People have lived around this area since Iron Age dwellers built their fort on Castle Hill overlooking the present harbour mouth.
The Saxons established the village of Meeching on the banks of the river Ouse which entered the English Channel just below this hill
around 480AD, just after the withdrawal of the Romans from England. The village name can be found on old maps variously as Myching or
Due to the low lying land and the drifiting of shingle banks the river outlet moved eastwards towards Seaford Head, but the sea is as always unstable and the river mouth once again silted up and by the sixteenth century the water had difficulty in escaping to the sea.
During a great storm in 1579, during the reign of Elizabeth I, the shingle banks were breached and new outlet was formed between Meeching and Seaford somewhere in the area of Tidemills. This did little to provide a reliable outlet to the sea, or a suitable harbour, so 1791 a new outlet was cut just below castle hill, and a short breakwater built. This was improved in with a 150 ft. groyne in 1847 and the replaced with the present breakwater in 1890.
Progress and development of the port, however, was slow with the main cargos being the export of Wealden Oak and the import of spirits, wine and block ice. The latter being taken from the sailing ships by horse-drawn railway wagons to wooden sheds for storage in the nearby chalk quarry owned by Messers Colgate and Gray, and thence to its final destination by horse drawn cart. This was in use until the 1914-1918 war. The quarry, as such no longer exists and is now the site of the Quarry Road Industrial Estate. The main development started around 1847 with the building of the railway from Lewes to the port and the start of the cross-channel ferry service to Dieppe, for which the town is best known today. Indeed, Today, Newhaven is the only significant cross-Channel passenger port in Sussex, with its regular service to Dieppe. It is also the only Sussex port deep enough to accept sea going vessels at all states of the tide.
The town's main claim to fame in these early days was the overnight stay, at the Bridge Inn in 1848, of King Louis Philippe of France and his Queen Marie Amelie during their flight from the French Revolution. They arrived aboard the steamer "Express" from Le Havre and were received by William Catt, who at one time owned the tide mills at Bishopstone. This worthy was a well known Sussex character. They left for Croydon the following day where they were met by Queen Victoria's coach.
The Bridge Inn was built in the 17th. century and is now a listed building
In 1904 the Marconi Company established a ship to shore radio station on the low lying land to the east of the town, but it took until 1912 before regular communications were established. For details and pictures see Friends of Tidemills site.
In more recent times, Newhaven was the point of departure for 1000 Canadian & Allied servicemen for the ill-fated Dieppe raid in 1942. Their memory is preserved by a memorial in the form of a granite plinth in a small garden of rememberence by the harbour.
Newhaven was very lucky not to have been removed from the map during the second world war. For in 1944 at about ten past five in the morning on the twenty second of November a barge loaded with 180 tons of ammunition and high expolosives being towed along along the coast broke free from it's tug and made landfall under the cliffs below the fort. The beach at that time was heavily mined and the explosion thus was set off. Had the barge come ashore in the harbour mouth or at tide mills which were also protected then Newhaven would have surely been flattened. The explosion broke windows in Lewes some seven miles north of Newhaven
In latter times an incident of notoriety occured in 1974 when a car owned by Lord Lucan, formerly Richard John Bingham, was found abandoned in Norman Road on the town on the 8th. November, some three days after his children's nanny was murdered and his wife attacked at their London flat. He has never been seen again!
Other residents have included Charles Wells the "man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo" casino, who bought a house in Fort Road with some of the proceeds, and Charles Webb, the author of "The Graduate"
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