Newhaven Cemetery is situated in a pleasant, semi-rural location on the outskirts of the town on the C7 road to Lewes. The ground slopes upwards from the entrance gates onto the hillside overlooking the River Ouse from the west. Older graves are to be found near the entrance; the part of the Cemetery currently in use is further up the hill, affording wonderful views across the valley and a lovely tranquil setting.
A simple flint built chapel is available for funeral services. Please click here for details of fees and charges.
The cemetery was founded in 1885 by the “Local Board” and became the responsibility of the Town Council when local government was re-organised in 1974. A walk amongst the grave stones reveals the names of many well known Newhaven families including Trinity House pilots, officers of H M Customs, master mariners and Harbour Masters.
Just inside the entrance is a particularly beautiful sculpture by Richard Reginald Goulden (1877-1932), a noted portrait sculptor who also produced some memorable public memorials including one to Ramsay MacDonald’s wife Margaret in Lincolns Inn Fields, London, and the Dover War Memorial. The figure at Newhaven is identical to the one on the Dover War Memorial, which represents youth in self-sacrificial devotion, spiritually triumphing over bodily suffering and the thorny difficulties of life. The sculptor himself is buried at Newhaven – his grave is near the north western corner of the cemetery.
Many of the older graves have no headstone or other marker because so many families could not afford these luxuries in those days. The Town Council’s burial records, which go back to the original founding of the Cemetery, reveal that very many burials at the end of the nineteenth century and first part of the twentieth were carried out at the Board’s expense in unpurchased graves in which two or even three bodies of people unrelated to each other have been buried. The same records also reveal the appalling levels of child mortality prevailing at the time and also high death rates amongst young adults.
There is a special war graves section within the Cemetery, testament to Newhaven’s important role as a supply port in both World Wars. Additionally, there are a number of scattered war graves amongst the general townspeople’s graves.
Some interesting and tragic stories, many relating to Newhaven’s maritime past, can be glimpsed behind some of the headstones found in the Cemetery. In the south eastern corner - one of the older parts – can be seen the grave of William Paige who accidentally drowned at Newhaven in 1891. The headstone also records the fact that his son William George Paige had accidentally drowned at Littlehampton aged 9 in 1876. Nearby can be seen the graves of Francis Durell Godfray, aged 17 and John Lower, aged 43, who both drowned at Cap d’Ailly, France on 13th April 1887 when the SS Victoria hit rocks and went down.
On the main central path through the Cemetery, just beyond the Chapel archway, can be found the Auxiliary Patrol Memorial, erected after the First World War by officers, petty officers and men of HM Auxiliary Patrol operating from Newhaven as a lasting tribute to their fallen comrades. One face of the memorial is sacred to the memory of the officers and men who were killed when HMT Borneo was blown up off Beachy Head during mine sweeping operations on 18th June 1917.
Another glimpse of events in theFirst World War can be seen on two matching stone crosses marking the graves of Lieutenant John Frederick Raymond Kitchin RNAS and RAF, aged 19, and 2nd Lieutenant George Cole RNAS and RAF, aged 26, who were killed while flying in Newhaven Harbour on 21st June 1918. Their graves are to the south of the Auxiliary Patrol memorial.
During the last decade of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century, there was a French convent in Newhaven at Church Hill, known as the Convent of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The convent purchased a section of graves in the south western corner of the old part of the cemetery and a flat stone commemorating many of the sisters, together with two unusual metal crosses can be found in this area.
The Newhaven branch of the Royal British Legion has recently replaced the headstone of Elizabeth Mary Collins, an Irish nurse who was working in France as a nursing sister in 1940 and was caught up in the German invasion. During the occupation of France she used her nursing skills to help escaping British prisoners of war and members of the French Resistance and after the war she received the Kings commendation for brave conduct and the bronze medal of the French Red Cross. When she died in 1952 she was buried in a paupers’ grave, but after her funeral, the town’s British Legion branch committee became aware of the facts of her life and purchased the grave and placed a memorial stone on it in 1953. Her grave is to the north of the Chapel and towards the Lewes Road.