Fish shop opens at old Newhaven market building

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Newhaven fishmarket has taken a step back towards its roots with the opening of a new fishmonger's shop.

The fishmarket building, built in 1896, once thronged with Newhaven fishwives picking up freshly-landed fish to sell about the Capital, and horse-drawn carriages collecting the day's catch for distribution.

The fishwives might be a thing of the past, but the opening of Welch's fishmonger means shoppers now have new surroundings to buy their fish directly from the market.

While the northern half of the building is still home to several fish traders, most of its business is wholesale.

The shop is located in a part of the market which housed the Newhaven Heritage Museum until 2006, when it closed for renovation. In 2009, with the unit still closed, Forth Ports announced that it wanted to prepare part of the space for retail use, and the city council said it could not afford to resurrect the museum in the remainder.

Fish shop owner Gary Welch, whose father Kenneth started the business 52 years ago, said: "We were doing the wholesale here, and obviously we've got some other shops in town but a lot of people kept coming into the market saying 'Can we buy fish?' so we opened a wee small area to sell it, and it was getting busier and busier all the time.

"The old museum was lying empty and boarded up for more than two years so I just approached Forth Ports and said we'd like to keep some of the Newhaven fishing heritage alive in the village, because there's not much in Newhaven now - it used to be really busy."

The newly-renovated shop has specially-created stained glass panels above the doors depicting Newhaven scenes, a huge painting of the adjacent harbour, and fishing nets on the walls - alongside tanks full of crabs and lobsters.

Although the shop overlooks Newhaven Harbour, most of the fish bought and sold there is now brought in from outside.

However, Mr Welch said he was glad to be keeping up some of the area's traditional trade: "I think people are glad to see that we're keeping a bit of the heritage going."

Sophia Abrahamsen, a former volunteer at the Newhaven Heritage Museum, said she was pleased to see the building open again, but still hoped that the village might one day have its own museum again.

"At least the building's being used for something - we would rather have a museum there, though, so it's a mixed blessing," she said.

"We still hope for a museum somewhere in the area but I don't think there are many spaces suitable. But the volunteers are still all enthusiastic and we hope that one day we'll be able to see a museum in the area again.

It was a fishmarket originally so I suppose it makes sense that there's fish there - it's the best we can do at the moment."