PORT-GLASGOW, a parish, sea-port, burgh, and market-town, in the Lower ward of the county of Renfrew; containing 7007 inhabitants, of whom 6973 are in the town, 19 miles (W. N. W.) from Glasgow, and 62 (W.) from Edinburgh. This place was originally part of the parish of Kilmalcolm, constituting the village of Newark, situated on the bay of that name. In 1668 it was purchased from Sir Patrick Maxwell, its proprietor, by the city of Glasgow, for the purpose of forming an out-port and harbour for the shipping of that place, for which object its position at the head of one of the finest bays in the Clyde rendered it peculiarly desirable. The land on which the town is built, together with some farms in its immediate vicinity, was in 1695 separated from Kilmalcolm, and erected into a distinct and independent parish; and in 1775 the town was made a burgh of barony by a charter of George III., which conferred on the inhabitants many privileges, and vested the government in two bailies and a council of eleven burgesses. The increase of the town has been striking, though gradual: from the erection of the first church in 1718 to the year 1790 the number of its inhabitants was augmented from about 700 to more than 4000. The Parish is about a mile in length and the same in breadth, and is bounded on the north by the Clyde, on the south and east by the parish of Kilmalcolm, and on the west by the parish of Greenock. The surface is very irregular and hilly; and immediately behind the town the land rises in two precipitous ridges to a great height, overlooking the river, and commanding an extensive and rich prospect of the shipping in the harbour, the venerable ruins of the baronial castle of Newark at the extremity of the bay, and the finely variegated scenery of the surrounding country. These heights, covered with verdure, and crowned with flourishing plantations, present a strikingly beautiful and picturesque back-ground to the view of the town from the river. Nearly on a level with the summits of the ridges, the lands extend for about half a mile inland, and are divided into farms which, from the sterility of the soil, are not very valuable. The richest land in the parish is along the banks of the river, which are laid out in garden-ground, and are abundantly productive of fruit and vegetables of excellent quality, for the supply of the town and neighbourhood. The principal landed proprietors are, Lady Shaw Stewart, and the corporation of the city of Glasgow: the former holds the rural district of the parish, with part of the land on which the town is built, and the gardens on the bank of the river; the latter are superiors of that portion of the town which may be properly regarded as the port.
   The town is regularly built, consisting of well-formed streets crossing each other at right angles; the houses are nearly uniform, and, being whitewashed, wear a cheerful appearance. The streets are well paved, and lighted with gas, for which convenient works have been established by the corporation; and the inhabitants are amply supplied with water, which is conveyed by pipes to their houses. A public library is supported by subscription; there is likewise, in the town-hall, a good news and reading room, which is well attended. The environs are pleasant, and abound with objects of interest. At the eastern extremity of the bay are the remains of Newark Castle, the residence of the ancient barons of Newark, which, when entire, must have been a place of great strength; it is situated on an elevated, though small, promontory boldly projecting into the river, and presents an imposing memorial of feudal grandeur. The port carries on a very extensive trade with the East and West Indies, the United States, other parts of North America, the Mediterranean, and other places; the coasting trade is also considerable, but since the deepening of the Clyde, which has afforded to vessels of large burthen a facility of access to Glasgow, a great portion of the traffic of Port-Glasgow has been transferred to that place. The principal exports are British manufactures, which are shipped in great quantities, and exchanged for foreign produce of every kind, including timber from North America. The trade was formerly carried on exclusively in vessels belonging to the merchants of Glasgow; but for the last few years the merchants of this place have had ships of their own, and in 1843 they possessed as many as seventy-four registered vessels, of the aggregate burthen of 12,952 tons. The number of vessels that entered inwards in 1834 was eighty-two, and their aggregate burthen 28,693 tons: of these, three were from the East, and twenty-six from the West, Indies, thirty-six from North America, six from the United States, and eleven from the Mediterranean. During the same year, eighty-six vessels of the aggregate burthen of 28,530 tons cleared outwards, of which number twelve were to the East, and twenty-nine to the West, Indies, thirty to North America, four to the United States, and eleven to the Mediterranean. The duties paid at the custom-house amounted to £140,284. 8. 10., which sum was less than the amount in previous years, though the decrease did not originate in any diminution of the foreign trade of the port, but in the removal of the duties on tobacco to Glasgow, which were previously paid at this place. In 1843, the customs' duties paid here had further diminished to £92,906. This is one of the principal ports on the Clyde for the importation of American timber, of which, in a recent year, 27,975 tons were landed on the quays, and for the reception and preservation of which capacious ponds have been constructed along the shores.
   There are two extensive and secure harbours, which are easy of access at all times to vessels of 600 tons, and so completely sheltered from the winds that in the severest weather they sustain no injury. Ships drawing twenty-one feet water may be towed up the channel of the river, which at this place is about two miles broad: in common tides the water rises to the height of nine, and in spring tides to the height of eleven, feet above the low-water mark. The quays are commodious, and ample sheds have been erected for the warehousing of merchandise; there is also a capacious graving-dock for repairing vessels, which has been recently improved at a considerable cost. The greatest number of vessels in the harbours at the same time, lately yielded the large aggregate burthen of 12,000 tons; but the harbours being found insufficient for the increasing trade of the port, the trustees for their improvement recently obtained an act of parliament for converting the bay of Newark into wet-docks; and funds to the amount of £35,000 were raised, which enabled them to commence the undertaking. These works, from their spacious quays easily accessible to vessels drawing twenty-five feet water, and their extensive warehouses built of stone, for bonding merchandise, are a vast acquisition to the port, and the only floating-docks on the western coast of Scotland. There is also a large area for bonding timber, as well as warehouses for the preparation of refined sugar for exportation to the Mediterranean. The revenue derived from the harbour dues, in the year ending April 5, 1845, amounted to £1900. Ship-building is carried on to a very considerable extent; and great numbers of steam-vessels, some of which are of the largest class and of the most elegant workmanship, have been built at this port: about 200 men are constantly employed in the yards. An extensive manufacture of ropes and sail-cloth has been long established by the Gourock Company: in the latter branch, which has of late much increased, about 300 men, and more than that number of women and children, are employed; and in the former, fifty men, and nearly an equal number of boys, are engaged. The refining of raw sugar is carried on with success to a great extent in the town; the method of refining by steam is adopted, and the works afford employment to more than fifty men. A savings' bank was established in 1818, and has met with great encouragement. The market is on Friday, and a fair is held on the third Tuesday in July. The road from Greenock to Glasgow, and the Glasgow, Paisley, and Greenock railway, pass through the parish.
   The town, which, by its charter in the reign of George III., had enjoyed the privileges only of a burgh of barony, was by act of the 2nd and 3rd of William IV. raised to the rank of a parliamentary burgh; and the government is now vested in a provost, two bailies, and a council of six burgesses, assisted by a town-clerk, harbour-master, and other officers, the whole chosen agreeably with the provisions of the Municipal act of the 3rd and 4th of William. Formerly, the provost was elected annually by the magistrates and council of Glasgow, and only the bailies by the council of the town of Port-Glasgow; the council was chosen from among the occupiers of land or houses of the value of £5, and the bailies were required to have land or houses of the value of £10 per annum. A treasurer, procurator-fiscal, and other officers, were appointed by the council. The provost and bailies are justices of the peace by virtue of their office, and have jurisdiction in civil actions to any amount, and a considerable jurisdiction in criminal cases; but very few causes come under their decision, as parties in matters of dispute generally solicit, and are governed by, the advice of the magistrates, which prevents much litigation; and no criminal cases have been tried for many years, except in the police-court. The burgh unites with those of Kilmarnock, Rutherglen, Dumbarton, and Renfrew, in returning one member to the imperial parliament; the right of election is vested in the resident householders to the amount of £10 per annum, and the present constituency consists of about 220. The town-hall is a neat and commodious edifice of modern erection, with a portico of four columns of the Grecian-Doric order, from the centre of which rises a spire. The interior is well arranged; on the ground-floor are several handsome shops, and the upper story contains the council-chamber, offices for the town-clerk, counting-houses for merchants, and a reading-room well supplied with periodicals and newspapers. Ecclesiastically the parish is in the presbytery of Greenock and synod of Glasgow and Ayr, and patronage of the city of Glasgow: the minister's stipend is £250. The corporation receive the seat-rents, which produce on an average nearly £150 per annum. The present church was erected in 1823, partly by subscriptions of the parishioners, amounting to £1500; it is a plain neat edifice, and is adapted for a congregation of 1200 persons. There is also a chapel of ease, erected in 1774, and adapted for a congregation of 1500: the minister has a salary of £100, secured to him by bond. A parochial missionary was until very recently engaged by the members of the Established Church; and there are a Free church, and a place of worship for the Associate Synod. Three parochial schools were once supported, the masters of which had each a salary of £20, paid by the corporation; but for some years they have all been united under one master, who receives a salary of £20, with the school fees, which are considerable. There is also a school endowed by Mr. Beaton, in 1814, with £1400, for the instruction of poor children, and the erection of a school-house; the master has £60 per annum, with a house rent free, and the school is attended by about 150 children of both sexes.

A Topographical dictionary of Scotland. . 1856.

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