— #02 The Hally
The bairns of Newhaven enjoyed a freedom that seems almost reckless by today’s standards. It was anything but for everybody knew everybody else. Newhaven was a safe society with a collective watchful eye on the young of the village. To quote one of the village elders, “Everyone was your auntie”.
The Hally was a magnet to children but the youngest were confined to the security of Fishermen’s Park and were not allowed to cross the tramlines to visit this area.
For the older children, the attractions were obvious. Before a high fence was constructed in the 30s, children would use the small sandy beach at the Hally when the tide was out. Protected by the lee of the Fishmarket and tide washed sands, the Hally beach was an obvious magnet for them, paddling, swimming, collecting shells and building sandcastles.
When the fence was erected, the process began of claiming new land from the sea. The Hally beach, and later, the shingle Annfield beach, were irrevocably destroyed, drowned under a sea of concrete to the older Newhaveners’ dismay but to the eventual delight of the bairns. The newly reclaimed area was known colloquially by many of the children as ”The Eckie” (Extension) and was an additional play area. The fence may have slowed the young folk down but didn’t stop their enjoyment of the places in which they used to play previously.
To the uninformed, the picture on the left looks like a stack of fishboxes. To the bairns of Newhaven, these are the raw elements for a castle, a ship or a gang hut. Gang huts, or dens as they were more commonly known, were the especial favourite, refuges where a number of children could gather to share their adventures. This new area was used as a storage area for wooden fishboxes in addition to those in the Fishmarket. They were stacked by the hundred, cleaned out, washed and left to dry until needed.
Fishboxes, by their nature and purpose, were robustly made measuring around 4ft x 2ft (1.2m x 0.6m) usually with a wooden lid held in place by heavy metal hinges and rope handles for pulling. Each box would hold about six stone (approx 38 Kg) of fish plus ice to keep them fresh. The dens not only had tunnels for the kids to move from one to another, they usually had roofs of fishboxes too so that their presence was hidden from view from the workforce. Health and safety had no place in the young minds and, amazingly, Newhaven Heritage has not become aware of accidents beyond a skint knee or a skelf (splinter).
Before mechanised transport was commonplace, the horse and cart was the normal method of delivery. The Hally had a number of stables where the dray horses and also occasionally ponies (or cuddies as they were known) were housed. The children of the area would frequently hang around the stables hoping for a look inside or a pat of the horse.
Newhaven had its own blacksmith and farrier able to shoe the horses as well as repair or manufacture metal parts of the boats in the harbour.
Gradually, horse power began to replace the lone horse and lorries became increasingly commonplace. The stables were turned into garages as a result.
Newhavener June Scott tells of one conversion from horse to lorry made by her grandfather, William Wood. “One day, William had to take his horse, Kate, to get shod. He went to the farrier who was at the west end of Newhaven Main Street. The farrier accidentally hammered a nail into the horse’s foot. So Kate the horse would be off work for a few weeks.
“What to do?! Hire another one? Buy another one? Wait a minute! There was a new contraption about, a van with a mechanical engine.
“So William thought he would try one. It worked! And so my grandfather was either the first or, at the very least, one of the first fish merchants in Newhaven to have a motorised van.”