Ordnance Survey large scale Scottish town plans, 1847-1895
GREENOCK (surveyed in
is a large industrial town in north-west Renfrewshire, on the south side of the
River Clyde, located about 23 miles west of Glasgow. The name of Greenock
translates from Scottish Gaelic into English as 'sunny and hilly place'. For
the first syllable in the Scottish Gaelic word Grian-aig means 'sunny', while the aig syllable translates as 'hilly place' or 'hillock'.
starting off as a fishing village, the town evolved into a major port for the herring
trade, before becoming a major centre for shipbuilding, heavy engineering and a
major leaving point for Scottish emigrants, during the nineteenth century.
Greenock's most famous son is probably the inventor and engineer, James Watt,
who invented the steam engine during the late eighteenth century.
population of the burgh of Greenock was recorded in the 1831 census as 27,571,
increasing to 36,689 by 1851, with 1,714 houses. This unequal ratio between the
town's population and number of houses illustrates why Greenock had such a bad
reputation for slum housing, poor health and unsanitary conditions during the
Trade and Industry
In his Imperial Gazetteer of Scotland of 1857,
Wilson observes that 'The manufactures of Greenock are various and extensive.'
At the time this survey was carried out, shipbuilding was the staple industry
in the town, having started just after the end of the American War of
Independence in 1776. To complement the town's shipbuilding, Greenock also boasted
two sail-cloth factories, five roperies, five sail-making establishments and
two workshops where anchors and chain-cables were manufactured. Ironworking was
another major industry in the town, with six iron-works located in the town in
1857, as well as a number of foundries. Greenock was also the Scottish capital
for sugar refining, with 11 sugar refineries existing in the town in 1857.
As Greenock possessed
the waterpower that was required to power machinery, the town also housed a
large cotton mill, two woollen factories, a flax mill, a paper mill, six grain
mills, four saw mills, three dyewood mills and five tanneries. In addition to a
chemical works, Greenock also boasted a distillery and three breweries. This
image of industrial diversity is completed by two soap and candle works, a
large cooper works, handicrafts and a biscuit factory.
Academy was established in 1855, when a new school building was built just to
the west of Nelson Street. However, Wilson (1857) claims that the scholarly
tradition for the setting up of this school dates back to the middle of the
eighteenth century. The Highlanders' Academy was founded in 1836, and is
located in the south-west part of the town. In addition to the town's religious
and private schools, there also existed a ragged school (i.e. a school for
impoverished children), a seamen's children's school and a charity school and a
school of industry.
Culture and Society
(1857) writes that 'For a long time the inhabitants of Greenock were almost
exclusively devoted to commerce, and gave little countenance to literature or
science.' However, he notes that culture is now thriving in the town, as
highlighted by the establishment of a large library in 1783, housed in a
building built by James Watt. Another library was founded in 1832, this one
belonging to the town's Mechanics' Institute.
the mid-point of the nineteenth century, the town also boasted a number of
other societal bodies, including a Watt club, a philharmonic society, a medical
and chirurgical association, a horticultural body, an agricultural society, a
society for promoting Christian knowledge and two arts societies. The town also
boasted two newspapers, the Greenock
Advertiser (founded in 1802) and the Greenock
Herald, which were published twice a week.
Francis H. (ed.), 1894-5. The Ordnance
Gazetteer of Scotland; a survey of Scottish topography, statistical,
biographical, and historical, 2nd ed., (London: William Mackenzie)
George, 2000. Scottish Place Names
(New Lanark: Lomond)
Robert, 2001. The Making of Scotland: a
comprehensive guide to the growth of its cities, towns and villages (Edinburgh:
Rev. John Marius (ed.), 1857. The
Imperial Gazetteer of Scotland or Dictionary of Scottish Topography (Edinburgh:
A. Fullarton & Co.)
Website – Online Statistical Accounts of Scotland - http://edina.ac.uk/statacc/