Port Glasgow


Former Town Hall, Port Glasgow
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Former Town Hall, Port Glasgow

A seaport on the south side of the Firth of Clyde, Port Glasgow lies 20 miles (32 km) northwest of Glasgow. The second largest town in the Inverclyde Council Area, Port Glasgow is very much shaped by the topography of the steep slopes on which it lies and the Victorian tenement blocks stepping up-hill are a remarkable site.

Originally known as Newark, following the purchase of Newark Bay as a harbour by the City of Glasgow in 1668, Port Glasgow was created as a parish in 1695 and the town was made a burgh of barony in 1775. Large ships which could not go up the then shallow Clyde stopped here, trading cargoes of cotton, hemp, iron, timber and tobacco. As the Clyde was deepened the port focused on shipbuilding. The first commercially successful steamship, The Comet was built here in 1812 to the designs of Henry Bell (1767 - 1830) and a replica was installed in the town centre in the 1970s. Perhaps the most famous yard was developed by William Lithgow (1854 - 1908), specialising in cargo ships. The English artist Sir Stanley Spencer (1891 - 1959) spent most of the Second World War observing work in the yard and produced a notable series of paintings known as Shipbuilding on the Clyde. In 2014, a steel-plate memorial to Spencer was unveiled on the site of Lithgow's yard which is now a car park for a DIY store. Today there is only one active shipyard, Fergusons, which specialises in North Sea oil-related vessels and car ferries.

The town has been subject to successive programmes of urban renewal, which have cleared away former shipyards and other industrial buildings to be replaced by Coronation Park, the dual-carriageway A8 road which now dominates the lower section of the town and the Gallagher Shopping Park. The A-listed Gourock Ropeworks was converted into luxury flats in 2006.

Fine buildings include Newark Castle (15th century, on the banks of the Clyde and home to the Maxwell family from the 16th century) and the grand Town Buildings, the symbol of a more affluent past, built in 1815 by David Hamilton (1768 - 1843). Parklea is an area of parkland located to the east of the town and managed by the National Trust for Scotland. Finlaystone House and Garden, also to the east of the town, extends to 4 ha (10 acres) and features woodland walks and play areas, all open to the public. Port Glasgow also benefits from an 18 hole golf course, two libraries and three railway stations; Port Glasgow, Woodhall and Bogston. Outlying districts include Bardrainney, Boglestone, Broadfield, Devol, Kelburn, Lilybank, Mid Auchinleck, Park Farm, Parkhill, Whitecroft and Woodhall.

Notable Portonians include Peter Dodds McCormick (c.1835 - 1916), composer of the Australian National Anthem, architect Robert Weir Schultz (1860 - 1951), General Sir Reginald Wingate (1861 - 1953) and actor Ross McCall (b. 1976). Those raised in the town include ship owner David Hutcheson (1799 - 1880) and television presented Jean Johansson (b. 1981).

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