Newhaven Harbour :: Shared Description
A minor port existed here during Roman times when the River Ouse flowed into the sea under what is now Castle Hill
and was linked to the agricultural estates around modern Ripe and Chalvington by a minor road that can still be traced over Heighton Hill. The Saxons themselves made use of the river and founded a small village called Meeching a little to the north and sheltered from south westerly gales that blow in off the sea. These gales were also responsible for longshore drift and by the early middle ages a spit had appeared in Seaford Bay and pushed the mouth of the river eastwards towards Seaford which subsequently became important enough to be the most westerly member of the Cinque Ports confederation.
However, by the end of the 15th century Seaford was also rapidly declining as a mixture of storms persistently breaching the shingle banks coupled with the inning of the marshes around Laughton and Lewes which reduced the scour of the river and its ability to maintain a regular opening. The choked nature of the river mouth also produced flooding inland so that by the 1530s it was serious enough to require major surgery. Consequently, a new cut was made at the Roman mouth in around 1539 protected by a small wooden pier. This alleviated the problem in the short term but was not enough to protect against the eastward movement of shingle which soon grew another spit. As a result the mouth regularly opened new entrances between the 1539 mouth and Bishopstone and by the mid 17th century the problems of the previous century had returned. See Link
for a 1698 map.
The new cut was reopened a second time in the late 18th century as part of the River Ouse Navigation and included a breakwater built on the western side of the mouth to protect the channel. However, the harbour had to await the arrival of the railway in 1847 before development was fully realised. The LBSCR (London, Brighton and South Coast Railway) reintroduced ferry services to the continent and then became owners of the port. During the 1860s two wide meanders were straightened one of which created Denton Island
from whose spoil was used to fill in what was known as Pennants Eye and development what later became Railway Quay. This cut also allowed the construction of North Quay. To the south East Quay was built by filling in the link with Mill Creek and the large Western Breakwater was opened in 1889.
Newhaven became a busy little port and was active during both World Wars, being a designated embarkation point during the First, and a place where the unsuccessful Dieppe raid was launched during the Second. Decline set in from the 1960s when many of the cranes and warehouses were dismantled and demolished as the growth of container ports rendered the smaller ports such as Newhaven superfluous. The mainstay ferry trade itself hit problems after the opening of the Channel Tunnel and required the French to effectively take over the route and dictate the timetable in order to keep the port open. As of today only the North Quay and East Quay remain in use. The West Quay, once the home of the local fishing fleet has largely been redeveloped for housing, whilst the decrepit Railway Quay is currently being cleared though its future remains unknown.
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Created: Sun, 26 Aug 2012, Updated: Sun, 26 Aug 2012
The 'Shared Description' text on this page is Copyright 2012 Simon Carey, however it is specifically licensed so that contributors can reuse it on their own images without restriction.