Saturday, 11 May 2013


The area around the Clyde estuary seems to be full of places associated with pioneering and invention.  In the case of Greenock, it could be said that it was the cradle of the Industrial Revolution, since Greenock was the birthplace in 1736 of James Watt, who perfected the steam engine.  Watt's father was in shipbuilding, which in those days was already an important part of the economy, but as is the case elsewhere this activity has since declined.  The British Pathe website has a number of archive videos from Greenock's shipbuilding days.  Those who want to find out more about James Watt and Greenock's past can head to the McLean Art Gallery and MuseumThe Custom House, designed in 1818 by William Burn, is a magnificent building which was captured in a painting by Robert Salmon and which is housed in the McLean Museum.  As well as housing customs offices, there was a customs and excise museum on the premises.  Sadly, as part of a rationalisation exercise on the part of HMRC, and in spite of fierce opposition by staff, unions and local politicians, the building ceased to be used in 2010 and now lies empty.  However, there have since been renewed signs of life on Customhouse Quay, which is home to a new arts centre called the Beacon Arts Centre, with performance spaces and a bistro/bar.  One of Greenock's most prominent landmarks is Victoria Tower, which is 75 metres tall and was completed in 1886.  The tower forms part of the Italianate Municipal Buildings. The Old West Kirk on the Esplanade has fine stained glass by artists including Dante Gabriel Rossetti.  Greenock's wartime contributions included the Clyde Torpedo Factory, which opened in 1910.  Later, during the Second World War, Greenock suffered badly, most notably in May 1941 when the town experienced its own "blitz".  TV buffs may be interested to know that since 2012 Greenock has been the setting for the BBC drama Waterloo Road, with filming taking place at the Greenock Academy.

Map of the area. 

Custom House, Customhouse Quay Greenock. Photo by John Ferguson, via Wikimedia Commons

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