The deep drawing barks do there disgorge
THIS pleasant looking seaport town is situated on the shore of the bay of Newark, on the south side of the Clyde, and is distant from Glasgow about twenty miles, and nearly three from Greenock. It stands on the level ground along the coast, which there forms a small plain, bounded on the south by a range of green hills, rising steep and abrupt a little distance inland; and the town thus confined from north to south, has extended from east to west along the shore. The streets, with the exception of the one which forms the harbour, are for this reason too narrow; but they are in general regular, and the houses substantially and handsomely built. Many of the houses and shops exhibit considerable elegance in their exteriors, and few towns of its size can boast of a greater number of wealthy inhabitants. The general appearance of the town is highly picturesque, whether viewed from the sea or from the hills behind; and the surrounding scenery is interesting and beautiful. From the top of the hills the view is vcery extensive. Immediately below, lies the town, with its harbour and shipping; the broad and majestic Clyde forms the middle of the picture; and beyond, the hills of Dumbartonshire and Argyll form a distance of the most rich and varied description. On approaching from the water, the hills which rise behind and form an agreeable contrast with the harbour, the shipping, and the town and spire, at once shut up the view. But they of themselves have a beautiful appearance, and are finely ornamented with villas and country seats; while trees, gardens, and shrubberies are seen scattered over their different declivities. A romantic ravine, called the Devol’s Glen, in which a stream rushes down, adds its interest to the scene.
Port-Glasgow does not boast of great antiquity. It is a place entirely of modern creation; and owes its existence to the commercial spirit and enterprise of the merchants of Glasgow. Until after the middle of the seventeenth century, a few fishermen’s huts, which formed the village of Newark, alone occupied the shore of the bay on which Port Glasgow has since been erected. It formed part of the barony of Newark, of which the neighbouring Castle was the principal messuage. Fishing was the occupation of the inhabitants, and herrings their only export. In 1639, Newark and Inchgrein were declared by act of parliament, “to be the twa places for Glasgow, for the transportatione of their herring.”1 The herring fishing was then an object of considerable importance, and was the principal export of the Glasgow Merchants. The boats went to the fishing three times in the year, and a duty was payable to the crown from each boat employed in the fishery. The herrings were sold by the fishers to persons employed by the Merchants to purchase them; and were then cured and packed for exportation.
The active spirit for commerce which the citizens of Glasgow had begun to exhibit, was in time to produce important changes, not only in the trade of their own city, but also of the village of Newark, and other places along the shores of the Clyde. As their trade increased, the want of a sufficient depth of water farther up the river, made them feel the necessity of having a harbour for their shipping on some of the shores of the Frith. Dumbarton first attracted their notice. They proposed to purchase ground, and make an extensive harbour there. The worthy Magistrates of that ancient burgh, however, would not listen to their proposal, but strenuously opposed it, because the greatly increased resort of mariners and strangers would increase the price of provisions to the inhabitants. Short-sighted policy indeed, which frustrated the only chance the burgh of Dumbarton could ever have had, of becoming the great commercial emporium of the west of Scotland!
Disappointed in this project, the magistrates of Glasgow turned their attention to the bay of Newark, and in 1668 purchased thirteen acres of ground, called the Devol’s Glen, adjoining the village; where they laid out the ground for a town, and built a harbour for their shipping. A charter of confirmation of their right, was immediately obtained by the magistrates of Glasgow from the King, by which the lands purchased were erected into a free port, and power granted to build a harbour and a tolbooth; to appoint baillies, clerks, and officers, for the administration of justice; to exercise all jurisdiction, civil and criminal, competent to a baron; and to levy customs, tolls, and anchorages. To the town and harbour erected under this ample authority, the name of New Port-Glasgow was given. Some houses were erected by the magistrates themselves, and portions of ground were feued for building others, according to a regular plan. The seat of the custom-house for the Clyde was also fixed here. In september, 1694, application was made to have the lands on which Port-Glasgow now stands, with the bay of Newark, and several farms in the vicinity, disjoined from the parish of Kilmalcom, to which it belonged, and erected into a separate parish; extending in length half a mile from east to west, and in breadth one quarter from north to south; but this was not completely effected till October 1714. The delay was occasioned by the Earl of Glencairn disputing the right of patronage, which, however, was ultimately vested in the city of Glasgow.2
In 1697, the first minister of Port-Glasgow was appointed, who preached to his small flock in a house appointed for the purpose. It is still known to the inhabitants by the name of the “sail laft.” In 1718, it was agreed that a church should be built; one half of the expense of which, was paid by the city of Glasgow. A parish church was then erected, but of a small size, scarcely capable of accommodating 800 sitters.
The town and foreign trade of Port-Glasgow increased but slowly, till the period of the union. Afterwards, however, the latter increased more rapidly, and the town, of course, also increased. The narrow limits of the ground originally purchased by the magistrates of Glasgow, soon became too confined for the buildings erected; which began to spread over the site of the adjacent village of Newark, then belonging as a burgh of barony to Hamilton of Wishaw, who had acquired the barony of Newark. The town thus comprehended two burghs of barony, subject to two different superiors. In order to remedy this, the inhabitants of Port-Glasgow in 1774, entered into an agreement with the magistrates of Glasgow. By this agreement, the magistrates conveyed to the inhabitants of Port-Glasgow, the duty on ale and beer, leviable in the town; the anchorage and shore dues demandable from all vessels coming into the harbour; they gave them liberty to use the house then used for a prison; and allowed to them a piece of ground for erecting a market place and slaughter house. The inhabitants agreed to indemnify the magistrates from payment of the minister’s stipend, expense of repairing the church or manse, providing a glebe, payment of schoolmaster’s salary, expense of bringing in water, lighting, cleaning, and watching the streets, and all other charges connected with the government of the town, or repairing the harbour. It was also agreed by this contract, with consent of the superior of the burgh of Newark, that the inhabitants of Port-Glasgow and Newark, should in time coming be represented by a magistrate and council, not exceeding fifteen in number, to be chosen annually by the feuars, and out of which number, the magistrates of Glasgow should elect one to be chief magistrate. Application was to be made to Parliament for authority to the inhabitants to levy a tax yearly, out of all houses, cellars, and other buildings within the town of Port-Glasgow and Newark.
The following year, 1775, an act of Parliament was obtained, which gave to the town a municipal government, consisting of thirteen trustees or counsellors, from whom the Baillies are annually elected; the senior Baillie by the magistrates of Glasgow, and the junior Baillie by the thirteen trustees. To these Baillies were committed the full powers and jurisdiction belonging to a burgh of barony; and to the Baillies and council, ample powers for regulating and managing the police, and the affairs of the town and its harbour. Under the government thus established, Port-Glasgow has continued to prosper and increase; and is now one of the most handsome and regular built sea-port towns in Scotland. The act of parliament of 1775 provided for supplying the town with fresh water; for paving, cleaning, and watching the streets; for erecting public works; and for repairing the quays of the harbour. The powers of that act were enlarged by a subsequent statute in 1803, which also provided for the erection of a new court house, a gaol, and other public buildings.
The small parish kirk erected in 1718, having become inadequate to the accommodation of the increased population, an assistant was appointed in 1767, and for seven years he officiated in the same house, the “sail laft,” which had been used for divine service before the parish kirk was built. In 1774, the congregation built, on the south west of the town, a large and elegant chapel of ease, sufficient to accommodate 1800 people. In 1791, the seat rents of the chapel produced L140, out of which the assistant preacher was paid L100 yearly. About four years ago a new parish church was built, which cost nearly L3300, and accommodates 1200 people. One half of the sum expended was raised by subscription among the inhabitants, and presented as a gift to the magistrates, who paid the balance from the funds of the town. The magistrates receive payment of the seat rents which amount to about L500 yearly. This church is chaste in its design, substantial in its structure, and comfortable in its internal accommodations. The stipend of the parochial clergyman was in 1791 only L100, with L10 for a manse and L2 for a garden; but it was afterwards augmented to L125. 6s. 8d. with an allowance of L21 for a manse and garden. It is now L250; but the present incumbent’s income is considered equal to L340 sterling. Besides the parish church and chapel of ease, there is a burgher meeting-house, capable of accommodating 800 sitters.
At the commencement of the last century, and while the parish minister preached in the “sail laft,” the population of the town was only 400; but after the union, it began with the trade rapidly to increase. The following table will show this progressively till the last census.
|Years Inhabitants||Years Inhabitants||Years Inhabitants|
|1700 400||1755 1695||1801 4565|
|1718 800||1783 3894||1811 6000|
|1730 1400||1790 4036||1821 6200|
The harbour of Port-Glasgow is large and extensive, and capable of receiving the largest vessel without discharging any part of her cargo. During ten years from 1801 to 1811, upwards of L15,000 was expended in deepening the harbour and in extending the quays. They are under the management of trustees, consisting of the magistrates and council of Glasgow, the chief magistrate of Port-Glasgow, and two commissioners appointed by those interested in the shipping of the town. The debt at present on the harbours is only about L6000; and the dues produce an income of L1400 yearly. While the accommodations are excellent, it ought to be observed that the harbour and dock dues, cellar rents and shed dues, are all more moderate here than in any other sea-port town in Scotland. The following are the depths of water in the harbour. At neap tides, mid quay 16 feet, end and back of east quay 17 feet, end of west quay 15 feet, inside of west and east quay 14 feet; spring tides mid quay 16 to 17 feet. The bonded cellars are also extensive, in excellent order, and fitted for a considerably greater trade than is here carried on. The bonded warehouses are for East and West Indian and American produce. Government rents a large warehouse for tobacco, for which they pay L330 sterling annually.
The commerce of Port-Glasgow is similar to that of Greenock, but on a more extensive scale. The shipping belonging to it in 1792, as taken from the Custom-house books, was
|Vessels employed||in Foreign Trade,||
|in Coasting Trade,||
|in Herring Fishery,||
These vessels belonged partly to Merchants in Port-Glasgow, and partly to Mercantile houses in Glasgow. The trade of the place, however, is by no means carried on solely by the vessels belonging to it. From the Custom-house books it appears that the vessels to and from this port in the year 1790, were
|Inward,||British, 205||Vessels, measuring||19,776 Tons.|
|Foreign, 18||2,469 Tons.|
|Outward,||British, 221||22,466 Tons.|
|Foreign, 11||1,849 Tons.|
|Total||455 Vessels||46,560 Tons.|
The commerce of this Port, particularly during the present [19th] century has greatly increased. In 1803 the number of vessels that entered and cleared out was 591; tonnage 58,287. In 1810 the number was 775, the tonnage 87,343.
The revenue from the post office was in 1804 £789: in 1811 £1298.
The whale fishery from the Clyde, though it has been tried, has not proved prosperous, It was first attempted in 1752, when several ships were sent to Greenland, but it was soon given up. It was again revived in 1756, when five large vessels from Greenock and Port-Glasgow, well equipped and commanded by men of experience in the business, sailed from the Clyde; but in consequence of unsuccessful fishing and the low price of oil, the trade was gradually abandoned. One of the ships belonging to Port-Glasgow persevered till 1794, though the parties concerned sustained considerable loss. The Newfoundland and Nova Scotia fishery are however prosecuted extensively from the Clyde.
The imports to Port-Glasgow are rum, wine, sugar, coffee, tobacco, cotton, wool, &c. The exports to America and the West Indies are manufactured goods of Glasgow and Paisley; also coals, fish, &c.: to the continent of Europe, besides British manufactures, sugars, coffee, rum, and other West India produce. The coasting trade is carried on to various parts in Ireland, and the west of England. The salmon fisheries on the Clyde are very inconsiderable. The herring fishery has gradually declined at Port-Glasgow, and there are now, we believe, no vessels belonging to that town employed in this trade.
Although commerce forms the most important object of attention at Port-Glasgow, it would be improper not to notice the manufactures of the place, which considering its size are of some importance. The first dry and graving dock in Scotland was erected here by the magistrates of Glasgow about the year 1760. About fifteen years ago, they sold it to the magistrates and town council of Port-Glasgow, who expended in two years L2000 in deepening and improving it. Previous to the American war, all the large vessels belonging to the Clyde were built in that colony; but since that period ship building has been carried on to great extent at Greenock and Port-Glasgow. There are now two ship-building yards in which large vessels are constructed. The largest of these belongs to Messrs. John Wood & Company, who have been long famous for the elegant fast-sailing and substantial vessels they have launched into the Clyde. They built for Mr. Henry Bell, the first steam boat which was brought into effective practice in Europe; and Mr. Charles Wood of that company was constructor of those enormous vessels,the Columbus and Baron of Renfrew, which were intended as rats to bring home timber from Canada. For upwards of eighty years there have been extensive works here for the manufacture of ropes, and sail cloth. The establishment of the Gourock rope-work Coy, for this manufacture is very large. Ropes and cables of the largest dimensions are made by them. Altogether they employ 174 persons, in the various departments of the work. The rope walk is covered by a shed to the extent of 1200 feet. In addition to the manufacture of ropes and sail cloth, there has been added a large flax mill driven by a steam engine of thirty-two horse power for spinning yarn for canvass. In the year ending August 1811 there were manufactured at this establishment
|Cordage to the amount of about||£22,000.|
|Sail cloth from rough flax,||£20,000.|
|Tow-yarn, sent to Dundee,||£ 1,100.|
There are four large sugar houses at Port-Glasgow, but only two of them are at present in use. In one of these the boiling is conducted on the new steam principle. It is one of the largest in Scotland, employing from forty to fifty men, and is the property of Messrs. James Fairie and Coy. In the other work belonging to Messrs. James McLean & Coy, the boiling is conducted on the old plan, though with some improvements. It would be rather difficult to enumerate all the different branches of manufacture carried on here, and probably impossible to ascertain their extent. It may therefore be sufficient to observe that there are forges for making anchors of the largest size, establishments for cooperage, the making of soap and candles, and for tanning or preparing leather. Copper smiths, sail makers, block makers, joiners, painters; and various other branches of business connected with shipping. There is besides a brewery but it is at present unoccupied. A manufacturing company belonging to Glasgow, some little time ago, attempted to carry on a weaving factory in one of the unoccupied sugar houses. This might have proved useful particularly in employing the younger part of the population; but it did not succeed, probably owing to the maritime propensities of the people.
The revenues of the town arise from a tax of five per cent on the rents of property within the burgh, from the impost on ale and beer, dock dues, anchorage, market dues, church seats, and rent of property belonging to the community. The revenue from the graving dock, purchased from the magistrates of Glasgow, although the original rates have never been raised, amounted in 1812 to upwards of L500. The erection of the town house, and other undertakings, have caused some debt to be incurred, but this is yearly diminishing.
Port-Glasgow has several benefit and charitable societies. The Clyde society was formed in 1799 by merchants and masters of ships for the support of reduced members, their widows and children. Each member pays L11 at entry, and L1 yearly thereafter. The society is prosperous and has a fund of upward of L6000. The female benevolent society, which was instituted in 1812, distributes about L200 sterling annually; the old man’s friend society, about L60 sterling. A provident bank for receiving small deposites was opened in 1825, and is considered as being beneficial to the working classes. It is guaranteed by the town; and is under the management of the magistrates, and a committee of gentlemen belonging to the town. No public assessment for the poor is made; but they are not therefore neglected. The supply is obtained by the collections at the kirk door; and the interest of money which has been accumulated by the session. In 1808 the poor’s roll consisted of 106 weekly pensioners, and the sum distributed was about L346. There is now distributed nearly L500 to the poor yearly.
Education is well provided for in Port-Glasgow. There are three parish schools, besides several private ones in the town. The teachers of the parish schools have each a salary of L20 sterling, besides the fees charged, and a school room free of rent. These schools are well attended, particularly that which was taught by Mr. William Thomson, who has, however, retired owing to bad health. He was a good teacher, and few if any have sent forth scholars more eminent for taste in penmanship or knowledge in arithmetic. The branches taught are, 1st, Writing, Arithmetic, Geography and Mathematics; 2d, English reading and Grammar; 3d, Latin and Greek. There is also a free school in which about 200 pupils receive education. It was instituted in 1815, through the benevolence of Mr. David Beaton, tanner in Port-Glasgow. In 1806 he erected the school house which cost about L800, at his own expense; and it was supported during his life by subscription. At his death he left L1500 as an endowment for the school; which is managed by a committee of nine individuals. the teacher has L60 sterling yearly salary, with a free house and school room. The greater potion of the children are educated gratis, but a few whose parents can afford it, pay a small fee.
The public buildings of Port-Glasgow are not numerous; as the town though neat is but small. The town house, however, which contains a news-room and public offices, and to which the gaol is attached, is an exceedingly handsome building, ornamented by an elegant spire. It was erected about fourteen years ago, at an expense of L14,000 sterling. The new custom house built by government on the site of the old, is a fine building, and contains ample accommodation for business; it cost about L3000. The churches which form the only other public buildings, have been already mentioned. A large well conducted inn, which ornaments with its handsome exterior, one of the principal streets, affords comfortable accommodation for travelers.
The Newsroom in the public buildings is supplied with London and provincial newspapers. The subscription is L1. 6s. yearly; and as is the liberal practice in Glasgow, strangers are admitted without payment or introduction. Those, however, residing three months in town and visiting the room, are expected to subscribe. There is also a well selected public library containing several thousand volumes. It was instituted in 1798, and is under the management of a committee of subscribers. the terms are a payment of L1. 6s. at entry, and 6s. 6d. annually. For the accommodation of merchants, the Renfrewshire, and Greenock banks have branches at Port-Glasgow. Messrs. A. Steven and Sons are agents for the Renfrewshire, and Messrs. Alexander McLachlan and Company for the Greenock banks.
Port-Glasgow is well supplied with excellent spring water, from the hills at the back of the town. Two reservoirs have been constructed one at each end of the town, in which the water is collected, and whence it is distributed through leaden pipes to wells in various parts of the different streets. Semple, who, in 1782, wrote a continuation of Crawford’s history of Renfrewshire, gives a pompous account of the mode of supplying the town with water in his day. “About ten years ago,” he says “the water was conveyed from an excellent spring about half a mile to the southward, by wooden pipes to the said town; when about three or four years ago the town got an act of parliament for several privileges abstract from the city of Glasgow; when afterwards they got the leaden pipes in place of the wooden ones, and built a large reservoir ten feet two inches deep, and between seventeen and eighteen feet diameter, holding between seventy-four and seventy-five tons of water, being confined under lock and key, with a fine canopy above, and a passage round, secured by a wooden parapet, the ballustrade contains thirty-four wooden ballusters at nineteen and a half inches asunder. there is deposited within said house, a crystal glass for strangers to drink with.”
The gardens in the immediate neighbourhood of Port-Glasgow, are famous for the excellence of the small fruit, – gooseberries, and strawberries, which they produce. The plums, pears, and apples are also fine. Port-Glasgow, and Greenock are not only supplied with these different fruits, but considerable quantities are sent to the Glasgow market. The rents paid for such garden grounds, though only stocked with these fruits, were in 1812 from L20 to L25 per acre, L40 yearly of rent per acre has sometimes been obtained. In the upper portion of Clydesdale, orchards have long been extensive and valuable; but in Renfrewshire, there are none except on a few steep banks of small extent in the neighbourhood of Port-Glasgow. The experiments which have been made there show that the soil, climate, and exposure are all favourable for orchards; as the facts stated with regard to the gardens prove they are favourable also to small fruit.
A short way east of the town,and upon the coast stands the ancient castle of Newark, anciently the principal messuage of the old and opulent barony of Finlayston-Maxwell. These lands originally belonged to the powerful family off Denyelstoun, lords also of the barony of Denyelstoun upon the water of Grife. The origin of this family or when they obtained lands in Renfrewshire is uncertain; but it must have been at a very early period. It would appear that these lands had acquired their appellation from the name of one of the first proprietors; for Crawford3 says he had seen the original charter of the barony of Houston in the time of Malcolm IV, in which the lands are described as bounded by the lands of Danziel. From this Danziel, they were called Danzielston or Denyelstoun; and from the name of the lands, the family evidently afterwards adopted the surname of Denyelstoun or Denneiston. This family, possessed of extensive properties in Renfrewshire, Lanarkshire, and Dumfriesshire, appears to have flourished until the beginning of the fifteenth century, when the estates passed into different families by marriage with the female heirs of the last proprietor of the name. By marriage with Margaret, daughter of Sir Robert de Denzelstoun, Sir Robert Cunningham of Kilmaurs obtained the baronies of Denyelstown, and Finlaystown, in Renfrewshire, Kilmaronock in Dumbartonshire, and Glencairn in Dumfriesshire; and by marriage with Elizabeth, the second daughter, Sir Robert Maxwell of Calderwood, a son of the family of Nether Pollock, acquired the lands of Kilcadyow, Stanelie, Finlayston-Maxwell, &c. The family of Dennieston of Colgrain, in Dumbartonshire, nearly opposite to Port-Glasgow are understood to be the heirs male of this ancient, and once powerful family.
Sir Robert Maxwell having thus acquired a portion of the great estates of the family of Dennielston probably fixed his residence at the castle of Newark; at any rate it is certain it was the principal residence of his descendants. With them it continued till about the beginning of last century, when the Castle and Barony of Newark were sold by George Maxwell then proprietor to William Cochran of Kilmaronock, descended from the family of Dundonald. It afterwards became the property of James Hamilton of Rosehaugh, and from him it has come through the Hamiltons of Wishaw by succession to the present proprietor Lord Belhaven.
The Maxwells during the period of their residence at Newark castle, entered very deeply into the great feud, which subsisted, and was carried to so great a height between the Cunninghames and the Montgomeries for upwards of one hundred years during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. They appear to have uniformly acted on the side of the Cunninghames. After the murder of Hugh the young earl of Eglinton in 1586, the Montgomeries in the spirit of the times, took a dreadful revenge. In the heat of their resentment they flew to arms, and rallying round their chief, the earl’s brother, they put to death every man, who bore the doomed name of Cunninghame, whom they could find – whether armed on the bent, or sitting peacefully by his own hearth. Sir Robert Montgomerie of Skelmorlie, killed at Paisley, Maxwell of Stanelie “zibman” to the laird of Newark; and shot Cunninghame of Montgrennan, brother to the earl of Glencairn, while standing at his own gate. In revenge of these deeds, Patrick Maxwell of Newark slew both Skelmorlie and his son on one day. These murders again brought on the laird of Newark and his house, the vengeance of Lord Semple, then a powerful nobleman with whom Montgomerie of Skelmorlie had been engaged in a bond of manrent and mutual defence. It is not our intention, however, at present to prosecute the history of these shocking feuds, in which mutual murders were ever being committed; and inroads made into each other’s territories in which not only houses and offices were burned, but even the very corn fields laid waste and destroyed.
The original erection of Newark Castle cannot now be traced, nor is it known whether there was previously any other where the present is situated. But to judge from the appearance of the present, it is not of very remote antiquity; probably not older than the time of the Maxwells acquiring the barony, by several of whom it appears to have been greatly re-edified. It is a lofty square building, having turrets at the corners, and shows the splendour in which the family lived who possessed the lands. Over the principal gateway are the words, “the blessing of God be herein, 1597;” and on one of the corners is the date “1599.” Above some of the windows are the letters, P. M., the initials of Sir Patrick Maxwell one of the proprietors. It was surrounded by a wall which enclosed a considerable space of ground; at one of the corners of the wall next the sea, there is a small tower still standing.
One of the ingenious correspondents of the old Scots Magazine,4 having got it into his head that this castle had at one period been possessed by a family of the name of Leslie, very gravely discusses the history of this family. This, however, is an ignorant error. No family of that name ever possessed this castle. The castle of Newark in Fife was the residence of a family of Leslies; and this it is which has confused the topographist of the Scots Magazine. Before leaving this fine old castle, which yet might easily be repaired, and made a pleasant and most picturesque residence, we cannot but express our regret at the state of dilapidation and disrepair in which its present noble proprietor allows it to remain; and still more at the degrading and ignoble uses to which portions of it are appropriated.
Chalmers in his Caledonia,5 mentions that in the vicinity of the bay of Newark, there was in former times a chapel, which was subordinate to the parish church of Kilmacolm; and that the patronage belonged to the proprietors of the barony and castle of Newark. A correspondent,6 whose opinion we respect, thinks the chapel was within the castle of Newark. “I have seen,” he says, “a part of the venerable castle, which was pointed out to me, as the chapel used anciently by the laird’s family, and probably by the inhabitants of the whole barony.” There is considerable probability in his supposition, that this may have been the chapel alluded to by Chalmers, as being dependent on the parish church, but of which the lairds of Newark enjoyed the patronage.