Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Greenock
GREENOCK, a seaport town of Renfrewshire, Scotland, on the south bank of the Firth of Clyde, 22 miles below Glasgow, in 55 57 2" N. lat. and 4 45 30" W. long. In front of the town there is a fine and extensive bay, formerly known by the name of the Bay of St Lawrence, from a religious house that anciently stood there. Behind the town the land rises into a picturesque ridge of hills, about 800 feet high, between which and the bay Greenock stretches for upwards of two miles and a half along the shore. Greenock is an irregularly built town. The western part is occupied by spacious streets and numerous fine villas, but the central and busier part is composed of narrow and rather mean and overcrowded streets and lanes. The board of police are taking measures, however, to have some of these opened up and occupied with an improved
[ Plan of Greenock. ]
-class of buildings. The view from the heights behind the town is exceedingly striking and picturesque; and notwith standing the steep slopes towards the south, the town is steadily progressing in that direction, as well as along the shore, where premises for shipbuilding and various public works, and also dwelling-houses, are extending the town both east and west. Amongst noticeable structures may be enumerated the custom-house, a handsome Doric edifice, and the Watt Monument, a building erected to the memory -of the celebrated James Watt, whom with just pride the town claims as a native. The latter contains an exquisite statue of the philosopher by Chantrey, and accommodates a, public library founded in 1783, having now upwards of 15,000 volumes. Associated with it is also a museum and lecture hall, built at the expense of the late Mr James M Lean, and opened in 1876. The town also contains several elegant churches, a spacious academy, and various other educational and charitable institutions, the chief of the latter being the public hospital and infirmary, and the Wood mariners asylum, an institution founded by Sir Gabriel Wood for the benefit of decayed seamen belonging to Clyde ports. The corporation is about to erect a suite of municipal buildings fronting the principal street of the town, on which it is proposed to expend not less than 80,000. Greenock possesses two public parks ; and in 1866 a magnificent esplanade, a mile and a quarter in length, skirting the shore, was laid off at an expense of 20,000, and is now a favourite promenade and recreation ground. A new carriage -drive is being constructed, at a cost of about 10.000, across the heights to the south-west of the town. The water supply is derived from two enormous reservoirs in the high lands behind the town called Loch Thorn and Loch Gryfe. The Loch Thorn works were completed in 1828, and the Gryfe works were added in 1873. The Loch Thorn works are so constructed that they not only supply water to the town, but provide also in their course power to drive the machinery of a number of mills of great size, the water descending from mill to mill till it reaches the level of ordinary supply. Street tramways were introduced in 1873, and connect the town with Gourock. The gas works of the town, which were originally situated in a populous district, have recently been removed to a small island, Inchgreen, on which a commodious establishment has been erected. The principal industries are shipbuilding and sugar-refining. Many of the steamers of the Cunard Company, the Peninsular and Oriental Company, and the Allan Line have been built at Greenock, and the excellence of the iron sailing ships of Greenock yards has become almost proverbial. There are eighteen large sugar refin eries in the town, some of which turn out 1000 tons of refined sugar per week. Greenock is connected via Paisley with Glasgow by two competing lines of railway, by one of which there is also direct communication with Ayrshire and the south-west. All the important Clyde passenger steamers call at or sail from Greenock ; indeed for pas senger traffic by steamer it is a more important town than Glasgow, as the greater portion of the travelling public, to save time and avoid the unsavoury odour of the upper reaches of the river, make the journey between Glasgow and Greenock by rail. A large amount of passenger and goods traffic is also carried on between Greenock and Belfast, Londonderry, Dublin, Liverpool, &c. In the earlier part of the 17th century Greenock was an obscure fishing village, consisting of one row of thatched cottages ; and in 1716 there were only six slated houses in the place. In 1741 the population of Greenock was 4100 ; a century later it was 38.846 ; in 1851, 39,391; in 1861, 42,785; in 1871, 57,825; and in the middle of 1879 it was estimated in the Registrar-General s reports at 76,955. In 1635 " the town or village of Greenock " was erected by Charles I. into a burgh of barony under a charter granted in favour of John Schaw and Helen Houston, las spouse, and down to 1741 the government of the burgh was administered by the baron-bailie appointed by the superior. In 1741 and 1751 charters were granted by Sir John Schaw, under which feuars and sub- feuars were empowered to elect a town council of nine members two bnilies, a treasurer, and six councillors for the good government of the town. Under these charters Greenock possessed the most liberal burghal constitution enjoyed by any Scotch burgh till the passing of the Reform Act the first municipal election under the provisions of which took place in 1833. Greenock was then advanced to the position of a parliamentary burgh, with the right to return one representative to parliament. Municipally the town is divided into five wards, and the town council consists of a provost, six bailies, a treasurer, and eight councillors. The beginning of the harbour of Greenock was made by John Schaw, already mentioned as the first superior of the burgh. Till the commencement of the 18th century, however, it was little more than an insecure landing-place; but in 1703 an agreement was entered into between the superior and feuars of the town, whereby he advanced money and they submitted to a voluntary assessment for the extension and improvement of harbour accommodation. The harbour constructed under this agreement Avas not finished till 1710, in which year Greenoek was established as a custom house port. In 1751 an Act of Parliament was obtained whereby a duty of 2d Scots was imposed on every Scots pint of ale or beer "brewed, brought in, tapped, or sold" within the town "for cleaning, deepening, building, and repairing " the harbour and piers. Till the year 1772 the harbour was simply leased to the town by the superior, but in that year and in 177:5 the magistrates and town council received a feu-right to it from John Shaw Stewart the owner of the Greenock estate. From that date down to the present time the additions made to the harbour by parliamentary authority have been very numerous. The dock and quay accom modation now amounts to eighty acres. In addition there is in course of construction an immense dock to be named the "James Watt Dock," which is intended to afford accommodation to vessels of the largest tonnage, and maintain them water-borne hi all states of the tide. The estimated cost of this dock, with warehouses and sheds, is 250,000. The harbour trustees who now have the manage ment of the docks consist of the town council and nine elective members chosen by the local shipowners and harbour ratepayers. The commercial prosperity of Greenock received its first great impetus from the Treaty of Union in 1707. The earliest trade seems to have been iu herrings, a trade which, however, has long been extinct. Trading in tobacco was also carried on at a very early period. It was first brought from the colonies, and then exported to the Continent. The Greenland whale-fishing com menced as far back as 1762, but it never rose to be of any import ance, and is now discontinued. The American war greatly inter rupted the progress of Greenock, as the principal trade of the port was then with that country; but after the peace in 1783 it speedily revived, ami within the seven following years the shipping trade was trebled in amount. At present the principal intercourse is with the East and West Indies, Australia, and the United States and Canada. Newfoundland and South America have also em ployed a considerable quantity of shipping. The gradual increase of trade is shown by the following table of the number and tonnage of vessels that entered and cleared from and to foreign ports in various years since 1784 : INWARDS. OUTWABD8. British. Foreign. British. Foreign. Xo. Tons. No. Tons. Xo. Tons. No. Tons. 1784 52 6,569 4 530 63 7,297 3 520 1804 165 30,802 25 5,120 155 31,896 20 5,965 1824 188 46,162 11 3,054 188 46,857 9 2,699 1853 274 94,575 44 13,764 153 55,630 45 11,975 1878 428 219,521 178 64,918 419 198,267 Interesting historical details will be found in Memorials of James W<M, by G. Williamson, 1856. The first volume of Historical Sketches of the Town and Harbours of Greenock, by DugaldCampbell, appeared in 1879.