Under Construction 1879 - 1891

Text Laurie Stonehouse

Plans were drawn up in the 1870's to turn Newhaven into an official harbour, the original plans show an inlet on the Eastside, but this was subsequently abandoned. In the summer of 1879, the massive job of building this concrete structure began, the cliffs were dug out by hand with pick axes and shovels and the rubble was used as infill for the promenade.

The Breakwater was built on a base of 100 ton concrete bags that were dropped into the sea by a special steam vessel called the "Trident".  This vessel collected it's loads from the concrete hopper situated on the East Quay, eventually these 100 ton bags reached the surface, mass concrete was then added to the base, thus enabling the workers to finish the top half and then the arches. All this work probably took the best part of a decade, an amazing achievement considering there was no heavy machinery to aid the construction.  This was only the second construction of this type be built, I believe the first to have been built in Aberdeen in the 1870's.   The Breakwater lighthouse was then erected in 1891. A few years later the tramway was extended up to the Breakwater lighthouse, this allowed the Fenchurch to travel the entire lenght thus providing a means to service the Breakwater.

Photo:Original plans - 1873

Original plans - 1873

H Hills collection

Photo:Completed Harbour Plans - 1878

Completed Harbour Plans - 1878

H Hills collection

Photo:Possible Infill for the Promenade - 1881

Possible Infill for the Promenade - 1881

H Hills collection

Photo:Building the west beach wall and steps - 1881

Building the west beach wall and steps - 1881

H Hills collection

Photo:Constructing the Promenade - 1882

Constructing the Promenade - 1882

H Hills collection

Photo:Half finished Breakwater - 1888

Half finished Breakwater - 1888

H Hills collection

Photo:View across the west beach - 1888

View across the west beach - 1888

H Hills collection

Photo:Hopper on the East Quay - 1880's

Hopper on the East Quay - 1880's

H Hills collection

Photo:Trident being loaded with concrete - C1880's

Trident being loaded with concrete - C1880's

Kind permission of Newhaven Museum

Photo:100 ton concrete bags have reached the surface - 1880's

100 ton concrete bags have reached the surface - 1880's

H Hills collection

Photo:Workers building the arches - 1889

Workers building the arches - 1889

H Hills collection

Photo:Breakwater and Tramway - 1930's

Breakwater and Tramway - 1930's

G Amy Collection

Photo:Breakwater and Lighthouse - 1930's

Breakwater and Lighthouse - 1930's

C Vale Collection

Photo:Breakwater - 1990's

Breakwater - 1990's

V Delaney

This page was added by Laurie Stonehouse on 18/09/2009.
Comments about this page

There were numerous plans and designs produced in the 1860s/70s. The grandest had a breakwater starting in Friar's bay and going round to the end of The Causeway in Seaford with several openings that would allow access regardless of wind direction. Apart from several gated tidal docks in the East beach area it also featured a massive pontoon system inside the breakwater. They are available in the museum transposed onto modern aerial photos

By Pete
On 19/09/2009

What a civil engineering project, take your hat off to the Victorians. No doubt it came in on time and close to budget, unlike projects today. Had the early proposal developed from Sebastian Steps to Seaford, Newhaven would have been a Dover! How it was financed, who paid for it? 

By John Knight
On 16/06/2022

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