This used to be Fishermen’s Park, a large sward where children played, fishermen tarred and dried their nets, and sailmakers and boatbuilders had their businesses.
It had belonged to the Admiralty but was given to Newhaven on a 999 year lease for its use.
However, dramatic alterations were to take place because New Lane was to be demolished and the occupants had to go somewhere. That “somewhere” became Great Michael Rise.
In 1956, the then Edinburgh Corporation commissioned Sir Basil Spence, a renowned Scottish architect, to re-develop New Lane and build Great Michael Rise, a Saltire Award-winning development on the former Fishermen’s Park.
Many of the residents of New Lane were re-housed in Great Michael Rise. Spence retained characteristics of the old buildings when they were re-built. It was also his proposal to the Council to retain the integrity of the former buildings when the rest of the village was being redeveloped. But he was ignored, and the bland nondescript buildings on south side of Newhaven Main Street that we have today are the result.
However, the houses had all the modern facilities — hot and cold running water, inside toilets, separate kitchens, at least two bedrooms, and an open outlook. Many had balconies in order to catch the sun. This was indeed luxury previously unknown in the village!
Although the New Lane they had vacated had a certain antiquated charm about its appearance, the houses lacked basic amenities and were dark and damp. They had outlived their purpose and the people were delighted to move to the next street in order to enjoy modern facilities.
If you climb to the top of the slope and look seaward, you won’t see what the child of 1965 would have seen. The expanse of grass would have been triple the area and the local play park for children.
Even when the Western Breakwater was built in the 30s and 40s, the sea was still accessible through lock gates at Leith Docks.
The large anchor at the bottom of Great Micahel Rise is only ornamentation. It has no historical significance other than acknowledgement to Newhaven’s place in the story of the sea.