The Auld Box

— #15 Lamb's Court

Overview Wester Close Lamb’s Court The Auld Box The Resurrectionists Westmost Close

The Charity of Newhaven

As will be seen at Route Stop 19, The Society of Free Fishermen of Newhaven was a guild formed on the principles of Flemish Guilds to defend the rights of its members. However, its main purpose for its founding was as a charitable organisation aiding its members in times of sickness, infirmity and old age.  Funeral grants were paid out and widows provided for so long as they did not re-marry.

Income to maintain these expenses came from a number of sources, feus, leasing oyster beds, house rents, dues from members as well as fines for misdemeanours, the sale of dung (valuable in the days before commercial fertilisers) and donations.  The doorway in the picture above (Ref 3_6202) led into a small windowless room called The Auld Box..  Two men from the Society sat here and received members’ money, writing the amount into a large ledger.  This money would find its way into a large box, a wooden chest with a slot in the top, which had two locks with two keys, one for the Boxmaster and one for the Kirk Session in whose presence the box was solemnly opened and the contents counted before being distributed to the poor.  

3_6202 The Auld Box was located Lamb's Court.

Poverty was an accepted part of life: there was no shame or moral judgement in the term.  Fishing was a perilous occupation with tragedy never far from the door.  The Free Fishermen’s Society of Newhaven was a vital safety net in these circumstances  should the breadwinner be taken from his family or due to accident or illness be unable to work, an early form of welfare support.

The honoured title of Boxmaster remains to this day, being the designation afforded to the treasurer of Newhaven Heritage.

3_6403 The Barometer Case, The Watchtower and The Auld Box, three significant locations in the village,