Peacehaven never existed prior to 1916, although there was a small initial development a decade earlier. The Story goes that in 1915, Charles Neville saw an expanse of derelict land that to him was ripe for development. Within a year he had bought a number of acres of land in the Parish of Piddinghoe and set up a company to develop it. Mr Neville came from a showman family, his late father had been involved in exhibitions around the world. In addition Charles, who, born in Darlington, County Durham, had spent some time in both Canada and Australia learning how to deal in land.
It was however the showman side that made the difference, for he thought of a new way of promoting his new estate. He did not advertise it, but thought about how he could promote a new town using a competition in January 1916. As far as is known, no one had done this before. Using most of the national newspapers, he asked the public to name his new town. The winner won a plot of land worth £100, plus the 50 prizes of plots of land in the new town worth £50, a fee of three guineas (£3. 15p in today’s money) to cover the cost of the conveyance. The winning name was New Anzac-on-Sea. However that name lasted less than a year. The name was changed by Mr Neville to Peacehaven in 1917 and has remained the same to this day.
Such a competition was exceptionally popular in fact some 80,000 people entered. With so many entries Charles, in the name of his company the South Coast Land & Resort Company, increase the runner up prizes to over 2400. It is thought that Mr Neville saw that this was a way of selling a large part of his holding without costing anything. The purchasers paid for the conveyance transferring the land to them, and the South Coast Land & Resort Company would supply the new owners with either a house or the materials to build one.
To cut a long story short, The Daily Express saw the scheme as a fraud and took Mr Neville to court, and a counter claim for liable was brought by Mr Neville. Although the legal proceeding went as high as the House of Lords, Charles Neville in the end lost the case. But, by then the publicity of the case had done the trick every one by now knew of Peacehaven. And so in time out of barren farm land in the Parish of Piddinghoe, the Town of Peacehaven was to grown into a town larger than the County town of Lewes!
In 1935 the Peacehaven monument was unveiled and dedicated to the late King George V in 1936. Today the Peacehaven Monument site on the Meridian line, as it has done since it was built, a focal point on the coast. Although due to cliff erosion it has been moved further inland twice to where it stands today.
I often receive the enquiry "my grandparents won in the competition what happened to their prize". Many winning plots in Mr Neville's competition were never claimed, some were borrowed by neighbours! Many however were included in the compulsorily purchase by the Council as part of their development plans for the town.
Although the society disbanded I still welcome any enquiry regarding the history of Peacehaven and Telscombe. If I can't answer the question I will let you know and pass any clue on that may help. As answers often come from original documents I would welcome these as well as old pictures which are scanned returned to their owners. I can assure you that any document sent to me will with your permission be lodged at The Keep -The County Record Office for East Sussex. Here they will be preserved and stored for reference for all time.