"A fishing town in North Leith parish, Edinburghshire, on the Southern shore of the Firth of Forth, 1 1/8 mile East of Granton, 1 mile West North West of the centre of Leith, and 2¼ miles North by West of Edinburgh Post Office. The place has an old fashioned air; and the red-tiled, two storey houses with outside stairs and jutting gables, 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, weather-beaten 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 pattern, confined at 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 ankle, and a leg with a noble swell; for Nature, when she is in earnest, builds a 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 tract; 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 and grace and freedom'.
Such - plus the heavy creels - are the fishwives, of whom, driving through Newhaven on 16 August 1872, the Queen saw 'many, very enthusiastic, but not in their smartest dress'."
(Extract from Groomes Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland c.1895)
The Newhaven Heritage Museum tells the story of the village and its people through reconstructed sets of fishwives and fishermen, historic objects and photographs, and first-hand accounts of people's lives.
Discover the origins of Newhaven as a naval dockyard, building between 1507 and 1511 the 'Great Michael' the mightiest ship of its time.
Newhaven Heritage Museum
Edinburgh EH6 41U
"Newhaven-On-Forth, Port of Grace" by Tom McGowran, published by John Donald Publishers Ltd, 138 St Stephen Street, Edinburgh, ISBN 0 85976 130 4. The book is 248 pages long. An excellent book covering 450 years of Newhaven's history, also some ancedotes from the people who have lived there.
The transcription of the section for Newhaven from the National Gazetteer (1868) provided by Colin Hinson.
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