A History of Port Glasgow

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Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved]   Text © Copyright February 2013, Thomas Nugent; licensed for re-use under a Creative Commons Licence.
Images also under a similar Creative Commons Licence.


Parks and Open Spaces


NS3174 : Artificial lagoon by the Clyde by Thomas Nugent
During the 20th Century, the former orchard lands to the west of the harbours, all the way to the Greenock boundary were almost entirely given over to shipbuilding. It was impossible to access or even see the shore unless you worked in the yards.

The scene today is entirely different, with very few traces that one of the greatest shipbuilding enterprises in the world once stood there. Where super tankers of up to a quarter of a million tons in weight were constructed in the 1970s, a supermarket now stands.

At least the shore has been opened to the public once more, thanks to an attractive walkway which runs from Anderson Street to the Greenock boundary. The sharp-eyed visitor will see traces of the old slipways and crane rails, especially at low tide.



Former Kingston and Glen Shipyards

NS3174 : Walkway by the Clyde by Thomas Nugent NS3175 : Swingpark by the Clyde by Thomas Nugent NS3175 : Swingpark by the Clyde by Thomas Nugent NS3175 : Footpath by the Clyde by Thomas Nugent

King George V Park (Parklea)

It was a different story to the east of the town where the timber ponds lay. Efforts were made there to preserve the coast from further industrial encroachment. The King George V Park (better known as Parklea) was developed on the site of Parklea Farm in 1939/40 with assistance from the King George V Fund.

The formal entrance to the park was through a low arch under the railway at Glasgow Road opposite Woodhall Terrace. Further access was available via a rough track from Kelburn and via Parklea level crossing which was removed when the line was electrified in the late 1960s.

NS3473 : King George V Playing Fields by Thomas Nugent NS3473 : King George V gate post by Thomas Nugent NS3473 : King George V gate post by Thomas Nugent NS3473 : King George V Playing Fields by Thomas Nugent NS3473 : Lion Plaque by Thomas Nugent NS3473 : Unicorn plaque by Thomas Nugent

NS3573 : Parklea Bowling Club by Thomas Nugent
Parklea Pavilion, home to Parklea Bowling Club, was the main building in King George V Park.

This extensive park followed the flat lands of the raised beach, mostly to the north of the railway line and it consisted of allotment gardens, football pitches, bowling-green, tennis-courts and a putting green with a white picket fence.

Parklea Pavilion still stands today and is home to Parklea Bowling Club. Some Woodhall residents were evacuated here during the war following bomb damage to their houses during the 1941 blitz which resulted in thirty deaths in Woodhall Terrace.



The park was extended in 1950 and its future secured, safe from industrial development, thanks to the benevolence of a former townsman, Norton P. Anderson, a London businessman, who gave a legacy to the National Trust for Scotland to enable them to purchase the land.

The Allotments fell victim, firstly to a rubbish dump in the 1970s and then to the re-aligned A8 dual carriageway which now crosses to the north side of the railway line at Parklea and runs along the coast to Newark Castle.

The putting green and tennis courts are also gone, but the bowling green and thirteen football pitches thrive to this day.

NS3573 : Parklea bowling club by william craig NS3674 : Parklea playing fields by Thomas Nugent NS3674 : Parklea playing fields and Finlaystone House by Stephen Sweeney NS3674 : Football pitch and Finlaystone House by Thomas Nugent

In late 2012, Port Glasgow FC, the local Junior football team, moved to a new stadium at Parklea, following several years in the wilderness, playing their "home" games at Ravenscraig stadium in neighbouring Greenock. The club's former ground (Woodhall Park) was demolished to make way for industrial development (which has still not "developed" to date).

Parklea Stadium Home of Port Glasgow Juniors FC.

NS3574 : New football stadium under construction by Thomas Nugent NS3574 : Clyde shoreline at Parklea by Stephen Sweeney NS3574 : Parklea Stadium by Thomas Nugent NS3574 : Parklea Stadium by Thomas Nugent NS3574 : Parklea Stadium by Thomas Nugent NS3574 : Parklea Stadium by Thomas Nugent


Parklea farmhouse survives today, under the ownership of Inverclyde Council. It was the birthplace of famous BBC Scotland sports commentator Alistair Alexander. The grounds immediately around the farmhouse are home to Parklea Association Branching Out, a charitable organisation which was established in 1997 to help to develop local individuals with support needs to fulfil their potential. Here is a LinkExternal link to their website.

Parklea Farm

NS3574 : Parklea Farm by Thomas Nugent NS3574 : Old farm building at Parklea by Thomas Nugent NS3574 : Parklea Farm by Thomas Nugent

The mudflats which house the timber ponds are part of the Inner Clyde Site of Special Scientific Interest LinkExternal link which stretches from Newark Castle to the Erskine Bridge. They are a stop-off point for migrating birds on their journeys north and south.

Coronation Park

As mentioned above, this park was built on the site of the in-filled harbours over a period of several decades. It is pleasantly landscaped at the west end, opening up into wide green open space at the east end, on the site of the Wet Dock.

There are swing parks and a boat slip, as well as quayside benches for the less active who prefer to just sit and gaze at the River Clyde and the Southern Highlands beyond, or the goings on at Ferguson's shipyard. It is a popular fishing spot, especially in the summer months when the mackerel are visiting.

NS3274 : Coronation Park by Thomas Nugent NS3274 : Coronation Park and Perch Lighthouse by Thomas Nugent NS3274 : Port Glasgow by Thomas Nugent NS3274 : Perch Lighthouse by Thomas Nugent NS3274 : Play park at Coronation Park by Thomas Nugent NS3274 : Coronation Park by Thomas Nugent NS3274 : Coronation park, Port Glasgow by Thomas Nugent NS3274 : Perch Lighthouse by Thomas Nugent NS3274 : Rainbow at Port Glasgow by Thomas Nugent NS3274 : Thamesteel I passing Perch Lighthouse by Thomas Nugent NS3274 : Memorial Fountain by Thomas Nugent NS3274 : Memorial fountain inscription by Thomas Nugent NS3274 : The Clyde Boating Tragedy Memorial by Thomas Nugent NS3274 : The Clyde Boating Tragedy Memorial by Thomas Nugent NS3274 : No smoking play park by Thomas Nugent

Birkmyre Park

In 1895, William Birkmyre of the mill family provided a recreation ground for the people of the town. He purchased and donated ground near Glenhuntly House on which he built a Park. Birkmyre Park (known locally as The Public Park) is unusual in that it is on a very steep hillside, but the walk to the top is made worthwhile by the stunning views of the Firth of Clyde and Ben Lomond available from there. Prior to the closure of the Glen and Kingston shipyards, this was a good spot to view the ships under construction.

Two bowling greens and a swing park were located at the lower end of the park. A fine bowling clubhouse was added in 1956. Unfortunately these fell into disrepair and dereliction, the abandoned clubhouse fell victim to arsonists in 2008.

There were a football pitch and a tennis club at the flat section at the top of the park, in the shadow of the steep embankment of the former Princes Pier railway line. These have been out of use since at least the early 1970s.

At the time of writing (February 2013), Inverclyde Council announced that 200,000 was to be made available to improve the area of the former bowling club and invited members of the public to contribute their ideas and proposals.

NS3174 : Bowling green in Birkmyre Park by Thomas Nugent NS3174 : Former bowling club by Thomas Nugent NS3174 : Birkmyre Park by Thomas Nugent NS3174 : Birkmyre Park by Thomas Nugent NS3174 : Birkmyre Park by Thomas Nugent NS3174 : Birkmyre Park by Thomas Nugent NS3174 : Road in Birkmyre Park by Thomas Nugent NS3174 : Monkey Puzzle Trees by Thomas Nugent NS3174 : Birkmyre Park by Thomas Nugent


Kelburn Park

Kelburn Park was created in the 1980s on reclaimed land on the north side of the re-aligned A8 dual carriageway. Despite its prime location and stunning views, it is not a busy park, possibly due to the presence of travelling people who set up camp there regularly.

NS3474 : Kelburn Park picnic area by Stephen Sweeney NS3474 : Bridge in Kelburn Park by Thomas Nugent NS3474 : Kelburn Park and timber ponds from parklea by Thomas Nugent NS3474 : Timber ponds and coastal path by Thomas Nugent NS3474 : Footpath from A8 to headland by John Firth

Port Glasgow Cemetery

The Cemetery lies on a steep hill in the east end of the town, with two entrances on Glasgow Road and one at High Carnegie Road. The older part of the cemetery is towards the Glasgow Road end and features many large gravestones in a mature wooded setting. The views of the River Clyde and the southern Highlands are quite stunning.

The original section of the cemetery at Glasgow Road.
NS3374 : Port Glasgow Cemetery by Thomas Nugent NS3474 : Port Glasgow cemetery by Thomas Nugent NS3474 : Port Glasgow Cemetery by Thomas Nugent NS3474 : Port Glasgow Cemetery by Thomas Nugent NS3474 : Duncan family gravestone by Thomas Nugent NS3374 : Sailor's Grave, Port Glasgow Cemetery by Thomas Nugent

Some other views of the cemetery.
NS3474 : Port Glasgow Cemetery by Thomas Nugent NS3474 : Port Glasgow Cemetery by Thomas Nugent NS3373 : Mass grave by Thomas Nugent NS3373 : Port Glasgow Cemetery by Thomas Nugent NS3373 : Port Glasgow Cemetery by Thomas Nugent NS3474 : Port Glasgow cemetery by Thomas Nugent

The Stanley Spencer Connection

Stanley Spencer (18911959) was one of the foremost British artists of the Twentieth Century. He attended the Slade School of Art in London and worked as a war artist in both World Wars. Between the wars, in 1929, he was commissioned by the Empire Marketing Board to produce a series of posters illustrating Industry and Peace.

Spencer spent much of WWII resident in Port Glasgow as an official War Artist, based in Lithgow's Kingston shipyard - a world apart from his native Home Counties village of Cookham. His "Shipbuilding on the Clyde" was produced during that time and is considered to be one of the great achievements of Twentieth Century British art. It comprises an extensive series of panels that show the various trades and stages of building a ship. The works depict the workers as common working class men in cloth caps and woolly jumpers and not the mighty Gods of War that the War Artists' Committee had perhaps envisaged when they awarded him the commission. They were possibly more valuable as a propaganda tool as a result of this more down to earth interpretation. The paintings also have a religious theme, with scenes from the Bible and the crucifixion depicted or suggested throughout.

The original paintings are now in the collection of the Imperial War Museum, London, but are rarely displayed due to their great size.

In June 2014 a sculpture commemorating the life of Spencer was installed by the Glen Burn at the new retail park on the site of the former shipyards where he worked.
NS3174 : Sir Stanley Spencer sculpture by Thomas Nugent
Detail of the central of the three panels within the Sir Stanley Spencer sculpture by the Glen Burn.

Click on the photo to read the inscription.


NS3174 : Sir Stanley Spencer sculpture by Thomas Nugent
General view of the Sir Stanley Spencer sculpture by the Glen Burn.

Click on the photo to read the inscription.



Spencer had a vision while walking through Port Glasgow cemetery after midnight one night, a vision that he expressed in his later unofficial but no less important Port Glasgow work "The Resurrection: Port Glasgow" which he completed immediately after the war. This fifty foot wide painting portrays the Last Judgement and Resurrection taking place in Port Glasgow cemetery. It shows deceased Portonians climbing out of their graves, greeting each other and raising their arms heavenwards in ecstatic gratitude.

Further reading on Spencer's life in Port Glasgow is available in a fascinating book which includes colour illustrations and descriptions of the works.
Men of the Clyde
ISBN-10: 1903278082
ISBN-13: 978-1903278086
Publisher: National Galleries of Scotland (1 Jan 1999)

Here is a LinkExternal link to part of the Resurrection painting.

And here is a LinkExternal link to Spencer's painting of "The Glen" at Port Glasgow.

Sources

Much of the above is common knowledge to most Portonians and was drummed into us as schoolchildren. However, I would like to acknowledge The Port - Past and Present 1775-1975 by Janetta Bowie as a valuable source of information for this work and can recommend it to anyone who is interested in the history of the town. You can find a copy on Inverclyde Council's website LinkExternal link .

Corrections and suggestions for inclusion are most welcome.
KML

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