Photo: Illustrative image for the 'SHIPBUILDING IN NEWHAVEN OVER THE CENTURIES' page

A history of boatbuilding at Newhaven

By Richard Beckett

Please note that some of the following information was taken from an article in The Sussex County Magazine of April 1939, while other information came from unidentified sources and therefore may contain incorrect information. Any corrections will be gratefully received and added where applicable.

Shipbuilders. In 1700 there were 4 Shipwrights in Newhaven and records show that in 1707 a slipway was built here. Over the years a number of names are mentioned as owners or shipbuilders in Newhaven, among these being Geere & Blaber who seemed to specialise in repairs only. There was also John Gray who at one time was recorded as having 3 slipways where he employed 70 men of who 23 were shipwrights. Other shipbuilders were John Mount, John Powell, James Duly, Edward Mewett, Henry Courtenay, Henry Harvey. Mr Tollman (who took over the yard of John Gray when he died), Cantell, Lower & Moore.

Ships built. The 110T "Neptune" was launched in 1735, followed by a 500T vessel in 1746 whose name is unknown. Other launchings at Newhaven followed including in 1747 the 200T "John & Elizabeth", 1750 the 240T "Albion", followed by the 50T "Betty & Eleanor". In 1754 the 300T "John & Samuel", 1756 the 200T "Mermaid", 1760 the 30T "Seaford", then the 305T "Minerva".

The 51T "Diligence" was launched in 1761, then the 300T "Munifence".  In 1763 the 100T "John Littledick", 1764 the 80T "Brittania", followed by the 130T "Good Intent". In 1765 The 140T "Race Horse", 1768 the 90T "Nancy", 1774 the 100T "Mary", 1776 the 100T "Newhaven", 1779 the 100T "Lewes" and in 1783 the "Lark". 1784 the "Jamaica Planter", 1785 the 49T "Dove", 1787 the 63T "Oak", and in 1794 the "Albion".

In 1798 the 56T "Brothers" was built here, 1814 the 154T "Duke of Wellington", 1816 the "Liberty", 1824 The "Sussex Lodge". 1825 the 82T "Mary", 1828 the 61T "Lewes", 1832 the 66T "Ouse", 1839 the "Zebra" and in 1842 two unnamed vessels were built.

In 1843 the 154T "Observer", the 180T "Susannah" & the 180T "Elizabeth". In 1844 the 400T "Royal Exchange" followed in 1845 by the 187T "Requiter" & the 200T "Register". Then in 1847 the 260T "Comet" & the "Tiger"

1848 the 330T "Watkins" & the 250T "Alice Maud". 1849 162T "Emily Smith" & the 87T "Betsy".
1850 the 300T "John Gray" and the 600T "Corsairs Bride"

In 1851 the 335T "Don Ricardo" and, a 461T Sailing/Steamship the "Paoun Shun" (the first steamship to be built in Sussex, and at that time the largest schooner-rigged vessel in the world). 1852 saw the 237T "John Hillman", 1853 the 296T "Monsoon", 1854 the "Gundreda", 1855 the "Alice Smith" and the 248T "Lewes". 1856 saw the launch of the 182T "Sussex Maid". Launched in 1857 were the 358T "Bridgetown", the 186T "Eirene" and an unnamed Schooner, then in 1859 the 367T "Constance".

In 1861 a 269T Gunboat "HMS Tyrian" was built here. In 1862 the 10T "Integrity", the 75T "Beulah" and the 29T ketch "Energy" were launched. In 1865 another "Energy" was launched but this time it was a 200T barge.

1872 saw the launch of the 219T "Brunette" 1873 the 41T "Dowager Countess", the 46T "Countess" & the 46T "Viscountess"

In 1874 came the 420T "Blonde", the 87T "Betsy" & the "Regina" followed in 1875 by the 66T "Renown", 1877 the "Emmeline", 1878 the 76T "Enterprise", and in 1879 the 75T "Consort"

In 1883 the 80T "Invincible" was launched, 1891 a 250T unnamed vessel and in 1901 a 42T barge the "SR9" followed in 1902 by the "SR 10"

In 1937 the 4T "Schyria" was launched followed in 1939 by the 1T "Sussex Ousel".

The first recorded launch after WW2 found so far was in 1948 with the launch of the 5T "Adadstral" and the 6T "Dora Lee".

1950 saw the launch of the "William Allchorn" followed in 1956 by five 25 foot Cutters for the Admiralty, a 45ft Fishing boat the "Green Cormorant" and an 84 foot fishing Boat the "Johns Model" (but see John Hills comment below)

In 1957 a 30 foot unnamed Lugger was launched followed in 1958 by the 26 foot "Flying Fish". It is believed that both of these vessels were destined for the Hastings fishing fleet.

This page was added by Richard Beckett on 27/04/2008.
Comments about this page

"Young Flying Fish" was in fact 28ft, built as an open boat but later fully decked in. "Johns Model" was 32ft in length, both were built at R Lower & Sons in the 50's.

By Bob Lower
On 01/05/2008

The fishing boat " John's Model " was certainly not 84 foot... more like 35 foot and fished out of Newhaven.
The boat was named after John Saunders who unfortunately died in his early teens, his father Bill Saunders, a local fisherman, commissioned the building of a full sized boat, designed from a small model boat that John had made, hence the name.

By John Hills
On 01/05/2008

Thank you to both Bob Lower and John Hills for their information and corrections.

By Richard Beckett
On 01/05/2008

With reference to the five cutters and the "Green Cormorant", these were built by Cantell and Son where I was employed as a very young apprentice at the time along with Roy Patten, Andy Smith and Richard Budd.

Some of the shipwrights I remember working there were
Monty Mitchell, Doug Street, Dave Boxall, Brian Patten and Harry Rodgers the foreman.

Are any of those Cantell's lads still around out there?

By Alan Collington
On 12/01/2009

Alan, my uncle Brian Patten is still in Newhaven , sadly another uncle Roy passed away a couple of years ago having moved away to Pulborough. My friend Steve Kent who was working as a drayman for Charringtons at the time met Roy whilst delivering beer at a hotel up country. Roy was delivering produce and chatted about Newhaven with the Charringtons men.

By Rob Patten
On 05/03/2010

Hi Alan, Brian Patten, Dave Boxall, Doug Street, Andy Smith are all still around. Sadly Monty Mitchell passed away, aged 49. I also worked for Cantell's in the top yard.

By johnny snow
On 03/09/2010

Re John GRAY, shipbuilder. I have history on him. His brother was my husband's great grandfather. His father was a Gray and Dacre Brewery part owner in West Ham, Essex. His mother was a SHEARS of London - Fleet Street coppersmiths. John was apprenticed in Great Yarmouth it is said. He died in 1855 aged 38 "of an infection", leaving a wife and many children. She went on to marry William COURTENAY of Newhaven. Susannah was of means coming in to the marriage with John as she was a LASH Great Yarmouth - also into shipbuilding. One of their sons Willam Courtenay GRAY was a ship steward. He jumped ship in Australia and married there. Has descendants there.

By Mary M Gray
On 30/10/2010

Lloyd’s Register of Shipping for 1802 & 1807 show The Three Brothers 11’ 153 tons built Newhaven being owned by W. COLLINS, master S. COOPER. The Three Brothers does not appear in the 1801 Register.  Do you have any information to confirm it was built in Newhaven in 1801?  The vessel was captured by Privateers and its captain killed when they boarded the ship in 1807 off the coast of Newhaven after their ship had been sunk.  One of the crew members, a son of the captain was imprisoned in Dieppe but released in 1814 to return to England.  I am not sure what the French did with her.

By Nancy Frey
On 26/10/2020

If you're already a registered user of this site, please login using the form on the left-hand side of this page.