Newhaven’s First World War

Newhaven’s First World War is the Town Council’s Heritage Lottery funded project, which aims to uncover and share the important role that Newhaven played during the First World War.

At the outbreak of war, Newhaven became one of the major supply ports to the Western Front, keeping troops equipped with everything from food, supplies and medical equipment, to hay for the horses and over two and a half million tons of munitions. 2,500 people worked on the docks, 24/7, loading Transports, the ships which transported Government munitions and stores. The number of cranes doubled to 50 and additional sidings and warehouses were built to accommodate the extra traffic. Around 4,000 soldiers were garrisoned in the town, the Hillcrest Centre (the Boys’ School at the time) was converted into a Military Hospital and from 1917 a Seaplane base was built on the beach, east of the river, to help protect shipping from submarine attack.

In order to help local people uncover this rich heritage and give visitors a glimpse of Newhaven’s past, eight heritage interpretation panels have been installed around the town. Together they form a “Poppy Trail” telling the story of Newhaven’s role during the First World War. We have also been working with local schools to ensure that this valuable heritage can be passed on to future generations.

The project will also involve guided and information walks, as well as workshops and talks for local community groups and the general public. We hope that our work with community groups, and the interest generated by the project, will bring forth family stories and items from private collections, which will further enrich the heritage.

Over the course of the project, we will be adding stories and information about the town, and the people who lived and worked here during the war, to this section of the website.  We also have a dedicated Facebook Page and Twitter Account where we will be posting stories about what was happening in the town 100 years ago. If you are interested in hearing more about Newhaven during the First World War and would like Jenny Flood, our Project Officer, to come and talk to your local community group, please get in touch. We would also love to hear from you if you have any stories or photographs about your family in Newhaven during the First World War. We will keep you posted about events and activities through Newhaven Matters, this website and social media.

The Town Mayor of Newhaven said, “I am delighted that we have secured the funding for this project which will uncover and display for all to see another part of the rich and varied history of our town.  It is fascinating to learn how familiar landmarks like the Hillcrest Centre were utilized a hundred years ago.  I look forward to attending some of the activities and hope that many local people will join in and be part of the project.”