top of page

A Sense of Belonging

Communities are the building blocks of society, says Gordon Young


For generations, Newhaven was intrinsically a close-knit community where men married women from within the village and seldom chose a wife from outwith its boundaries. This elemental structure arose out of the essential requirement for wives to be ful ly aware of the endeavour that was expected of them. (For those to whom this may seem sexist, it is important to understand that Newhaven was inherently a matriarchal community at a time when society recognised few rights of the woman.)

All of which brings us neatly to the main topic of this article, i.e. there is a world of difference between ‘society’ and ‘community’! If the Covid pandemic and its consequential lockdown demonstrated anything positive, it is that communities matter.

The mutually self-supporting nature of the people of old Newhaven took this for granted, something that was largely lost as a result of Newhaven’s redevelopment in the 1960s.

During this period, much of the village was emptied of its inhabitants to facilitate its reconstruction. According to the PhD dissertation of Dr Asa Swan, Twilight of Newhaven, it was the Council’s policy to only permit around 35% of the original population to return to the area so that a neighbourhood would then be created rather than a community. Apparently, it was the “modern” thing to do,

Communities are the very foundation of society. They are more compact, intimate groups of individuals and families living in close proximity, while societies encompass larger populations. As a result, the people tend to know each other personally, forming strong social bonds. Communities rely on face-to-face interactions, fostering a strong sense of support and social cohesion as was evidenced by the neighbourly co-operation during Covid.

Common support was second nature to the folks of Newhaven in times gone by. The busy main street of old Newhaven used to have 82 businesses along its length. When the housewife went shopping — an almost daily occurrence — she met her fellow villagers and was kept up to date with the local news, some of it family news since inter-marriage was common.

Not all of it was “gossip” in nature. As an example, if a mother was known to be unwell, neighbours, friends and family members would rally round to help until the woman had returned to better health.

Developers build houses. But without the provision of social infrastructures such as doctors, pharmacies and community halls and public spaces such as small shops and cafes at modest rents, it is merely neighbourhoods that result.

In time, those living in such areas experience disconnection from each other leading to isolation for adults and boredom for young people. Only by fostering a strong sense of support and social cohesion can communities be built.

For the future health of society as a whole, it behoves local councillors, whatever their political stripe, and council officers to ensure that ample provision for the elements to build a ‘community’ is enshrined in planning permissions when granted.

Rebuilding a sense of belonging is a prime motivator for Newhaven Heritage and has been since its inception. Newhaven Heritage arose out of the campaign to re-open the former Community Museum following its closure in 2007. The committee of Newhaven Heritage has worked ceaselessly to create opportunities for community members to come together.

For this reason alone, we see the acquisition and repurposing of two ground-floor flats in 4 Pier Place to become a heritage and cultural centre as critical in contributing to this goal. We have many initiatives in mind that can contribute to working towards the betterment of the community as a whole, all of which would be more easily achieved once the Centre is realised.

Newhaven Heritage committee members comprise of Bow-Tows with a real-life experience or first-hand anecdotal memory of the village as it used to be. Grounded in today’s reality, however, and not some romanticised notion of past times it has sets its sights on nurturing the community spirit that once was so beneficial to the villagers of the past using these two rooms from which to build.

Help us achieve these goals by becoming a member… ■

Info: Keep informed by writing to

Newhaven Gala Day circa 1986; A Group of neighbours in Fishermen’s Park

It was the Council’s policy to only permit around 35% of the original population to return to the area



I'm a paragraph. I'm connected to your collection through a dataset. Click Preview to see my content. To update me, go to the Data

I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy.


I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy.

Xyxyyxyx xyxyxyyxyxy xyxyxyxy


bottom of page