NS2676 : The Watt Cairn

taken 15 years ago, near to Greenock, Inverclyde, Great Britain

This is 1 of 5 images, with title The Watt Cairn in this square
The Watt Cairn
The Watt Cairn
This is a memorial to James Watt (1736-1819), scientist, inventor, and engineer, whose improvements to the steam engine were of paramount importance for the Industrial Revolution. The Watt Club proposed a monument in 1854. The cairn shown here was finally arranged and completed in 1936, on the 200th anniversary of Watt's birth. The stones that make up the cairn were gifted from all around the world; some of the larger stones have their own inscriptions, but a plaque on the base on the cairn supplies further details about their origins.

The cairn is something like 30 feet high, but what was originally proposed in the 1850s was a much larger tower. Although a much more modest structure was eventually built, one important part of the original idea, namely, that of using stones brought from various locations around the globe, was retained.

Robert Murray Smith's "The History of Greenock" (1921) gives a detailed account of plans for the memorial. Among other things, it says that the proposal was for an "Italian Campanile tower, upwards of 40 ft square at the base, rising at the level of the main cornice to 163 ft, and surmounted by a turret or observatory 52 ft high. The eminence is 289 feet above sea level. Internally the rooms were to be 30ft square, with a circular staircase and an open gallery. The plan was prepared under the direction of Mr David McIntosh, architect of the Mariners' Asylum" (this is a reference to David Mackintosh, on whom see NS2677 : Sir Gabriel Wood's Mariners' Home).

[An artist's conception of how the finished tower might have looked is included on page 124 of the book "The South Clyde Estuary An Illustrated Architectural Guide to Renfrew and Inverclyde", by Frank Arneil Walker. In the accompanying text, it is described as "a tower 289 feet high", but, according to Smith, that figure refers to the elevation of the chosen site above sea level.]

This site also marks the burial place of some of James Watt's ancestors, whose remains were removed from Greenock's Old West Kirk on the 26th of April, 1927.

Near the Watt Cairn (which is location № 16 on the Blue Walk in the "Greenock Cemetery Walks" booklet see the end-note) is a monument to Highland Mary: NS2676 : Highland Mary Monument.
Greenock Cemetery

The cemetery, which is laid out on Bow Hill, opened in 1846. For detailed information, see the Geograph article "Greenock Cemetery" Link and, for a map and useful guide, the booklet "Greenock Cemetery Walks" LinkExternal link (PDF) produced by East End Advisory (funded by Inverclyde Council); the PDF link works, as of January 2016.

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Grid Square
NS2676, 110 images   (more nearby search)
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Date Taken
Saturday, 26 May, 2007   (more nearby)
Wednesday, 20 August, 2008
Geographical Context
Burial ground, Crematorium  Historic sites and artefacts 
Period (from Tags)
20th Century 
Image Buckets ?
Closeup  CloseCrop 
Person (from Tags)
James Watt 
Place (from Tags)
Memorial > Memorial   (more nearby)
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 2651 7630 [10m precision]
WGS84: 55:56.8993N 4:46.7951W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 2651 7629
View Direction
North-northeast (about 22 degrees)
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Other Tags
Memorial  Greenock Cemetery 

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