AbstractThrough surviving archival traces, this thesis constructs a history of the imagination and memory of the town of Peacehaven, which commenced as a speculative development in 1916, focusing on the interwar period. It fuses visual and creative research methods to analyze select documents and is the first in-depth academic study to systematically investigate a substantial local archival collection only recently made publicly accessible. Peacehaven is a valuable case study due to the combination of its unique geographical setting, straddling the Meridian line atop chalk cliffs on the Sussex coastline, and the controversy surrounding its inception as a grid-based, plotland development on pastoral Downland. While Peacehaven was marketed in exuberant terms as a garden city, public voices such as the Society of Sussex Downsmen and the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England soon began to criticize it as a blot on the countryside.
Instead of reading and appraising Peacehaven’s narrative in a polarized way, this thesis breaks new ground and makes an innovative contribution to knowledge by critically interpreting visual representations and commissioned photographs of the Estate. Focusing on the interwar period and tracing mutating agendas, the thesis tracks Peacehaven’s genesis and investigates how the Estate was constructed visually through the original marketing programme of the South Coast Land Resort Company’s in-house magazine, the Peacehaven Post, along with other persuasive tools, such as blueprints and promotional guidebooks. The magazine staff drew on a foundation mythology, describing the new development as a Second Eden projected into a prosperous future. The idea of Lureland acts as a vehicle to access the history of the imagination and memory of this particular site. Throughout the thesis I build on the productive relationship between memory and the imagination to reconstruct narratives. Key iconic graphic images, created by the magazine’s illustrator Gordon Volk, are reactivated using myth criticism. The thesis explores the garden city narrative as a form of social Utopia and reconstitutes a historical context, revisiting propositions of the time, which aspired to secure improved public health and home ownership in direct response to the negative impact of industrialization and WWI.
Three main memory strands were sought out: The history of the imagination and memory was tracked through the interpretation of official and vernacular archive material; communicative memories and recollections of the town’s ageing descendants of original settlers were recorded through interviews; the embedded memory within the fabric of the town itself was secured through documentary photographs of surviving landmarks relating back to its early vision. These were then re-shared through site-specific public events to reintroduce forgotten historical narratives. The research findings highlight interconnected spatial, temporal and memory perspectives, made possible by the use of Histoire Croisée methodology, which make visible Peacehaven’s hidden and contested histories. This research has been given additional urgency because Peacehaven is currently undergoing large-scale redevelopment. The garden city narrative is once again being evoked in national debates as a potential solution to the ongoing housing shortage. The opposition to the further expansion of Peacehaven to meet housing targets continues to echo discussions that took place in the interwar years.
|Date of Award
|Darren Newbury (Supervisor) & Charmian Brinson (Supervisor)
- Histoire Croisée
- Creative Methods
- Archival Research Methods
- Oral History
- Garden cities
- Visual Analysis