Govan, pp.698-701.

[Gazetteer of Scotland Contents]

   GOVAN, a parish principally in the lower ward of Lanarkshire, with a small section in Renfrewshire; bounded by New-Kilpatrick, Barony, and Glasgow on the north; Barony, Gorbals proper, and Rutherglen on the east; Cathcart, Eastwood, and the Abbey parish of Paisley on the south; and by Renfrew on the west. It is about 6 miles in length, and 3 at its greatest breadth, near the centre; and contains about 10 square miles. It is somewhat unusual for a parish to be situated in two counties, and Hamilton of Wishaw affirms that part of these lands were disjoined from the sheriffdom of Lanark, and annexed to the sheriffdom of Renfrew, for the convenience of Sir George Maxwell, who died in 1677; but this statement is not fully borne out by the documents of that time relating to the parish, which are still in existence. In other respects Govan is a somewhat irregularly constructed parish, from lying on both banks of the Clyde; the larger section stretches along the south side of the river, and the smaller along the north, to the west of the classic streamlet of Kelvin. That portion lying on the south bank of the Clyde used to be termed, of old, the township or territory of Govan; and the part lying on the north of the river was designated the township or territory of Partick, or, according to the orthography of ancient charters, Perdyc, Perdehic, or Perthec. Quoad civilia Govan contains not only a landward district, but a large portion of the population, and the manufacturing and other establishments of the southern suburb of Glasgow; but as these have long since been disjoined quoad sacra by the presbytery, this portion is generally known and spoken of as the barony and parish of the Gorbals of Glasgow: see articles GLASGOW and Gorbals. Divested of this section the parish is a landward one. It may be mentioned as a circumstance somewhat remarkable, that on the northern boundary of the parish the counties of Dumbarton, Lanark, and Renfrew, and the parishes of New Kilpatrick, Govan, and Renfrew, all meet in one point. The land of the parish is entirely arable. The average rental of the land is about £4 per acre, and its produce consists of potatoes, turnips, wheat, hay, oats, and grass for pasture. It is worthy of remark, that upon the farm of White Inch in this parish, the greater part of the earth, mud, and gravel, which is cut away from the banks in widening the Clyde or lifted by the dredging-machine, has been deposited. In one year soil to the extent of nearly 150,000 cubic yards has been laid down, by the consent of the proprietor, Mr. Smith of Jordanhill, and at immense expense to the Clyde trustees. The superficial extent of the farm is about 70 acres, and the average height, to which the ground has been raised by these deposits is 10 feet; in some places it has been elevated about 15 feet. At the commencement of these operations it was considered by many that they would prove utterly ruinous to the farm; but the consequence has been nearly to double the value of the farm, by the judicious mixture of the earth which has been laid down. Within the last half-century the salmon-fishings in the Clyde, belonging to the heritors of Govan, used to be valuable, and they have even been let for so much as £330 annually; but the mass of foreign and pernicious matter which is now held in solution by the river, the refuse of the manufactories along its banks, and the everlasting stirring and turmoil of its waters from the revolution of steam-boat paddles, has of late years sadly deteriorated the value of the Govan fisheries, having reduced the rental to £60 per annum, and the wonder is that salmon can exist in it at all. Fertile as the superficies of Govan may be, however, the great source of its wealth is its mineral treasures, not only from their own actual value, but as providing the means of aggrandizing the commercial and manufacturing population. The coal at the Govan collieries has been worked from a very remote period, and forms pan of the celebrated ‘Glasgow field,’ to which the city is so much indebted for its wealth and population. This coal is of the best quality; and in some parts of the parish it is so abundant that, within 50 fathoms of the surface, no fewer than 16 separate beds have been found, the thickness of which varies from 4 inches to 2 feet. In addition to these there are valuable seams of black-band (that which is mixed with coal) and clay-band ironstone, the former varying from 10 to 15 inches in thickness, and the latter from 6 to 12 inches. Although the estimated value of the land in the parish is not more than £5,000 Scots, it has been calculated upon pretty sure data that the actual value of its agricultural produce and minerals is more than £90,000 sterling per annum. Manufactures are carried on to a very considerable extent in the parish, and in addition to the power-loom, cotton, and silk factories of Hutcheson-town and Tradestown, with the carpet-manufactory at Port Eglinton, all of which are embraced in the quoad sacra division of Gorbals, there are also public works of considerable importance in the landward parts of the parish, viz., at the villages of Govan and Partick. At the former there is an extensive dye-work, and also a factory for throwing silk, which was the first of its kind in Scotland, and was erected in 1824.1 In 1828 a power-loom factory was established at Partick, and here are situated, besides, a printfield, a work for bleaching cotton-fabrics, and the celebrated Partick wheat and flour-mills, which, situated upon the banks of the Kelvin, have been in existence from time immemorial, and were granted by the Regent Murray, after the battle of Langside, to the bakers’ corporation of Glasgow. Ship-building yards are also situated upon the Clyde at the mouth of the Kelvin. The most important establishment in the parish is, however, the iron-works of Mr. William Dickson, situated at Govan-hill, in the south-eastern suburbs of Gorbals. Here there are hot-blast furnaces erected, and in the course of erection, which are intended to produce the average quantity of 4,000 tons of pig-iron annually; and in the neighbourhood of these furnaces the enterprising proprietor is constructing a bar-iron manufactory with 42 puddling furnaces; and it is computed that these, if fully-worked, will turn out 400 tons of bar-iron weekly. As the works in Govan, however, are almost entirely kept moving by Glasgow capital, and fall properly to be classed along with the manufactures of that city, it is not necessary here to enter into any further or more lengthened details regarding them. From its proximity to the western capital, Govan, of course, enjoys every advantage in the shape of ready and easy communication; and in the villages of Govan and Partick, there are regular post-office establishments, by which letters are transmitted to and from Glasgow twice a-day. Four great turnpike-roads traverse the parish. One leads from Glasgow to Paisley; a second from Glasgow to Kilmarnock and Ayr; a third parallel with, and on the south bank of the Clyde, leads through Renfrew to Port-Glasgow; and the fourth, also parallel with, but on the north bank of the river, forms the carriage-road to Dumbarton and the West Highlands. The Glasgow, Paisley, and Johnstone canal also passes through the southern division of the parish; and the branch of the Forth and Clyde canal, which joins the Clyde at Bowling bay, skirts for a short distance its northern boundary. In addition to these the great joint branch to Paisley of the Glasgow and Greenock, and the Glasgow, Paisley, Kilmarnock, and Ayr railways, passes through the parish for nearly 3 miles. This portion of the line was opened in July, 1840. The north and south divisions of the parish are connected at the village of Govan by a commodious horse and carriage ferry-boat, and here also the river-steamers land and receive passengers. It is impossible to conceive a rural district which contains so many of the elements of busy life as the parish of Govan. Morning, noon, and night, the river, which divides it, is traversed by steam-vessels of every size, and by sailing vessels bound to and from the most distant parts of the earth’s confines. From the river the view of the country is peculiarly picturesque and pleasing; the banks exhibit every variety of landscape, – beautifully cultivated fields, and thriving belts of plantation, sprinkled with the handsome villas of the Glasgow citizens, – while the rural village of Govan, with the Stratford-upon-Avon like steeple of its parish-church, bursts upon the gaze with a truly panoramic effect. Nowhere has the hand of improvement been more decidedly apparent than upon this portion of the Clyde. In some old legal instruments in the Glasgow chartulary, there are mentioned, “The islands between Govan and Partick;” but these have long since ceased to be. Even so late as 1770, the depth of the river at the mouth of the Kelvin, as surveyed by the celebrated James Watt, was only 3 feet 8 inches at high-water, and 1 foot 6 inches at low water; and in the present day it is amusing to read the complaint of Patrick Bryce, tacksman of the Gorbals ‘coal-heugh,’ who, in 1660, represented to the magistrates of Glasgow that he could not get his coals loaded at the Broomielaw from a scarcity of water, and that he had been necessitated on this account to crave license to lead them through the lands of Sir George Maxwell of Nether Pollok, for the purpose of loading them “neare to Meikle Govane.” Up till 1770, indeed, this portion of the Clyde could with difficulty be navigated by vessels of more than 30 tons burthen; now the depth of water is from 16 to 17 feet, and foreign merchant-men of 600 tons burthen sail along it from the sea to the harbour of the Broomielaw. 

   The population of the parish of Govan, exclusive of the portion annexed to Gorbals, was, in 1801, 3,038; in 1811, 3,542; in 1821, 4,325; in 1831, 5,677; and in 1836, 6,281. The population of the village of Govan, in 1836, was 2,122. Houses, in 1831, 838. Assessed property £14,086. 

   This parish is in the presbytery of Glasgow, and synod of Glasgow and Ayr. Patron, the college of Glasgow. Stipend £315 9s. 4d; glebe £24. Unappropriated teinds £763 7s. The parish-church – which is situated close upon the river, and is distant about 3 miles from Glasgow – was built in 1826, from a plan by Mr. Smith of Jordanhill, one of the heritors. It is a chaste Gothic structure, seated for nearly 1,100 persons. The design of the tower and spire, as has been hinted, was taken from the church of Stratford-upon-Avon. The churchyard has a peculiarly romantic appearance, and is fringed with a double row of reverend elms. The manse adjoins the church, and, from recent additions, has been rendered very commodious. There are four churches belonging to the Establishment and connected with this parish, to which quoad sacra districts have been allocated, viz. Partick church, built in 1834, seated for 580 persons; Hutchesontown church, opened in 1839, seated for 1,024 persons; Kingston church, opened in the same year, for 1,000 sitters; and a fourth additional church in connection with the establishment is in course of erection in Warwick-street, Laurieston. Of late years the small village of Strathbungo has been a missionary-station, in which a licentiate of the church of Scotland officiated: a church is now being built there. – There are three dissenting churches in the parish connected with the United Secession, in addition to a school-house, in the parish of Govan, capable of accommodating 100 persons, and in which service has been performed for two or three years. These churches are Nicholson-street church, built in 1814, for 910 sitters; Eglinton-street church, built in 1825, for 1,218 sitters; and Partick church, built in 1824, for 600 sitters. – There are two Relief churches, viz., Hutchesontown church, built in 1800, for 1,624 sitters; and Partick Relief church, built in 1824, for 840 sitters. – There is also a small Roman Catholic chapel in Portugal-street, Gorbals. – The parish-school is situated in the village of Govan, and in addition to the school-fees – which are stated to be very ill-paid – and a school-house and dwelling-house, the emoluments amount to more than £80 annually, made up of the maximum salary of the heritors, in addition to £1 13s. 4d. from Glasgow college; £5 from the trustees as librarian of Thorn’s library; £1 18s. 10d., the interest of 1,000 merks bequeathed by George Hutcheson; and £36, the rent of 10 acres of land, accruing from Abraham Hill’s mortification, for the education of 10 poor children. In addition to the parochial there are a number of other schools in the parish, both in the villages of Govan, Partick, and Strathbungo, where the ordinary branches are taught; but the majority of the children of the more opulent classes are educated in Glasgow. Under grants by David I., confirmed by the bulls of several popes, the whole parish of Govan belonged originally, both in property and superiority, to the Bishop of Glasgow, and was included in the regality of Glasgow. The church of Govan – or Guvan, as it was formerly termed – with the tithes and lands pertaining to it, was constituted a prebend of the Cathedral of Glasgow by John, Bishop of Glasgow, who died about 1147; and continued so till the period of the Reformation. The prebendary drew the emoluments, and paid a curate for serving the cure. The patronage of this prebendal church belonged to the see of Glasgow; but at the Reformation it was assumed by the Crown. In 1577 the parsonage and vicarage of Govan, with all the lands and revenues, were granted by the king, in mortmain, to the college of Glasgow; and by the new erection of the college, at that date, it was ruled that the principal of the university should officiate in the church of Govan every Sabbath. This practice continued from 1577 till 1621, when the principal was absolved from this duty, and a separate minister was appointed for the parish, to whom a stipend was assigned from the tithes, and the patronage was reserved by the university, in which it still remains. For more than a century previous to 1825, the university of Glasgow, by successive renewals from the Crown, enjoyed a beneficial lease of the feu-duties, rents, and revenues, which were paid by the heritors of Govan to the Crown, as coming in the place of the Archbishop; but the lease was discontinued at the time stated. To make up for it so far, however, the Crown granted to the college, in 1826, an annuity of £800 for fourteen years. 

   The first minister of Govan after the Reformation was Andrew Melville, who was at the same time principal of the university; and it is related by his nephew that the Regent Morton offered this “guid benefice, peying four-and-twentie chalder of victuall” to him, on condition that he would not urge upon the government or the church his peculiar views of ecclesiastical polity. For the purpose of winning Melville to his side, the Regent kept the living in the hands of the Crown for nearly two years; and finally granted the temporalities to the college of Glasgow, imposing upon the principal the duty of serving the cure, Morton intending thereby, as Melville’s nephew states, “to demearit Mr. Andro, and cause him relent from dealling against bischopes; but God keepit his awin servant in uprightnes and treuthe in the middis of manie heavie tentations.” The hospital of Polmadie was situated in this parish, near the place which still bears its name. It was a refuge for persons of both sexes, and was endowed with the church and temporalities of Strathblane, along with part of the lands of Little Govan. No trace of the ruins of the hospital now remains. St. Ninian’s hospital, for the reception of persons afflicted with leprosy, was founded by Lady Lochore in the middle of the 14th century, and it is understood that it was situated near the river, between the Main-street of Gorbals and Muirhead-street. Near the centre of the Main-street of Gorbals, on the east side, an old edifice still remains, which from time immemorial has gone by the name of the chapel of St. Ninians. A considerable extent of ground, including that upon which part of the district of Hutchesontown is built, was called St. Ninian’s croft. When the house of Elphinston obtained the lands of Gorbals the revenues of the hospital were misapplied, and the care of the ‘lepers’ afterwards devolved upon the kirk-session of Glasgow. – Hagg’s castle, in this parish, is a very interesting and picturesque ruin. It was built by an ancestor of the house of Maxwell of Pollock, and was, for a long time, the jointure-house that family. It appears to have been a building of considerable strength. It is intimately and painfully associated with the transactions of those iron times when Scotland groaned under a ‘broken covenant and a persecuted kirk.’ In November 1667, the Episcopal authorities of Glasgow having heard that a conventicle had been held in Hagg’s castle, summoned the persons reported to have been present to appear before them on the 20th of the same month. Amongst others, John Logan was arraigned, and he boldly confessed “that he was present at ye said conventickle, and not onlie refused to give his oath to declare who preached, or wer then present, but furder declared he would not be a Judas, as otheris, to delate any that wer ther present.” The name of Logan, with others in the same situation, were given in to the Archbishop, but the punishment which was meted out has not been recorded. Wodrow, in his history, states that, in 1676, Mr. Alexander Jamieson, who had been thrust forth the parish of Govan on account of his refusal to conform to “black prelacy,” “gave the sacrament in the house of the Haggs, within 2 miles of Glasgow, along with another clergyman. Mr. Jamieson did not again drink of the vine till he drank it new in the Father’s kingdom.” It is well known that the family of Pollock suffered severely for their resistance to episcopacy, and for succouring the Covenanters, and allowing them a place of meeting for their conventicles. Sir John Maxwell was fined by the privy-council in 1684, in the sum of £8,000 sterling, and when he refused to pay this tyrannical exaction he was imprisoned for 16 months. See GLASGOW. 

1  The silk factory at Govan is heated in a peculiar manner, and one which has been considered worthy of imitation in other large establishments where adults and children are employed in large congregated numbers for the greater portion of the day. The process is thus described in Leighton’s Historical and Descriptive illustrations of Swan’s Views on the Clyde:- “The factory is heated by steam; and the steam-pipes, instead of being suspended from the ceiling of each flat, are disposed in beds in the ground-floor, within a few inches of the ground. Round the bottom of the ground are perforations in the walls, through which is constantly rushing a current of fresh air, which being heated and rarified by the steam-beds, ascends from them through pipes and holes in the floor, to the upper stories, producing a constant supply of pure and warm air, from the bottom to the top of the factory. The benefit of this is evinced by the total absence of that feeling of suffocation met with in most other factories. The boiler is led with boiling water by means of a subsidiary boiler, which the proprietor has called a Colville, in honour of a young man named Peter Colville, whose suggestion it was. Besides saving fuel, the operation of the steam is thereby more steady, not being damped by the influx of water comparatively cold. The Colville is placed at the side of the large boiler, constituting, for its length, one side of the due, and is thus” kept boiling by that heat which otherwise would be lost in the wall.” 

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