Newhaveners used to walk along its promenade, swim in the sea, sit in the sun, and relax on the beach’s beautiful sand. During bad storms, big waves would crash over the sea wall and drench any unfortunate person walking along the promenade at that moment.
For about two centuries after the death of King James IV in 1513, Newhaven eked out a living, line fishing for herring in the summer and dredging for oysters during the winter. The population at this time was a mere few hundred. However, during the second half of the eighteenth century, Newhaven grew into a village of between 500 and 600 people, driven by a resurgence of economic growth unseen since the building of The Great Michael.
The popular Forth Ferry and Sailing Packet Station, located at Newhaven, connected Edinburgh with the northern half of Scotland and east coast of England. Stagecoaches frequently used the road to and from the capital to the village to transport people travelling onwards.
For almost a century, Newhaven enjoyed a reputation as “the most important ferry and packet station” in all of Scotland. It was this designation that brought travellers to Newhaven who tried its fish dinners at the Peacock Inn and other hostelries.
As a result, Newhaven experienced a minor building boom with new streets behind Main Street being added, as well as here at Annfield and further along towards the east at Anchorfield. Originally built in three stages during the village’s expansion between 1805 and 1850, Annfield was a long three-storey building with dozens of homes on the upper two levels and several businesses on the lower one.
In 1910, to much fanfare, a local businessman named Thomas Devlin donated a public drinking fountain for the new children’s playground in Annfield and an ornamental fountain in Starbank Park. Devlin originally wanted both fountains to be ornamental but the Edinburgh Town Council requested a drinking fountain for Annfield because, they felt, it would be more useful to the people who lived there.
Edinburgh’s then Lord Provost, Malcolm Smith, led the public dedication ceremony. He promised Devlin and the crowd that the Corporation would protect and maintain the fountains for generations to come. Smith also said that the greenspaces, and the new fountains in them, provided refreshing places to relax in and get away from the busy-ness of the city. Devlin responded by saying that he hoped to preserve the memory of the fish trade with the newly-dedicated fountains.
Beyond Annfield, in many of Newhaven’s vintage pictures of Newhaven, appear the cranes of Henry Robb’s, shipbuilders of Leith. The shipyard gave essential alternative employment to Newhaveners in the post-war period when fishing was becoming increasingly industrialised. Robb’s was operational until 1984.