The Fishmarket

Route Stop 01

Next Stop -#02 The Hally
Overview Open Air Fish Market The Building Fish Auctions Working Fishwives Pier Parliament The Police Box
Fishmarket Map View
1_3055 Newhaven_1945 [extract]: Fishmarket showing sea access to both the west (harbour) side and the east side (now Western Harbour) as shown by the mooring posts. The main Fishmarket sales area and porters sheds are shown on the plan. Courtesy of the National Library of Scotland.
3_ 2305 DR-PC 065: Inside the Market gates c1910 when horse-drawn carts were common, porters load up the drays with fishboxes to be delivered to commercial customers. Courtesy of the Ratcliffe Postcard Collection
3_1621 DR-PC 085: Looking across the harbour towards the Fishmarket and Porters' Sheds. c1910. Courtesy of the Ratcliffe Postcard Collection.
3_0005: Newhaven Harbour taken from the top pf the Klondyke building. The Fishmarket and porters' huts are central in the image. Access to the Fishmarket was by the main door seen on the left gable wall of the building. Taken about 1965-68. Courtesy of The Liston Legacy.

The Fishmarket, built 1896

There has been a tradition of fishing here from time immemorial. And if fish is caught commercially, it needs to be sold. For centuries, this was done by the fishwife hawking the daily catch — usually her husband’s or father’s — around the streets of the Edinburgh and further afield. Or by the box in auction to restaurants, fishmongers and fish and chip shops .

For centuries, this happened at the pierhead in all weathers. At one time, it was not just the Newhaven fishermen that were landing their catch but many of the other fishing communities that lined the coast of the Forth, too. Because Edinburgh was a major transport hub, the daily catch would then travel to other parts of the country.

With the coming of the railways and steamboats, these fishing villages found they had improved direct access to other more profitable markets and trade at Newhaven started to dwindle. An enclosed Newhaven Fishmarket was conceived by Henry Dempster, known as the Ancient Mariner and a native of the village. He proposed that this would revive the area’s fortunes. A wholesale system was created and fish was sent here daily by rail. Newhaven prospered once more.

Inside the Market

The main building was constructed in 1896 on reclaimed land immediately adjacent to Newhaven Pier on the eastern side and was surrounded by a setted roadway. It has a cast iron frame with red sandstone twin gabled ends and timber boarded 27 arches along its east and west sides gave access to its interior. The central bays on the East and West elevations have timber gablets with tapering finials and clocks set in their apexes. Immediately outside the main building at set intervals were three large stone washtubs for the purposes of washing and scrubbing the fishboxes clean. The floor level of the Fishmarket building was elevated to enable fish boxes to be loaded more easily onto carts.


Inside the Market
3_2053 Fishmarket Interior. Courtesy of The Liston Legacy

Porters’ Sheds

Opposite the main Market shed ran a series of 14 wooden huts painted in Battleship Grey and with a saw-tooth roof.  Some were used as sales offices, some as porters’ worksheds.  The first one was used by the workforce in which to have their break.

It was said that the sales offices had a tiny opening window on the front such that money could be handed in but could not be handed out!

Porters' Sheds
3_2022 Fishmarket Porters' Sheds, west (harbour-facing) side. Courtesy of The Liston Legacy.
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