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Here is some truly must-see film footage of Peacehaven, Rottingdean & Saltdean in the 1920s!​

The opening title picture, headed ‘Down By The Sea’, shows the seafront at Saltdean as it looked in 1925! There is no Undercliff Walk and no road leading down to the then sandy beach!

In the first part of the film the camera pans around the developing housing sprouting up on the clifftop at Peacehaven.We then see British movie star of the time Hilda Bayley arriving at the majestic Peacehaven Hotel. Ms Bayley (born 1888 – died 1971) was most famous for her role in the the controversial 1922 film Cocaine, a tale of revenge set to a backdrop of gangland drug running in 1920s London.

​The text preceding the next scene, claims that the newly constructed Tudor Cottages are in Peacehaven but of course we all know they are in Rottingdean.

Then Hilda is back at the Peacehaven Hotel to sample the delights of the ‘Italian Garden Tea Rooms.’  We have tried to lip read what she says in the close up shot, we think it is, ”Marvellous, it really is.”

Just as a reference the Peacehaven Carvery currently stands on the site once belonging to the Peacehaven Hotel. ​The tennis courts and bowling green in the film are just to the east side of the hotel where the carvery’s car park is today. Note how windy it is by the flapping skirt!

​In the next section we catch Hilda at the golf course which is on the outskirts of Peacehaven close to the Newhaven border, we believe it is the same course that is still there today!So onto to Telscombe Village, this part might as well have been filmed yesterday for all the difference there is between 1925 and now. Just for some added pointless amusement see if you spot the white cat.

From the charming countryside we return to the Peacehaven…..well actually it’s the Saltdean cliff top. 

A group of fashionable ladies enjoy the clifftop view over looking the developing sea side resort of Saltdean.  Notice you can just catch glimpse the ‘Classical Pillars’ which stood roughly where the White Cliffs Cafe is now perched. The pillars don’t as yet it would seem have their weird animal top adornments so that would suggest that they had just been erected!

We then get a shot of the clifftop at Saltdean running up eastwards on the A259 towards Telscombe Cliffs, note the now busy main coast road looks just like an empty grass track in this footage!

The next scene is of the quaintly named Tea Pavilion it was later called The Smugglers Haunt Cafe. This wooden cafe opened in 1925 and was run by William Kerr, a scottish ex-dental goods salesman.  In 1936 the cafe was pulled down to make way for the new Smugglers Haunt 2 Cafe (White Cliffs) which was built where the pillars are located in the film.   As compensation Mr Kerr was given the new cafe to run by it’s owners the Brighton Corporation.

The film moves on to the claim that the beach is easily accessible by the cliff steps, but this shot is of the long gone Bastian Steps with its rounded viewing platform which were a couple of miles or so east of Saltdean which had just been featured in the last section.

After seeing some bathing beauties splashing around in the sea the action turns to Hilda running joyously from a house named Highcliffe on to the Peacehaven clifftop. We then get a shot of what we think is a small cave at Telscombe Cliffs before the film ends with Hilda playing in the sea with a spaniel.

PLEASE CLICK ON THE FOLLOWING LINK TO WATCH THE 1929 FILM ‘DOWN BY THE SEA’ :-

Watch-BFI-Down-By-The-Sea-here