Great Michael Rise

Route Stop 9

Next Stop -#10 Victoria School
Overview Sir Basil Spence Fishermen’s Park Boatbuilding

A prize-winning development

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.

Fishermen's Park — on the left, as it was in1949; on the right. modern houses since 1962

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.

3_6801 A walking funeral in 1928 ascends the Whale Brae. Beyond the fence and hoardings, the large grassy area of Fishermen's Park can be clearly seen. Until the 1930s, the grassy area run the full extent up to the Whale Brae.

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.

3_5600 A hexagonal building of two shops — what was once a cafe and a hairdresser, but now a house — stands on the corner of Great Michael Rise. Courtesy of Francis Ranaldi

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.

The other difference is the distance to the sea.  Fishing boats could once be beached on the shingle shoreline at the foot of the brae, for the sea was just the other side of Lindsay Road.

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.

2_4119 The anchor at the foot of Great Michael Rise. Courtesy of Francis Ranaldi
Previous Stop - #08 New LaneNext Stop -#10 Victoria School