A jam-packed view

By Andy Gilbert

Photo:Aerial View of Newhaven Harbour

Aerial View of Newhaven Harbour

Old Airviews Manchester postcard

This aerial view, taken from an old Airviews Manchester postcard, shows Newhaven on a bright sunny day, so let's try to pin down the date. The weather looks very summery and, though appearances can sometimes be deceptive, they are backed up by the fact that the Railway Quay is devoid of any British Railways ships laying up for the winter, or undergoing a refit at the Marine Workshops. In addition, the size and angle of the shadows show that this is a mid-morning scene on a summer's day, but in what year? Let's look at the clues.

The ferry at the ramp is Villandry or Valencay, which immediately puts the photo as May 1965 or later. A high resolution scan of the postcard reveals that she doesn't yet have the Newhaven-Dieppe house flag on the side of her funnel. This first appeared on Valencay in December 1967, so our time window is set to a two and a half year period. Looking at Cresta Marina, the old Thames sailing barge Maid of Connaught has been placed at the north end, near the harbour Watch-House. She arrived here on 17th April 1966, so our window narrows by almost a year. Up at the North Quay you can see the brown superstructure and black hull of a Stevenson Clarke collier and, as coal shipments via Newhaven finished in March 1967, this photo must predate that. We can therefore say with certainty that the photo was taken in the summer of 1966.

Now let's see what we can pick out, looking from left to right. South of the marina, the 'new' Cresta Yacht Club has not yet been built but you can just see the edge of the 'old' club's extension to what was previously the Master Gunner's House. Though the shops and cafe at the northwest corner are there, work has not yet started on the boat building and repair shops. The large white motor cruiser at the harbour end of one the main pontoons is the Larida, built here in Newhaven by Cantell's at Denton Island in October 1961.

Next to the marina, we can see Fort Road recreation ground, with its bowling greens surrounded by hedges and there's a white cricket sight screen next to the southern hedge, another sure sign of a summer image. The Pavilion has people standing outside and sitting on the grass, perhaps watching some cricket, so it's clearly still open. I sometimes used to nip in there for some sweets or a drink of 'pop'. Moving seaward, there's a big boat house with blue doors, and I can remember being taken in here when I was quite young. There was a large motor yacht inside and I went on board. Does anyone know anything about this yacht or who owned the boat house?

Between Hillcrest Road and Gibbon Road, all you can see are fields and allotments. Some survive to this day, but most disappeared under the usual demand for more houses. Looking beyond Hillcrest Road, you can clearly see all three of the Avenues. Moving right in the photo, you cannot miss the old Coastguard Houses to the right of Geneva Road (AKA 'chalky hill') but at the top of a triangular patch of grass you can make out the concrete structure that was a favourite viewing point for me when I was young. I'd often sit there after school and watch the ferries and cargo ships coming in and out. Alas this fine panoramic view disappeared with the building of new houses.

Along Fort Road, we can see that the new Coastguard houses have not yet been built and, further along towards the town, we see the unmistakable shape of 'Lorraine', with its distinctive tower. This lovely building was torn down to make way for the new Fire Station. Huggetts Field is still very much home to the RAF base and two of its craft are moored in their usual position.

In the town proper, we can look right along (L-R) Saxon Road, Norman Road, Meeching Road, South Road (with the Police Station at the far end) and Chapel Street. Just to their left, the sheltered housing bungalows in Neills Close have already been built. Looking above them, you can see the houses in Valley Close, with an area of excavated chalk to their left that would soon become Metcalfe Avenue.

Over on Denton Island, you can't miss the white roof of the Ferguson Factory and the high tide makes the scene at Cantell's boatyard rather nicer than it might have been. Above that, you can make out Piddinghoe and Piddinghoe Pond, with Southease beyond and Lewes in the far distance.

I'll now turn my attention to the harbour itself. I've already covered the ferry so what else is to be seen? In the middle of the river is the bucket dredger Testside filling up one of her two barges. There's no sign of Meeching at her spot on No.5 stage, so she's clearly out towing the other barge to the dump site. South of her stage are the Lifeboat Station and then the Watch-House, with its yellow walls and green roof. Immediately upriver is the refuelling barge Esso Seaford Bay - the smallest vessel ever to carry the Esso prefix. Next come those two RAF 'crash boats' and, given the year, these would most likely be 5002, the former minesweeper HMS Hailsham, and the 63' pinnace 1380 or 1390. A couple of stages further up is where you'd find Mike Newton-Smith's 'Metrec' fleet and I can make out at least two of his tugs, including the MNS52 (ex Tidworth). Two stages more and you find the yacht Dawn Approach with another smaller yacht outside of her. I can identify the sand dredger at the old coal wharf as the Pen Dart.

Beyond the old swing bridge we can see a coaster and the already mentioned collier at the North Quay. This would be one of the newer motor vessels in the Stevenson Clarke fleet such as Totland or Arundel, as our old faithful steam-powered Keynes had been pensioned off in February 1966.

Back down below the bridge, but on the Railway Quay, you can easily make out the Marine Workshops and south of these, the Car Ferry Terminal, though this has yet to be extended. Although the large Customs and Immigration Halls for cars are already in situ, the Freight Examination shed has not yet been added. Follow the railway tracks along and you'll find the Harbour Station and the Harbour Tavern, and then the Continental Station, where you could walk off the boat train, cross the bridge over the 'four foot', and go straight onto the waiting ship. Finally, there are the large sheds along the East Quay. The southernmost one with the chimney is 'K Shed', demolished in Spring 1967, with the construction of Fisher's new warehouse (just out of view).

All in all, this is a packed image. Not easy to spot everything from the postcard or from the computer screen, so if you click on the photo, a larger version will open. In addition, I've printed out a large annotated copy and it's already down at the Newhaven Museum. Yet another reason for a visit!

This page was added by Andy Gilbert on 13/03/2009.
Comments about this page

Hi Andy
Regarding the big boat house with blue doors: I think the yacht was owned by a man who lived out Polegate way.

Rumor had it that the yacht was converted by a film company who used it in a film and after the filming was completed and the yacht owner had been paid, he named it "Le Fortune". Can anyone confirm this please?

By William Still
On 14/03/2009

Thanks for this picture, it was taken the year before my parents relocated to Nottingham (taking me kicking and screaming with them). This is exactly how I remember Newhaven even though I have revisited several times!

By Bett
On 18/09/2009

That is well worked out Andy, I must congratulate you, I could not have done that. At that time all I was interested in was fishing, either at the three lakes or on the old river.

By Terry Howard
On 23/02/2010

Hi William, (I knew you as Billy). This is a lovely picture and you are correct in what you said. The boathouse was built for a Mr Bill Banks and my dad worked on the construction of it.

By Colin Brandon
On 28/06/2010

Is that the two Air-Sea Rescue boats I can see close to the old lifeboat house?

By Ashley Leaney
On 18/12/2011

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