train on the old road bridge Newhaven

Newhaven’s heritage – steeped in railway history

Newhaven has a rich heritage founded on its river and port. When you come to the site you will see the gallery of our past and what can be visited now. The railway and the port are still a huge part of the town’s heritage and many people who live in the town today have family that worked on the docks or the railways.

Harry Avis guiding the Fenchurch during the mid-1930s over the bridge. He carried a red flag and bell to warn other road users.

Troops on West Quayside. Newhaven was a D.Day Embarkation Port and moved tanks to the Normandy beaches.

The Sidings gets its name from being a former base for the railway engines in Newhaven, and our neighbours are the Newhaven Railway Club.

The Sidings is steeped in railway history and if you visit Newhaven Museum there are extensive written and pictorial records relating to the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway, which became Southern Railway. 

The railway track started just to the north of the flyover and ran down the length of the West Quay as far as the breakwater, in fact there were tracks right up to the lighthouse. Harry Avis was employed to guide the ‘Fenchurch’ probably from the town railway gates to the river wall. Harry would never have imagined that a road and an industrial estate would be named after him.

Special thanks to the Newhaven Historical Society and Museum, and the Tide Mills Project for supplying the photographs. You should really check out these two places, you won’t be disappointed, and the museum staff are very knowledgeable. 

When the railway arrived, the development of Newhaven and the port really took off. The first line to Lewes was built in 1847 with the Seaford line in 1864. Following the opening of the branch from Lewes to Newhaven the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway looked to develop a shorter route to Paris via Dieppe. The company invested in dredging the harbour to enable it to be used by larger cross-channel ferries including their own mahogany paddle steamers named Newhaven, Brighton, and Dieppe.

At the outbreak of war, Newhaven was designated as one of the prime supply ports for munitions and stores. The town became a special military area for handling Government traffic under the Defence of the Realm Regulations. During the war, 19,518 special goods trains arrived at Newhaven conveying 859,995 wagons of munitions and war stores. There were 2,500 dock workers required each day (they worked 14 hours a day, 7 days a week) at Newhaven to load the ships of which around 500 were women.

But as you walk around The Sidings and linger at the Bistro for lunch, you can imagine the engines getting up steam and being repaired from the adjacent workshops.

In some of the photographs, you will notice the iron swing bring which had to be opened by manpower (a gang of men turning a huge wheel) and it was in operation until 1974. 

Newhaven Museum is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays 11 am to 4 pm until it closes for winter on 28 October, 2023. Please visit the Facebook page to discover more about the history of Newhaven and its community.


The first phase of the site is the impressive waterside bistro, supported by the community courtyard, and community spaces ready to promote the river, cycling and walking. Later phases will include additional container space to support more social enterprises.


Railway Approach, Newhaven, BN9 0DF, East Sussex