The Newhaven Project

By Alice Lunt

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'WHERE WE USED TO PLAY' page

© Google Maps

I am an artist living here in Newhaven since 2012. I am doing an arts project about the town where we live and the question I am asking is where people used to play in Newhaven, when they were little, and the sorts of things they used to play.  I am looking for people to share their stories with me. The project was inspired by one man telling me how he used to go night-fishing in Newhaven, when he was about 8 years old in the 1950's/60's and how him and his friend would spend the night in the arches by the light-house. 

As a parent I am saddened that children are no longer a part of the landscape; that they no longer spend all day outside, coming home tired and dirty and smelling of the wind and the rain. I would love to hear your experiences, even if you grew up somewhere else, of the way you played and the way you still carry a memory of that place inside you. 

Please do not hesitate to get in touch with me.

Alice Lunt

Key to location map at 08/06/2016: Click on the map to see a larger version. This map will be updated as we receive new locations.

1 West Beach (also known as the Sandy Beach)  2 East Side Beach

3 The Union (upper part)  4 The Union (lower part)

5 The stream next to The Drove  6 Bullens Bush (also spelt as Bollens Bush)

7 Fort Road Recreation Ground  8 The Highway

9 Fort Rise (for watching the ships in the harbour)  10 The clifftops

11 The Three Lakes (off-map, so approximate position)  12 The concrete structure in Hillcrest Road

13 The Brooks  14 Poverty Bottom (off-map, so approximate location)

15 Tidemills  16 Piddinghoe

17 The Grotto, also known as Nuns’ Walk  18 The Planney

19 The Old River  20 The Sand Pit (end of Hillcrest Road)

21 The Fireman's Pond (top of 2nd Avenue)  22 The Sand Pit (at The Union)

Please add your memories as a comment to this page! If you have photos, email them to us and we can add them for you.

We don't publish email personal addresses on the site but if anyone wishes to make direct contact with Alice, they can send an email to: info@ournewhaven.org.uk  and we will pass it on. Andy-Editor

This page was added by Alice Lunt on 17/05/2016.
Comments about this page

Living in Fort Road the area of bush, trees and pathways leading up to the fort and clifftop was where I used to play with my friends. During the school holidays my mum would sit in a grassy clearing with her knitting or a book and just be the 'base' for all of us kids as we scurried around playing 'soldiers' or riding bikes. If there were no parents around then we were left to our own devices as long as we were home by 5pm for supper. The ferry would generally come in just before 5 so we would keep an eye out for it so we knew when to head home. Many's the time I blamed the ferry being late as the reason I wasn't at home on time. There was also a post box by the coastguard cottages that had the last collection of the day at around 5pm and if the little plaque in the front of it had been changed showing the next collection as the following day you knew you were really late.

By Rob Patten
On 21/05/2016

When I was a young lad, I used to live at the very top of Gibbon Road. So the obvious places for me to play with my friends (apart from in the street outside the house – Gibbon Road was much quieter then, of course!) was the upper part of The Union and the land near The Highway. Great for football, cricket, kite flying or even a bit of 'golf' up there. Fort Road Recreation Ground was another regular haunt, of course and we must not forget our wonderful sandy beach! Often, we’d do the Rec and the beach on the same day, stopping at the Rec’s Pavilion or maybe the ice cream kiosk outside the Hope Inn for ‘supplies’.

I can also remember the small stream that ran alongside the northern side of The Drove. A piece of bamboo, some thin string or cotton thread, and a bent pin or paper clip was all we needed to go ‘angling’ for things like sticklebacks.

And yes, we’d leave home after breakfast and come home for teatime. As a ship-mad youngster, if I hadn’t spent the day on board the tug Meeching with my Dad (I got a lift home those days, on the back of Dad’s Lambretta scooter or, after 1964, in his new Mini) then, like Rob, I’d watch that same afternoon ferry come in from the Fort or what I used to call the ‘lookout’ or the ‘gun emplacement’ on the south-east side of Hillcrest Road. (Does anyone know what that concrete structure was?) As has been said, you then knew you had to get home sharpish or you'd get told off!

And there were walks along the cliffs, perhaps climbing up from the West Beach, walks along Railway Road and down to the Eastside Beach, and maybe even right along to Seaford. If I had enough money and my British Railways 'Priv’ card, the train fare back was only a few coppers, and sometimes the ticket office man would say ‘Just get on!’

We did this on our own or in small groups, no adult supervision expected or required in those days, of course.


By Andy Gilbert
On 24/05/2016

It was the three lakes at South Heighton and the "Planney" for me. The lakes were great for fishing especially the first lake, not much in the second, the third was good for wildlife, birds, snakes and lizard,and of course more fishing. The planney at Denton had wildlife galore, I used to go up there to play in the woods with friends, the Cuckoo's were amazing up there. Further over the hill was Poverty bottom with its greengages, there was also a small lake for fishing. The other fishing lake was where Paradise Park is now. Then there was the Old river accessed from the end of New road behind the houses, good for Tench there. The Union was another favourite, good for blackberries in that area. Then as Andy said the Sandy beach was great with more fishing from the breakwater, are you seeing a pattern here?

By Terry Howard
On 26/05/2016

Besides the places that have already been mentioned, I'd like to add Bullen's Bush. There was a fantastic tree there that always had a rope hanging from it that allowed you to swing out over an impressive slope. We had no idea how the rope got there, (I think I've worked it out since). Also the lower part of The Union, and all the trees that were great for climbing and the sand pit in the middle (if the path hadn't overgrown). The very steep pathway between the upper union and lower was great for sledging down on the odd occasions we had snow (and pretty hair raising if I remember correctly). Nun's Walk, locally known as The Grotto was pretty good fun too, as was riding our bikes along the beach to Tidemills (And carrying them over the footbridge at the end of Railway Road), Lewes Road rec and the riverbank to Piddinghoe for a spot of fishing in the ponds there. (we got about in those days).

By Simon Morris
On 26/05/2016

Bullen's bush was such a magical place with all the bluebells in bloom in the spring. My parents had an allotment at the end of the track that led into the bush behind the cemetery so I would be left to my own devices whilst they attended their crops. Going over the river to the eastside and 3 lakes was going foreign and was quite the trek for us kids.

By Rob Patten
On 01/06/2016

For me it was The Union on the Brighton Road next to the Downs Hospital. Always a good 20 a side game of football going on until it was impossible to see as darkness fell. The boys from Northdown Road, Western Road and Gibbon Road were regulars and Cricket was an option if we could get the gear together.

There were a lot of tunnels and camps in the undergrowth up the union and the old sandpit was a great place to find slow worms frogs and toads even the occasional adder. All the tunnels and paths are now sadly overgrown which must mean the kids no longer play there and the wide path leading down from the highway impassible. So sad as there was so much to enjoy. What do the youngsters do now? I think I know!

By Ernie Robinson
On 03/06/2016

I used to go up to The Union in the 50s as well. Some of us from Lawes Avenue, Evelyn Avenue, Brighton Road and Harpers Road. Apart from the usual things like football and Cricket there were two 'home-made' games we would play.

We used to make things like lawn-darts out of a sharpened stick about 18" long, with cardboard flights at the back end end and a short piece of hose-pipe slipped over the front end. We would see who could throw them the furthest. We used to call them arrows.

We also used to go to Williamson's hardware at the top of the town and get bamboo canes(About 4' for this) which we took to the sand pit. We used to line up on opposite sides of it, attach little blobs of clay to the top of the canes and swing/flick them at each other. The clay blobs used to fly across the pit too fast to see. Great stuff!

By Doug Hall
On 04/06/2016

I've added a map of the town with these locations marked! 

As new locations are added, I will update the map and the key this page.

I see there's nothing on East Side, other than the East Beach and Tidemills. Where did the 'Eastsiders' play?

By Andy Gilbert
On 04/06/2016

I lived towards the bottom end of Gibbon Road until I left for Manchester in 1954, aged 16 years.  We played at all the places previously mentioned but I can add a few more.  The 'Mud hole' was a favourite because it had rafts moored against the bank from which we learned to swim and caught crabs.  To prove we could swim we had to get from the rafts to the jetty adjacent to the Harbour Masters house.  We also found out that Little Demons, firework bangers, would still explode under water if you let the fuse fizz and pretending to depth charge imaginary submarines was regular past time in late October.

After the war we discovered that there were live rounds of rifle ammunition in the river bank mud and those filled with cordite were a favourite.  You could remove the bullet and pull out a single stick if cordite, place the casing on a ramp, light the fuse and away went the 'rocket'.

In the summer as usual we used the breakwater as a diving platform but in the winter during rough seas it became an adventure play ground.  We would go under the arches with the seas breaking over the wall and try to get to the light house.  On hearing the thump of a large wave we grabbed the cables running the length of the break water and swung ourselves clear of the water which would gush into the arches.  The tricky bit was getting from where the arches at the end of the breakwater ended up the steps to the light house proper.

The Green Light  on the river mouth was our favourite fishing spot especially off the steps situated about 20 yards to seaward, which led down to river level.

Conkers was always the game to play and our normal source of horse chestnuts was the avenue of trees that led up to the cement works at Southease.  Yes we would walk all the way there and carry back half a sack of best quality conkers.  Also on the way to Southease was a large camoflaged structure across the river, used to hide landing craft during the war, which we would use as a crawling frame to get to the other bank.

Opposite to the road leading up to the fort there was once what I took to be an old 'boat house'.  This was an excellent structure for playing murder games.

October was the time to cut down the gorse bushes on the fort hill and drag great bundles of them up Gibbon Road to Howell's Hill where we would build our Bonfire.  Try doing that today, you would soon have a traffic jam.

Apart from some bird nesting on the cliffs and the rookery at Bishopstone you can tell we led a fairly mundane life without television, mobile phones or computer games.

A John Hallett


By A John Hallett
On 30/06/2016

Having only moved to Newhaven from Kent in 1960 & already an adult, I obviously never had the pleasures which your previous correpondents recall. I lived on the fringe of South London and we had woods, rivers and recreation grounds to play in, but I am fascinated to see that none of the games we played when I was young are mentioned.

Did nobody play marbles, rounders, hi-Jimmy-knacker, Kerb-and-Wall, tip-&-run or five stones?

By Richard Beckett
On 08/07/2016

I was in the junior school football [Meeching Road] team in 1952 and  sometimes we played at the East Side Rovers ground. This was near the Pub The Engineer [I think]. The local lads would also play on that recreation ground. Close by there was some sort of small coal burning power site where used coal was left and it was possible to pick out coal or coke which was usable on a home fire. This was a regular site for some people to collect fuel for their home fires. East siders could also get down to the East side beach, not very sheltered like the west beach and all stones. There was also a foot path along side the railway line leading to Tide Mills and then on to Bishopstone and Seaford.

By David Carter
On 13/08/2016

The same as my cousin Ernie Robinson. I lived in Brighton Road and the Union seemed to be the favourite place in winter as well as summer. Sledging down the hill and trying to stop before the main road. There was no wall at the bottom back in the fifties, but then there also much less traffic than today.

By Graham Norris
On 19/08/2016

We had good times playing on the Union Hill.  Does anyone remember that we used to dig small holes to bury pennies.  Apparently this came from when the Downs Hospital was a workhouse and they used to bury their money at night and retrieve it in the morning.  This enabled them to get a free night.  

The shelter that was erected at the bottom of the union was sponsored by the Girl Guides  and opened in 1953 - I remember as a Brownie I went to the opening ceremony.  This shelter is long gone and are most of my memory places of Newhaven - Meeching Infants School, Meeching Junior School, Christ Church, shops in the High Street all knocked down.

The first Scout hut in the corner of the recreation ground. the conserverative club where we had our wedding reception both burnt down.

All in the name of progress I suppose - OR IS IT?

By Heather Allen nee Woolven
On 14/10/2016

When l was 8 my older brother Stan, along with his best friend Michael Pilote and myself, use to search for wild life in the abandoned allotments opposite the Union. l believe this is now known as the Valley Estate. One day whilst looking for slow worms an adder snake came speedily towards us. We grabbed sticks and beat it over the head till it died. Talk about panic. Michael took the snake home to his father who was delighted. His father made a belt from the snakes skin. Enjoyment cost nothing in those days.

By Eric Forbes
On 04/12/2016

The 'Union' brings back so many memories.....I use to live in Brighton Road and when it snowed, as it always seemed to do in the winter back in the 50's and 60's the closest hill around was the 'Union'. We use to see who was the bravest and who would go furthest up the hill and then sledge down. There was no wall at the bottom in those days so nothing to protect you from the road therefore many times it was inevitiable that you went straight over the road before finally coming to a halt. When I drive past the 'Union' now I think of that every time and wonder 'how on earth did we ever avoid the cars'?...but then who had a car in those days.  

By Paul Blackman
On 04/12/2016

I remember we had great times playing on the land west of the harbour wall and below the Ark Inn where the Newhaven fisheries and car park is now. There were then 2 large fuel tanks used to refuel the air sea rescue boats that were moored on the quay side. The small railway line serving the breakwater and beach area ran through this area and the small engine [the tram] would some times use the line. 

By David Carter
On 02/03/2017

Andy asks where did Eastsiders play, well my sisters and l lived in Sussex Terrace which has long gone and our childhood was in our little rec as we called it. This was situated at back of Eastbridge Road. In which there were the usual swings, see-saw  and "Hurdy Gurdy" as we called it. The older boys in the area used to enjoy making this go around really fast making us girls and some boys scream to be let off, we had bars to hold on to, but always felt we were about to be flung off, no health and safety rules in those days, but what fun we had.

Like so many others we went out after breakfast and back at tea time usually with a bottle of water and jam or paste sandwiches for a picnic.

As we got older we would walk along the bank on the edge of field, to walk along towards Bishopstone or even Seaford at times. To reach this bank we had to cross a little bridge over a ditch which we also used to make our way to Stud Farm, this meant crossing another ditch which we made accessible by placing stones, bricks to make a ready made path across. However we would often slip in trying to cross and many a time we would sneak home with a shoe-full of black ditch mud.

Does anyone remember the rounder's we played when the guys on the local French Ferries joined in when they were in the harbour.

Somehow Eastside seemed a world apart for us as a little community, when we wanted a change of scene and old enough to go on to the beach for a swim on our own, we ventured along Beach Road then over the bridges to the little spot near the pier. This was the best spot we felt cos that's where the biggest wash seemed to come in, as the Ferries turned to enter the harbour we loved it, there was always something going on. Carnival fun and a social club which l remember was organised by a Mr Smith, lovely days.

By Jean South
On 02/07/2017

Ah all those old places to play , none more exciting than the Fort itself, or fishing at the 3 lakes and the old river, and trying to catch those elusive Mullet at Denton Island !!

By Peter Sexton
On 22/09/2017

I remember watching the Queen go by in he Limousine , with my brother and sister at the shelter at the bottom of the "union" say about 1965 or 1966, but I am sure someone will remember better than me .

By Peter Sexton
On 22/09/2017

The Queen's first visit to Newhaven was 1962, Peter. Must have been then.

By Andy Gilbert
On 23/09/2017

I can remember the Queen and the Duke visiting Newhaven in the late 1950's. They drove past were I was working at the time [South Street].

By 1962 I was working in Brighton or did they visit in 1962 also?


By David Carter
On 13/11/2017

I'm not aware of a Queen's visit prior to 1962, David. They might have driven through, of course, but not stopped here.

By Andy Gilbert
On 14/11/2017

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