Newhaven's Back Streets

Route Stop 12

Next Stop -#13 Main Street East
Overview Willowbank Row James Street Victoria Place Auchinleck Brae Redevelopment

Community and Solidarity

Standing at the entrance of Willowbank Row, one of the few street names to have survived the 1960s Clearances, it is not easy to appreciate the network of narrow streets and close living that gave the community of Newhaven a feeling of comfort and security for those living here at that time.

As can be seen by comparing the 1945 map (above) with the current layout (below), virtually all of the back streets of Newhaven — Victoria Place, James Street and Ramsay Square and Ramsay Row — have been swept away and replaced by fewer houses and more openness in the layout of the streets.  Only the present version of Willowbank Row retains its original name.  Its location is pretty much in alignment with Willowbank Row of old.

Willowbank Row
before redevelopment

A narrow street wide enough only for a coal lorry or cart to back down it.  The houses, though lacking in basic sanition inside, were nevertheless kept spotlessly clean.  As one proud housewife remarked, “Slums, they may have been but they were never slummy!” 


3_6112 Willowbank Row, Newhaven 1960. Looking east along Willowbank Row (on the right) in 1960. The coal bunkers for Willowbank Row are placed against the low back wall of the houses of Victoria Place (on the left). At the far end the tenements of Whale Brae can be seen .

Willowbank Row (Rear)
after redevelopment

Apart from the more spacious appearance of these streets, for the most part the houses are builtback-to-front’, in that the bedrooms face north (towards the sea) and the living areas face south (inland).  The arrangement was chosen to allow more sunshine and daylight into the homes.  This southern aspect was chosen to afford more sunshine into the homes of the tenants.

3_9240 Willowbank Row from the rear 1980

Main Street In The Past.

Before redevelopment, housing density was high and in most case, modern — or even basic — sanitation was non-existent.  Despite that, children were clean, healthy and well looked after.  Families, who were close-knit and often strengthened by inter-marriage, were supportive of each other and willing and able to help when times were hard or where there was illness.  As a result, a strong sense of community pervaded throughout the village, without doubt enhanced by the close-proximity of their neighbours where forestair houses or balcony access to homes were commonplace and a wide range of shops where housewives could meet and chat as they were buying tjeir daily supplies. 

3_3217 All along the south side of Main Street were shops including a cafe, pub, bank, post office and laundrette.

Present Day Main Street Frontage 

In the expediency to create economies when building the south side of Main Street so as to conserve some of the budget for the more traditional, and therefore more expensive, appearance of the north side of Main Street  yet to be built.   A typical 1960s/70s brutalism style of architecture resulted, almost devoid of shops and community features when compared to what had been demolished.

The rear of these houses now overlooking Main Street face Willowbank Row as Victoria Place no longer exists.   The housing density of this area was greatly reduced as a result with a total of 50 dwellings on Main Street and eight in the new Willowbank Row where before there had been 70 homes in these three rows.  The Main Street houses may look dull and unspiring on this elevation however their living quarters are bright due to their southern aspect. 


3_9211 Main Street South. The rear of these houses overlook Willowbank Row.
Previous Stop - #11 Whale BraeNext Stop -#13 Main Street East