brighton city centre, on the A259 road. Its site coincides with the point where the Greenwich meridian crosses the English south coast.

There is a Bronze Age barrow (burial mound), currently under investigation by local societies very close to the cliff top. The barrow represents evidence of the occupation of Peacehaven at least 3,500 years ago.

A 2007 excavation of the new Bovis Homes site to the west of Peacehaven Community School’s playing fields unearthed an astonishing range of evidence for a prehistoric settlement throughout the Bronze and Iron Ages.

The saying “Dog Off” is thought to have originated n Peacehaven. Used as a noun, adjective as well as an insult. A “Dog Off” refers to someone who leaves the company of one friend to join the company of another friend unexpectedly due to the proposal of a better offer. The transposed friend is said to be a “Dog Off”. This is a local saying that has grown in stature and is now recognisable nationwide as well as being heavily used in Three Bridges East Sussex.

Peacehaven has only existed as a settlement since 1916, after its founder, Charles Neville had purchased land in the parish of Piddinghoe; he then set up a company to develop the site. He advertised it by setting up a competition to name the development, although the newspaper concerned — the Daily Express— sued Neville over the competition, holding that it was a scam, since he was offering “free” plots of land in the town as runner-up prizes, but issuing them only on the payment of a conveyancing fee. The exact name of the winner is unknown only it is believed to be a member of the Fearby family. The newspaper won the case, but the publicity brought the scheme to a large audience. The name chosen — New Anzac-on-Sea — lasted less than a year: the fateful Gallipoli campaign led Neville to rename his development Peacehaven. By 1924 there were 3,000 people living in Peacehaven.

The town, apart from the newer development to the west named Telscombe Cliffs & above Firle Road, still retains its original “grid” layout: rectangular plots of land on both sides of the main road. There are no “Streets” in Peacehaven, originally there were only “Roads” and “Avenues”. With very few exceptions, “Roads” run east to west, and “Avenues” north to south — most forming crossroads where they intersected the South Coast Road (A259). Apart from this road, Roderick Avenue, running roughly up the centre, was the only surfaced road (except for the area of Local Authority housing around Friars Avenue (north)) in Peacehaven until the late 1950s, when the process of “making-up” the roads began. This started in Telscombe Cliffs and worked eastwards. As part of this, many of the Avenues had their junction with the main road blocked off, to reduce the number of junctions, and mainly eliminate crossroads.

Original houses were often very temporary affairs (some were old railway carriages). Others were constructed from former army huts, brought from North Camp near Seaford, a few of these still survive, having been given an outer concrete block wall (they can be identified by their oblong shape that tends to be end on to the road). Peacehaven eventually grew to be larger in area than Lewes, the county town and administrative headquarters of the region.

The pebbly beach below the cliffs can be reached by means of a pathway. There is an area of common land in the town now called The Dell, which sits between the A259 and the cliffs. A cinema formerly stood on this site. The Dell holds many events during the year from car boot sales and entertainments such as fireworks to fairgrounds, motorhome exhibitions, the Donkey Derby and carnival. In the 1950s, the carnival stalls were located on the then vacant land on the NW corner of the South Coast Road (A259) and Dorothy Avenue.

The parish includes part of the Brighton to Newhaven Cliffs Site of Special Scientific Interest. The cliffs are mainly of geological interest, containing many Santonian and Campanian fossils. The SSSI listing includes flora and fauna biological interest too.

The Greenwich meridian is marked by a 3.5 m (11 ft) tall obelisk, commissioned by Charles Neville. It was unveiled on 10 August 1936 and has been relocated twice due to erosion of the cliffs.

There are four churches in Peacehaven and one in Telscombe Cliffs. L. Keir Hett designed and built the Church of the Ascension, Peacehaven’s Anglican church, to replace a temporary building which had been erected in 1922. The Roman Catholic Church, dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, was also founded in a temporary building in the 1920s; this survives as the church hall of the present brick structure.

Peacehaven’s lowest tier of government is the Peacehaven Town Council who are responsible for local planning, highways and other amenities. The council consists of 17 elected councillors from three wards, North, West and East Peacehaven.

The next level of government is Lewes District Council with responsibilities for the wider ranging areas such as council tax collection, environmental health and democratic services. Peacehaven provides six councillors to the district council, representing the same three wards as the parish council. Election are held every four years, the May 2007 election returned six Conservative Party councillors.

The county council for East Sussex has responsibility for Education, Libraries, Social Services, Civil Registration, Trading Standards and Transport. Elections for the County Council are held every four years. Peacehaven parish is combined with the neighbouring Telscombe parish forming the Peacehaven & Telscombe Towns electoral division which elects two councillors to the council.

Peacehaven is in the Brighton Kemptown constituency for the UK parliamentary elections.

At European level, Peacehaven is represented by the South-East region, which holds ten seats in the European Parliament. The June 2004 election returned four Conservatives, two Liberal Democrats, two UK Independence, one Labour and one Green, none of whom live in East Sussex.

Although an independent town, Peacehaven relies heavily on the bordering city of Brighton and Hove. Many local residents commute into work via a regular bus link supplied by Brighton & Hove Bus and Coach Company, and most travel into the city for shopping and other leisure activities. Being in such close proximity to Brighton and the reliance upon the city for local amenities has led to a considerable “Brighton feel” to the town, in which many of the residents consider themselves “from Brighton”. Peacehaven is twinned with the French town of Épinay-sous-Sénart and the German town of Isernhagen.

There is a leisure centre and the Co-operative Meridian Shopping Centre; there are also four schools in Peacehaven: Hoddern Junior school; Peacehaven Infants School; Meridian School and Peacehaven Community School; a police station, a dentist, several doctors’ surgeries and a plentiful supply of pubs and restaurants located throughout the town. These include the independent fast food outlet “Big Mouths” on the corner of the South Coast Road and Horsham Avenue, which leads the town’s al fresco dining, and the eye-catchingly named “Grindlestonkers” towards the east. There are four churches; the parish church is the Church of the Ascension, and serves both Peacehaven and Telscombe Cliffs. There are dance schools, such as Harlequin and Studio 54, as well as numerous football and martial arts clubs.

In late 2006 a number of meetings between the then Mayor, Cllr Elayne Merry, and local businesses lead to the formation of the Peacehaven & District Chamber of Commerce in February 2007. The Chamber organises regular networking and support meetings for the benefit of its members plus an annual Trade Show to promote local services. 2009 saw the first Business Awards ceremony in which the winners in each category received a “Monument” to mark their achievement.

The town plays a part in Graham Greene’s 1938 novel Brighton Rock when anti-hero Pinkie Brown intends to throw his girlfriend Rose from the high cliffs which are part of the town. More recently Peacehaven was selected for the site at which Tiffany’s ashes were portrayed to be cast over the cliffs, in the BBC soap EastEnders in 1998, with viewers told she had spent happy childhood holidays there. Filming however, took part in the nearby town of Seaford. Also, a Mr. Bean episode was shot at the cliff tops of Peacehaven and down to the beach.

The film Quadrophenia starring Phil Daniels in the leading role as a Mod named Jimmy also ended up in Peacehaven. At the end of the film he finds out his idol, the suave Mod “poster boy” Ace Face (played by Sting), is in reality a bellboy. He steals Ace’s scooter and heads out to Peacehaven Cliffs and an uncertain fate.

In 1978, the Oi!/punk band Peter and the Test Tube Babies were formed in Peacehaven by Peter Bywaters and Del Strangefish. They are still performing today. They immortalised Peacehaven with the track “Peacehaven Wild Kids”, released on the b-side of their 1980 single “Banned From The Pubs” (No Future Oi4). Peacehaven is twinned with Épinay-sous-Sénart, France, and Isernhagen, Germany.

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