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Newhaven

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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Newhaven, a fishing town in North Leith parish, Edinburghshire, on the southern shore of the Firth of Forth, 11/8 mile E of Granton, 1 mile WNW of the centre of Leith, and 2¼ miles N by W of Edinburgh Post Office. It communicates with the city both by tram and by the Leith branches of the Caledonian and North British railways, Newhaven station on the former lying 3 furlongs S by W, and Trinity station on the latter 3½ furlongs W by S. 'Our Lady's Port of Grace,-as Newhaven was called of old-originated in the general impetus given to trade and commerce during the prosperous reign of James IV. (1488-1513). Owing to the depth of water, a yard and dock were erected for shipbuilding, and a harbour constructed for the reception of vessels, whence it received the name of Newhaven. Here, in 1511, was built' ane varie monstrous great ship called the Michael, 'which required such a mass of timber for her construction 'that she waisted all the wood is in Fyfe, except Falkland Wood, besides the timber that came out of Norway.' And here it was, on 1 May 1544, that the English force landed under the Earl of Hertford, of which Hill Burton says that ` unless we may find some parallel in Tartar or African history, it will scarce be possible to point to any expedition so thoroughly destitute of all features of heroism or chivalry. 'Ere this, however, the rising haven had been strangled in its birth by the jealousy of the citizens of Edinburgh, who purchased the superiority from James - V. Its chapel of Our Lady and St James-a dependency seemingly of St Anthony's preceptory at Leith-was suppressed at the Reformation; and Newhaven sank into the mere fishing village it still remains. Signs of antiquity there are none, except that a house near the W end of the town exhibits a large pediment sculptured with a pair of globes, a quadrant, an anchor, and an antique war-galley, and - bearing in. scription, 'In the name of God, 1588.' Still, the place has an old-fashioned air; and the red-tiled, two-story houses, with outside stairs, the strings of bladders, and the big boats, hauled up on the shore, or rocking in the harbour, all give it a picturesque look, which is lacking in modern watering-places. Then the people themselves, belike of Scandinavian origin-the stalwart, weatherbeaten fishermen, 'like blue sea puff-balls;' and the Amazonian fishwives, whom the late Charles Reade has drawn so well in Christie Johnstone (1853): ` On their heads they wear caps of Dutch or Flemish origin, with a broad lace border, stiffened and arched over the forehead, about three inches high, leaving the brow and cheeks unencumbered. They have cotton jackets, bright red and yellow, mixed in patterns, confined at the waist by the apron-strings, but bobtailed below the waist; short woollen petticoats, with broad vertical stripes, red and white, most vivid in colour; white worsted stockings, and neat, though high-quartered shoes. Under their jackets they wear a thick spotted cotton handkerchief, about one inch of which is visible round the lower part of the throat. Of their petticoats, the outer one is kilted, or gathered up towards the front, and the second, of the same colour, hangs in the usual way. Their short petticoats reveal a neat ancle, and a leg with a noble swell; for Nature, when she is in earnest, builds beauty on the ideas of ancient sculptors and poets, not of modern poetasters, who with their airy-like sylphs and their smoke-like verses fight for want of flesh in women and want of fact in poetry as parallel beauties. These women have a grand corporeal traet; they have never known a corset! so they are straight as javelins; they can lift their hands above their heads!-actually! Their supple persons move as Nature intended; every gesture is ease, grace, and freedom.' Such-plus the heavy creels-are the fishwives, of whom, driving through Newhaven on 16 Aug. 1872, the Queen saw 'many, very enthusiastic, but not in their smartest dress.' In their smartest dress assuredly were those who, on occasion of the London Fisheries Exhibition (1883), were hospitably entertained by the Prince and Princess of Wales at Marlborough House, on Sunday, 20 May, and who afterwards visited Windsor at the invitation of the Queen.

The Main Street extends for 350 yards E and W along the old sea-margin of the Firth, 33 to 80 yards wide, and 14 to 26 feet above sea-level. Behind, the ground rises southward to a bank 72 feet high, which is crowned by a row of villas. In front is the tidal harbour, reconstructed in 1876-77 at a cost of £10,000 and measuring 500 by 300 yards, with a free-way 70 feet wide. The curving W breakwater of concrete, 540 feet long, in 1881 was surmounted by a sea-wall 6 feet high; and a lighthouse stands at the end of the E pier, which, with its westward return-head, has a total length of 750 feet. According to the latest returns, Newhaven has 33 first-class and 170 second-class boats, manned by 425 fisher me and boys. The quoad sacra parish church is a plain Perpendicular building of 1838; and the Gothic Free church was greatly improved in 1883 by the addition of a spire 120 feet high, as also of a vestry with a hall above. The Peacock and Philpott's Hotels have long been famed for their fish-dinners; and Newhaven besides has a post office, with money order, savings' bank, and telegraph departments, a branch of the Royal Bank, a Free Fishermen's Hall, and two schools-the Victoria public and the Madras- which, with respective accommodation for 248 and 304 children, had (1883) an average attendance of 226 and 203, and grants of £173, 14s. and £164, 12s. 6d. Pop. of quoad sacra parish (1841) 2103, (1871) 3977, (1881) 4694.—Ord. Sur., sh. 32, 1857.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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