Thursday, 6 May 2021

Greenock Cemetery Gates

These gates mark the South Street entrance to Greenock Cemetery.  They are B Listed and were designed by architect Charles Wilson of Glasgow and made by McCulloch & Co, Ironfounders, Glasgow. 

The Cemetery was opened in 1846 and was laid out to a plan by Stewart Murray who was the curator of Glasgow's Botanic Gardens.

You can read more about Greenock Cemetery and some of those buried there by downloading this booklet from the Inverclyde Council website here.

Inverclyde Heritage Network - new website

Anyone interested in the history and heritage of Inverclyde should check out Inverclyde Heritage Network's new website (click on link).

Detail from Port Glasgow mural

It contains lots of information about Greenock, Port Glasgow, Gourock and surrounding villages.  There are some great photographs of the area then and now.

This is a great site and a wonderful resource for anyone interested in Inverclyde's heritage.

Sunday, 2 May 2021

The Greenock duel

In February of 1751 a duel took place in Greenock.  It created quite a stir locally and beyond as it resulted in the death of one of the protagonists.

According to newspaper accounts, the duel took place between Lieutenant Legge of Colonel Rich's Regiment and John Russell, Overseer of Works of the Office of Ordnance of North Britain.  In another report of the affair, Russell is described as Engineer in the Train of Artillery.  Russell was
killed and Legge handed himself in the the local magistrates, only to abscond thereafter.

I was intrigued by these events and surprised to discover a letter published in the local paper dated March 1881 from Henry Erskine, a local merchant giving more details of the affair.  Erskine claimed that Russell had been a relative of his father and he had heard a little more of the story.

From Erskine's account it appears that John Russell was a Captain in the Royal Artillery and was on sick leave at his parents' home in Port Glasgow.  All naval and military officers locally were invited to a grand Assembly (a dance) to be held in the Star Hall in Broad Close.  

Of course, seeking distraction, he attended and asked a young lady to dance.  At this point he was "accosted in a rude and boisterous manner" by a naval officer who told him that the lady was engaged to dance with him.  Russell said that they should leave it to the young lady to decide who she wanted to dance with - she choose Russell.  At the end of the dance, Russell received a note from Legge challenging him to a duel.  However in his account, Erskine states that it was a Captain Burke who was the challenger and that Lieutenant Legge was his second.

The duel took place in the "Rue End wood" -  slightly west of  Virginia Street (north of  Rue End Street).  (Find it on a map here leading off from the East Harbour .)  According to newspaper reports Lieutenant Legge handed himself in to the local authorities, but later made his escape.  Obviously being in a port with ships leaving for all parts of the world that would have been quite an easy thing to do.  Nothing more was heard of him.  Captain Russell's body was transported to the home of his parents in Port Glasgow.  

I just wonder about the young woman at the centre of this unfortunate affair.  She could never have known that her choice of dance partner would lead to his untimely death.  

Wednesday, 28 April 2021

James Stewart, Merchant Greenock & Newfoundland

This interesting grave stone marks the final resting place of James Stewart and his family.  It can be found in the Duncan Street Cemetery in Greenock.

The inscription on the stone reads -
Sacred to the memory of James Stewart Esquire of Clydebank Merchant
Chief Magistrate of Greenock 10 November 1837
Born 13 November 1785 - Died 11 November 1837
also to the memory of Joanna Shaw his widow
Born 22 December 1793 - Died 27 November 1848
And of their children William Stewart
Born 31 January 1830 - Died 27 October 1838
Joanna Stewart 
Born 10 May 1833 - Died 10 November 1839
John Stewart#
Born 22 July 1834 - Died 9 April 1842

James Stewart (1785-1837) was a merchant in Greenock and Newfoundland.  He and his brother William formed  J & W Stewart - a successful import/export business trading with Newfoundland.  They owned many ships which were involved in this trade.

In 1825 James Stewart married Joanna Shaw in Greenock.  They had several children but as the gravestone shows three died in infancy.  The family lived at Clydebank House on the Low Gourock Road (now the Esplanade).  James Stewart was a senior magistrate in Greenock and at the time of his death was Provost elect for the town.  Two sons survived him – James Stewart and Daniel Shaw Stewart. 

The other partner in the business (J & W Stewart) was James’ brother William Stewart (1792-1875) who also had a house (Seafield) on the Low Gourock Road (Esplanade).  William married Eliza Paton in Greenock in 1832.  They had no children.  As well as his business interests, William was also interested in buying property.  He had numerous properties in Greenock as well as Blackhouse Estate and St Fillans House (St Philans) both near Largs.  On his death, he left the bulk of his estate to his nephews.

James Stewart of Garvocks and Blackhouse, MP for Greenock

James Stewart’s sons followed very different paths -  His elder son, James Stewart (1823-1898) of Greenock took over his father’s interest in the business of J & W Stewart.  In 1855 he married Margaret Parker Darroch (1831-1859) daughter of Duncan Darroch of Gourock and his wife Susan Parker.  They had two daughters – Susan Caroline Stewart (1858-1955)  and Margaret Parker Darroch Stewart (1859-1928).  His first wife Margaret died in 1859.

In 1868 James married Margaret Sandilands Stirling, daughter of William Stirling and his second wife Olivia Salmond.  William Stirling was West Indies merchant and a partner in the firm of Stirling Gordon & Co.  The Stirling family lived at Kenmure House, Glasgow .  James and Margaret had several children.

James Stewart took an active interest in the affairs of the town and was Chairman of the Greenock Industrial School and a member of the Greenock Harbour Trust.  He was instrumental in forming the local Volunteers and became a Major.  In 1878 he was elected Member of Parliament for Greenock (Liberal) but retired from political life in 1884 (He does not seem to have been very activive politically).  He purchased the estates of Routenburn and Quarter near Largs and the Garvocks Eastate at Loch Thom.  By the 1891 census he had retired to the Blackhouse Estate near Largs.  He died at Edinburgh in 1898.

The younger son of James Stewart (senior) - Daniel Shaw Stewart (1833-1892) did not go into the family business.  He became a Captain in the 11th Hussars and married (1858) Anna Dowson Earle (1838-1919), daughter of Joseph Earle (1803-1860) and his wife Anna Sim.  Joseph Earle was a timber merchant who lived with his family at Kensington Palace Gardens in London.  Daniel later moved with his family to West Park, St Andrews where he died in 1892.

Sunday, 25 April 2021

Former St Andrew's Free Church, Greenock

Now a furniture warehouse (Pypers Superstore), this lovely building was constructed in 1835/36 as St Andrew's Church, West Stewart Street, Greenock.  The building was paid for by subscription and a grant from the Church of Scotland.  

(You can see in this photograph where there was once a small steeple.)

After the 1843 Disruption in the Church of Scotland (when many ministers left the Established Church of Scotland to form the more evangelical Free Church) the congregation followed the example of their minister, the Rev John James Bonar (1803-1891) who left the Established Church of Scotland.  The congregation acquired the building and set themselves up as St Andrew's Free Church.  John James Bonar was a very popular minister with an active congregation which counted among its number many influential townsmen.

In 1879 the congregation were made an offer they couldn't refuse!  A local businessman - Robert MacSymon, grocer, offered a large sum of money for the church premises.  Being situated just off West Blackhall Street, it was the ideal site for his new commercial warehouse.

The congregation took the money and decided they would  raise funds to build a new church in Greenock's west end.  A site at the corner of Margaret Street and Ardgowan Street was acquired and a new church was built.  While construction was underway, the congregation worshipped in a hall in Nelson Street.  Their new church was opened in May 1881.  Rev J J Bonar and his brothers Andrew (Glasgow) and Horatius (Edinburgh) who were also ministers, preached at the opening service.  

St Andrew's Church in Margaret Street designed by  David Barclay was demolished in the 1970s.  You can see photographs of the Church here on the Inverclyde Heritage Hub's Facebook page.

Meanwhile, back in July 1880 after extensive alterations, Robert MacSymon opened his New Italian Warehouse in the former church in West Stewart Street.  It was fitted out with all the latest shop fittings.  There was even a waiting room for ladies!  One section of the shop was devoted to the sale of teas, coffees, sugars and spices with tea cutter, coffee grinder.  Other groceries were also sold.  The building was decorated in magnificent style as this article from the Greenock Telegraph shows -

The building also incorporated offices and had its own stables for the horses and delivery carts.  Stores could be moved to and from the shop by a hydraulic hoist.  Sounds like a remarkable place!  Throughout the years this lovely building has been through lots of changes of use.  At one time it was used as a music hall.  I'm sure many of us are just grateful that it still exists.

Joining with InSPIREd Sunday.

Sunday, 4 April 2021

St Patrick's Church, Greenock

This is the beautiful St Patrick's Church, Orangefield, Greenock.

Designed by Gillespie Kidd & Coia it was completed in 1935.

The striking stone sculpture of Christ is by Scottish sculptor Archibald Dawson.

There are some fabulous aerial views of the church as well as some photographs of the interior on the Canmore site here.

Joining with InSPIREd Sunday.

Saturday, 3 April 2021

River traffic

It was a perfect day in Greenock yesterday.  On my walk along the Esplanade I got some photographs of the survey vessel Fugro Frontier.

The views across the River Clyde were spectacular.

Fabulous day for a walk.

Sunday, 28 March 2021

Nelson Street EU Church - demolished

There's something very poignant about the destruction of a church.

The former Nelson Street Congregational Church in Greenock has just recently been demolished.  It lay derelict for a number of years - I blogged about it here.

The building opened as the Nelson Street Evangelical Union Church in June 1865.  It's architect was Thomas McClelland who worked in Greenock.  It was described as being in the early English Gothic style and had accommodation for 700 worshippers.  The first minister was Rev Alexander Davidson.  The congregation had previously worshipped in their chapel at Sir Michael Street, but had outgrown the premises, sold it and raised the money for a new church.

Contractors involved in the construction of the church in 1865 were Purdie & McWhirter (masons), Crawford & Fulton of Greenock (joiners), William Swan & Son, Greenock (slaters), Andrew Tannock, Greenock (plasterer), A Shanks & Co (plumbing), McFarlane & Peters of Glasgow (gas fitters), and John McNaught (painter).

Within the church, in the apse behind the pulpit, pride of place was given to a magnificent organ by Connacher & Co of Huddersfield. 

Look at those beautiful doors!  Such a shame that after 150 years, it came to this.  Linking with InSPIREd Sunday.  Come and have a look at some churches from around the world (hopefully still standing!).

Saturday, 27 March 2021

Street of Many Windows

Street of Many Windows is the name of a poem by Herbert Henderson (died 1958)  He was the librarian at the Watt Library in Greenock for over forty years and the poem appears in his book "Greenock Verses and Others" published by James McKelvie & Sons of Greenock in 1930.  Brisbane Street was the street he was referring to - and perhaps this photograph shows why!

The poem unflatteringly describes Brisbane Street -

"You wouldn't call it narrow, you wouldn't call it wide;  A row of great high houses runs along on either side; And the houses are all windows ..."

It is actually a very nice street.  Running from Nelson Street west to Madeira Street, Brisbane Street has a wide range of different types housing - tenements with large bay windows as well as detached houses.  

Brisbane Street was named after Sir Thomas Makdougall Brisbane (1773-1860) of Largs.  He served in the Peninsular war under Wellington and was knighted in 1815.  He later became Governor of New South Wales.  He was fascinated by astronomy – establishing an observatory at Parramatta in 1821.  He also had an observatory at Brisbane Glen in Largs.  With that interest in astronomy came an interest in navigation and the nautical instruments used to guide ships.  Steps are now being taken to try to save Brisbane's Scottish observatory by the Brisbane Observatory Trust. If you go to their site you can download a very interesting paper on their work.

Perhaps librarian Henderson had a bad experience on Brisbane Street and that's why he wrote his rather awful poem.  Brisbane Street in Greenock is a fine street named after a very interesting man.

Sunday, 31 January 2021

Boys' Brigade Hall, Greenock

Sadly, Greenock's Boys' Brigade Hall is no more!  This interesting little building sat at the corner of Kelly Street and Houston Street in Greenock.  It was demolished at the end of last year when the primary school next door was being refurbished.  Seemingly the ground was needed for extra accommodation for the school.

Latterly the building was used as a pre-5 centre, but I remember it as the BB Hall.  Marching competitions, quizzes, officer training and lots of other events were held here over the years when it was used by Greenock Battalion of the Boys' Brigade.

The Boys' Brigade started in 1883 in Glasgow and Greenock churches were quick to follow, with many local BB Companies starting up in the within the next few years .  Sir William Alexander Smith (1854-1914) from Thurso was the brains behind this youth organisation.  The Boys' Brigade is still going strong today.

Unusual and quirky little building - such a shame it had to be demolished.  Here's how that space looks at the moment -

Tuesday, 12 January 2021

Port Glasgow Rope and Duck Company

 As early as 1736 there was a ropeworks in Port Glasgow, made necessary by the increasing number of ships bringing tobacco and other goods into the port from America and the West Indies.  Ships needed ropes and canvas to keep “ship-shape” for their next voyage, so a ropeworks was not just a necessity but a valuable commercial enterprise.  Glasgow’s Tobacco Lords were quick to see the advantage in such an opportunity and it is hardly surprising to know that a couple of the most successful of these merchants were involved in the setting up of Port Glasgow’s Rope and Duck Company.  Two of the original partners were Lawrence Dinwiddie and Richard Oswald, Glasgow merchants who would later go on to be Lord Provosts of the city and who were formost among the city’s merchant elite.

The first manager of the Company was John Stevenson who corresponded with merchants at home and abroad in connection with the Company’s business.

Lawrence Dinwiddie (1696-1764) had the advantage of having a brother, Robert Dinwiddie who was Governor of Virginia – very handy when dealing in tobacco.  Their father built Germiston House in Glasgow where the family lived.  Lawrence, who was Lord Provost of Glasgow from 1742 till 1744, had a wide variety of business interests.  Like many Glasgow merchants he had his own ships which travelled across the Atlantic bringing tobacco back to the west of Scotland. 

Advertisement from 1742

The Dinwiddie brothers also set up the Delftfield Pottery in Glasgow (off what is now Brown Street) – a business which Greenock’s James Watt would later become a partner, advising on technical aspects of the works.  In fact James Watt lived in Delftfield House after his first marriage to Margaret Miller in 1764.  You can see a picture of the house on the Inverclyde Council website here.  (Decorative and everyday pottery items were in great by British merchants overseas and could be traded, with other household commodities, for tobacco and other produce). 

The Port Glasgow Rope & Duck Company also traded extensively with merchants around the Baltic -sourcing supplies of hemp needed in the making of rope.  Four ships a year travelled between the Clyde and the Baltic.  As usual ships would leave Port Glasgow with cargoes of salted herring (and other goods requested by local merchants).  They would return with hemp, flax and sometimes tar.  Richard Oswald, one of the partners requested that some of the best caviare be sent back to Port Glasgow.

Port Glasgow at this time was at the epicentre of a global trade - the importance of shipbuilding would come later.   We should never underestimate just how important Port Glasgow was in Scotland’s 18th century international trade. 

The Port Glasgow Rope and Duck Company later merged with the Gourock Ropework Company and take their name.

Tuesday, 29 December 2020

The Anchor Inn, Greenock

The Anchor Inn was possibly one of the first ever hotels in Greenock.  It was situated on Shaw Street (east of William Street in what is now Dalrymple Street).  This photograph was taken just before the building was demolished in the late 1870s under an Improvement Scheme.

The photograph is one of a collection of photographs held by the Watt Institution and displayed on the Inverclyde Council website here.  On the  Fine Art Collection website is also a wonderful pencil drawing (1879) of the Anchor Inn by Greenock artist Patrick Downie (1854-1945).  It shows a vibrant street scene and you can view it here.  The Anchor Inn was described as "a building of three square storeys, surmounted by a pediment elaborately executed, having on its apex at least three solid stone urns which were the salient features of the building."  

Greenock's Anchor Inn was situated on Shaw Street across from the East Harbour and was reached by a passage from the East Harbour head.  On its east was East Quay Lane.  These old streets and lanes can be viewed on old street maps of Greenock which you can find online at the National Library of Scotland's website.

It is thought that the Anchor Inn dates from the early 1700s and frequented by travellers by land and sea.  It had a stable for carrier's horses - taking goods from ships in the harbour to places around Scotland.  Stage coaches also stopped there - bringing merchants and travellers to the town.  The Inn had a large hall for public events and entertainments.  Auctions, property sales, balls, dances, and theatrical events would have been part of the Anchor Inn's function.

However, as Cathcart Street gradually became Greenock's commercial centre and as more modern inns were opened, the Anchor Inn's reputation suffered.  That part of Greenock, once the hub of commerce and trade, became much more crowded and dirty.  The Inn became known as the Anchor Tavern and its complex of buildings became Anchor Inn Close - overcrowded, delapidated and the haunt of the poorer members of society.  It was reported that a family of seven lived in one apartment in the Close and a "wretchedly clothed daugher" of the family was apprehended going from door to door asking for money.  Disease and crime were rife.  By the 1860s, Greenock Town Council were trying to take action to improve the overcrowded areas of the town.  One step was to try and force landlords to introduce sanitary provisions in their properties - without much success. 

In 1870 the Anchor Inn was put up for sale.

By 1879 the buildings had been scheduled for demolition by the town council.  Under the Improvement Trust, the worst areas of the town were selected - The Vennel, Dalrymple Street, the Bell Entry, the Dock Entry, anchor Inn Close and some other areas.  

As can be seen from the photograph at the top of this post, demolition of the area was well under way when the photograph was taken.  The stone urns on the pediment of the building were purchased by C D Lamont and presented to Colonel John Stewart to decorate his garden.  

For more old photographs of Greenock check out the Inverclyde Council Website Collections Online page.