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|Scottish Gaelic: Port Ghlaschu|
|Scots: Port Glesga|
Port Glasgow shown within Inverclyde
|Population||16,617 (2001 census)|
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Post town||PORT GLASGOW|
|Scottish Parliament||Greenock and Inverclyde|
Port Glasgow (Scottish Gaelic: Port Ghlaschu, pronounced [pʰɔrˠʃt̪ˈɣlˠ̪as̪əxu]) is the second largest town in the Inverclyde council area of Scotland. The population according to the 1991 census for Port Glasgow was 19,426 persons and in the 2001 census was 16,617 persons. It is located immediately to the east of Greenock and was previously a burgh in the former county of Renfrew.
The town was originally named Newark but due to ships not being able to make it all the way up the shallow river Clyde it was formed as a port for nearby Glasgow in 1668 and became Port Glasgow in 1775. Port Glasgow was home to dry docks and shipbuilding beginning in 1762.
The town grew from the central area of the present town and thus many of the town's historic buildings are found here. Port Glasgow expanded up the steep hills inland to open fields where areas such as Park Farm, Boglestone, Slaemuir and Devol were founded. This area has subsequently become known as upper Port Glasgow and most of the town's population occupies these areas.
The town is connected to nearby Glasgow by A8 and M8 motorway.
Glasgow Airport located 21 km (13 mi) to the east is the closest airport to Port Glasgow.
The origins of Port Glasgow go back to the construction by Sir George Maxwell between 1450 and 1477 of the "New Werke of Finlastoun", which became Newark Castle. At a good anchorage near the castle, a small fishing hamlet known as Newark formed, like other scattered hamlets along the shores of the River Clyde. After 1589 the village of Greenock formed just under 4 miles (6.4 km) to the west of Newark, and gradually became a market town with growing fishing and sea trade, although it had only a jetty in the bay to unload ships. Since seagoing ships could not go further up the Clyde due to sandbanks, the Glasgow merchants such as the Tobacco Lords wanted harbour access, but got into arguments with Greenock over harbour dues and warehouses. They put a bid in for the Easter Greenock estate for a harbour, but were outbid and the lands became the Barony of Cartsburn. They then negotiated with Sir Patrick Maxwell of Newark Estate, and in 1668 he agreed to lease the City of Glasgow 13 acres (5.3 ha) of land to the west of the castle, for payment of 1,300 merks and an annual feu duty of four merks. Construction of piers and breakwaters enclosing the harbour began promptly, and Newport Glasgow was constituted as a free port.
Trade prospered quickly, and by 1710 Newport Glasgow had the principal Clyde custom house, initially in Customhouse Lane, then after 1754 in a new building constructed on the west quay of the harbour. Through that century the town became known simply as Port Glasgow. Ships, mostly owned by Glasgow merchant ships, imported tobacco, sugar, rum, cotton and mahogany from the Americas, as well as timber, iron and hemp from the Baltic. These goods were then taken by road to Glasgow, as was market garden produce from farms around Port Glasgow. A change began in 1773 when the Lang Dyke was constructed to deepen the upper river, and ships increasingly went upriver straight to Glasgow. In 1830 the custom house collected £243,349 3s 1d in revenue, but after that income from the port declined, while Greenock has by then its own custom house.
After 1693, the grid-iron street layout which still forms much of the town centre today, was laid out.
In 1780 Thomas McGill set up one of the first shipyards in the area, located near to Newark castle. By the 19th century, Port Glasgow had become a centre of shipbuilding. The Comet was built in the town in 1812 and was the first commercial steam vessel in Europe. A replica of the Comet and a plaque commemorating the actual site of construction are situated in Port Glasgow town centre.
Port Glasgow became a burgh in 1833, but around this time, the River Clyde up to Glasgow was deepened and new road and rail links meant that the town was no longer needed much as a port. The shipbuilding industry then took over as the main source of employment and prosperity. Port Glasgow has been responsible for about a quarter of the total tonnage of ships launched on the Clyde, and also dealt in scrapping old ships, most notably the French liner "L'atlantique", the burnt out wreck of which was broken up in the yard of Smith & Houston. However, as with rest of the Inverclyde conurbation, this industry has all but gone and only Ferguson Shipbuilders yard remains in the town today, and is one of the last privately owned shipyards left in Scotland.
Newark Castle stands very close to the shore of the Clyde, and dates to around 1484. It was home to the Maxwell Family, but they no longer lived in the castle after 1694. By 1800 the castle was surrounded by shipyards, but today only Fergusons shipyard survives, standing close to the west of the castle, and an open park area and waterfront walkway have been landscaped to the east.
The castle is now a visitor attraction maintained on behalf of the nation by Historic Scotland.
Adjacent to the castle and its surrounding park, several acres of the Clyde foreshore at Parklea are owned by the National Trust for Scotland. For many years the land has been leased to the local council as playing fields. When the NTS acquired the land it was regarded as protecting the foreshore from the widespread acquisition by shipyards.
Port Glasgow has played host to several successful football clubs including Port Glasgow Athletic F.C. and their sister side Port Glasgow Athletic Juniors F.C., which are both now defunct. Port Glasgow F.C. have been since formed to fill this void. The team recently returned "home" to a new stadium at Parklea, Port Glasgow, following a spell playing their home games in nearby Greenock.
Port Glasgow was a parliamentary burgh as part of the Kilmarnock Burghs constituency from 1832 to 1918, when it was merged into the West Renfrewshire constituency. From 1974 to 1997 it was part of the Greenock and Port Glasgow constituency. It returned to the West Renfrewshire constituency in 1997, before becoming part of the present Inverclyde constituency in 2005. In the Scottish Parliament, Port Glasgow has been part of the West Renfrewshire Holyrood constituency since 1999.
Areas of Port Glasgow
- Mid Auchinleck
- Park Farm
- Robert Street
- Town Centre
From the late 1990s onwards much of Port Glasgow's waterfront has been cleared and derelict industrial buildings removed. The A8 trunk road now runs along the waterfront through much of the town, and landscaping has opened up the site around Newark Castle. The former Gourock Ropework building has been redeveloped as luxury flats, and a retail park has been laid out adjacent to the town centre, with a large Tesco Extra store, B&Q warehouse, Marston's Pub and Restaurant and Costa Coffee occupying the site.
- Monteith 2003, pp. 3–4.
- Smith, R.M. (1921), The History of Greenock, Greenock: Orr, Pollock & Co, pp. 6, 55, 85
- Monteith 2003, p. 3.
- Monteith 2003, pp. 17–19.
- Monteith 2003, p. 5.