Origin of Name: Named in the early 1500s as a new harbour built in place of the old Haven at Blackness in West Lothian.
Position: Sea to the north, Leith to the east and south and Trinity to the west. See map above.
Historical notes: There is evidence that prehistoric man was in the area and also British tribes were known to fish and trade with the Romans at Cramond. Newhaven was founded around 1500 by King James IV after he purchased land from Holyrood Abbey to build a Royal dockyard. He also built rope walks, docks and houses for the workmen who built The Great Michael – the largest ship of its time. He also built the chapel of St Marys & St James around 1508 of which some remnants exist today between Lamb's Court and Westmost Close. The chapel fell into disuse after the siege of Leith in 1544 and the Reformation in 1560 and was in ruins by the early 1600s. The Society of Free Fishermen used it as a burial ground until 1848.A few years after founding the dockyard, James sold the land from north Leith to Wardie to Edinburgh. The village grew and fishing became a productive industry with trading to Europe, particularly with the Dutch and Flems. Legend has it that most of the population came from the Netherlands, siting the fishwives dress as being particularly Dutch/Flemish, but there is no evidence for this. However, it is known that many foreigners lived in the village and fashions and customs mingled. Oysters were fished at Newhaven and were very popular in the Edinburgh taverns in the late 1700s but conservation was not a big issue and the oyster beds declined. As well as fishing, a chain pier was erected in 1821 and was used by steam packet companies but it fell into ruin in the 1840s and was swept away by a storm in 1898. By the 1950s fishing was all but over in the village. In the 1960s Edinburgh council demolished most of Newhaven and rebuilt sections such as one side of the Main street (in it's original style). The inhabitants were rehoused in other parts of the city but few were able to come back.
Today: A pleasant small area beside the sea with a harbour used today for leisure boats. There is still some history left but not much unfortunately. There are many local shops and businesses as well as bars and restaurants including the famous Peacock Inn which has recently reopened after a fire. There's also a rock climbing centre in an old church on Pier Place and Health club behind the harbour. There is a lot of new built housing on land reclaimed from the sea behind the harbour and development still to come.
Did You Know: The Armada Stone is a famous Newhaven relic. It is currently a plaque on the wall of a building at Auchinleck Court but has been sited in various places around the village over the years. It was once part of an old cottage which was replaced by the Post Office in 1914 and the plaque was attached there until that was demolished. There is uncertainty over what it represents but there are many legends such as it commemorates the sinking of some Spanish Armada ships in a storm in 1588. It is also said to come from a property in the area owned by Trinity House in Leith and the arms on the plaque resemble those of Trinity House. Others say it was unearthed at Cramond and used for decorative purposes.
Newhaven fishwives were very distinctive in their Dutch style clothes and walked with their fish to sell as far as the Old Town of Edinburgh. This would be in the days before available public transport. The last Newhaven fishwife was Ester Liston who stopped in 1976 at the age of 80.
The area between Dudley Crescent and Ferry Road including Victoria Park are now considered part of Newhaven but were once part of Bonnington Leith.