Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for Greenock

Greenock, a parish of NW Renfrewshire, bounded N by the Firth of Clyde, E by Port Glasgow, S by Kilmalcolm, and W by Innerkip. Extending 4¾ miles along the Firth, and from 17/8 to 53/8 miles inland, it has an area of 6247¼ acres, of which 166 are foreshore and 60¾ water. The last is made up by two or three rivulets running direct to the Firth, by Whinhill Reservoir, and by the upper part of Gryfe Reservoir (2 miles x ¼ mile). Loch Thom (1¾ x ½ mile), also belonging to the Greenock Waterworks, falls just within Innerkip parish. The shore is fringed by a strip of level ground, 5 to 7 furlongs in breadth, that marks the old sea-margin of the Firth. The soil of this level portion is light, mixed with sand and gravel; but has been rendered very fertile, owing to the great encouragement given to cultivation, from the constant demand for country produce by the numerous population. Beyond, the surface is hilly, attaining 400 feet at Caddle Hill, 813 at Whitelees Moor, 727 near Gryfe Reservoir, and 1175 in the extreme S. The lower slopes are diversified with patches of loam, clay, and till. Farther up, and towards the summits of the hills, the soil for the most part is thin and in places mossy, the bare rocks appearing here and there. The land in this quarter is little adapted for anything but pasturage for black cattle and sheep. On the other side of the heights, except a few cultivated spots on the southern border of the parish, chiefly on the banks of the infant Gryfe, heath and coarse grass prevail. The views from the Greenock hills are varied, extensive, and grand, combining water, shipping, the scenery on either shore of the Clyde, and the lofty Highland mountains. The declivities of the hills overlooking the town and the river are adorned with villas, and diversified with thriving plantations, so that they present a very pleasing appearance. The part of the hills directly behind the town, too, is cloven to a low level by a fine narrow valley, through which run the road and the railway to Wemyss Bay. The contour of the declivities both towards this valley and towards the Clyde is rolling and diversified; and the general summit-line, in consequence of being at such short distance from the shore, looks, from most points of view, to be much higher than it really is. Hence the landscape of the parish, particularly around the town, is decidedly picturesque. The rocks are chiefly the Old Red sandstone, with its conglomerate, near the shore, and various kinds of trap, principally basalt and greenstone, throughout the hills. The sandstone and the trap are quarried for building purposes.

The Clyde opposite the parish of Greenock varies in width from ½ to 4 miles. In the middle of the Firth there is a sandbank called the Pillar Bank, which, commencing almost immediately above Dumbarton Castle, or 7½ miles above Greenock, and running longitudinally, terminates at a point nearly opposite the western extremity of the town, well known to merchants and others by the name of the `Tail of the Bank.' During spring tides, part of the bank opposite to the harbour is visible at low water; and the depth of the channel on each side of this bank is such as to admit vessels of the largest class. Between Port Glasgow and Garvel Point, a remarkable promontory at the E end of the burgh, the high part of the bank is separated from the upper portion (part of which opposite to Port Glasgow is also dry at low water) by a narrow channel significantly called the `Through-let,' through which the tide, passing from the lower part of the Firth in a north-easterly direction, and obstructed in its. progress by Ardmore, a promontory on the Dumbartonshire side, rushes with such impetuosity as to produce high water at Port Glasgow a few minutes earlier than at Greenock. The sub-marine island which is thus formed, and which is commonly called the Greenock Bank, to distinguish it from the high part of the bank opposite to Port Glasgow, was granted by government to the corporation of the town of Greenock, for an annual payment of `one penny Scots money, if asked only.' The charter by the Barons of Exchequer is dated 5 July 1816, and contains the following words expressive of the object which the corporation had in view in applying for the grant :- `Pro proposito ædificandi murum, vel acquirendi ad ripam antedictam ex australi latere ejusdem quantum ad septentrionem eadem possit acquiri, '-`for the purpose of building a wall or of gaining to the foresaid bank from its S side as much as can be gained to the N.' The southern channel is the only one for vessels passing to and from the different ports on the river, the greatest depth of water in the `Through-let' being quite insufficient in its present state to admit of vessels of any considerable burden passing that way. The width of the channel, opposite to the harbour of Greenock, does not much exceed 300 yards. Ascending, it rapidly diminishes in width, -a circumstance which, but for the application of steam to the towing of ships, must have presented for ever an insuperable obstacle to the progress of the trade of Glasgow.

Prior to the Reformation Greenock was comprehended in the parish of Innerkip, and being at a great distance from the parish church, the inhabitants had the benefit of three chapels within their own bounds. One of them, and probably the principal, was dedicated to St Laurence, from whom the adjacent expanse derived its name of the Bay of St Laurence. It stood on the site of the house at the W corner of Virginia Street in Greenock, belonging to the heirs of Mr Roger Stewart. In digging the foundations of that house, a number of human bones were found, which proves that a burying-ground must have been attached to the chapel. On the lauds still called Chapelton there stood another chapel, to which also there must have been a cemetery attached; for when these grounds were formed into a kitchen-garden, many gravestones were found under the surface. A little below Kilblain, there was placed a third religious house, the stones of which the tenant of the ground was permitted to remove for the purpose of enclosing his garden. From the name it is apparent that this was a cell or chapel dedicated to St Blane. After the Reformation, when the chapels were dissolved, the inhabitants of Greenock had to walk to the parish church of Innerkip, which was 6 miles distant, to join in the celebration of public worship. To remedy this inconvenience, John Shaw obtained a grant from the King in 1589, authorising him to build a church for the accommodation of the people on his lands of Greenock, Finnart, and Spangock, who, it was represented, were `all fishers, and of a reasonable number. 'Power was also given to build a manse and form a churchyard. This grant was ratified by parliament in 1592. The arrangement resembled the erection of a chapel of ease in our own times. Shaw having, in 1592, built a church and a manse, and assigned a churchyard, an Act of Parliament was passed tithes and ecclesiastical duties, were disjoined from the parsonage and vicarage of Innerkip, and erected into a distinct parsonage and vicarage, which were assigned to the newly erected parish church of Greenock; and this was ordained to take effect for the year 1593, and in all time thereafter.

The parish of Greenock continued, as thus established, till 1636, when there was obtained from the lords commissioners for the plantation of churches a decree, whereby the baronies of Easter and Wester Greenock, and various other lands which had belonged to the parish of Innerkip, with a small portion of the parish of Houstoun, were erected into a parish to be called Greenock, and the church formerly erected at Greenock was ordained to be the parochial church, of which Shaw was the patron. The limits which were then assigned to the parish of Greenock have continued to the present time; though, for some purposes, it has been subdivided since 1754 and 1809 into the three parishes of Old or West Greenock, New or Middle Greenock, and East Greenock. Ecclesiastically, again, it is distributed among the following parishes :- Cartsburn, East, Ladyburn, Middle, North, South, Wellpark, West, and a small portion of Gourock. Pop. of entire parish (1801) 17,458, (1821) 22,088, (1841) 36,936, (1861) 43, 894, (1871) 59, 794, (1881) 69,238, of whom 41,163 were in West parish, 6370 in Middle parish, and 21,705 in East parish, whilst 10,639 were in Cartsburn quoad sacra parish, 11,066 in East, 6370 in Middle, 4300 in North, 10,319 in South, 998 in Wellpark, 25,399 in West, and 147 in Gourock.—Ord. Sur. , sh. 30, 1866.

The presbytery of Greenock, in the synod of Glasgow and Ayr, comprises the parishes of Cumbrae, Erskine, Fairlie, Greenock (with its ecclesiastical subdivisions), Gourock, Innerkip, Kilmalcolm, Langbank, Largs, Newark, Port Glasgow, and Skelmorlie. Pop. (1871) 83,189, (1881) 96,876, of whom 8568 were communicants of the Church of Scotland in 1878.- The Free Church presbytery of Greenock embraces 21 churches, 11 being in Greenock, 3 in Port Glasgow, and 7 in Cumbrae, Erskine, Fairlie, Gourock, Innerkip, Kilmalcolm, and Largs, which 21 churches together had 62 70 members in 1882.- The U.P. presbytery also embraces 21 charges, viz. , 6 in Greenock, 2 in Port Glasgow, 2 in Rothesay-, and 11 at Campbeltown, Dunoon, Gourock, Innellan, Inveraray, Kilcreggan, Kirn, Largs, Millport, Southend, and Wemyss Bay, with 5759 members in 1 881.

(F.H. Groome, Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland (1882-4); © 2004 Gazetteer for Scotland)

Linked entities:
Feature Description: "a parish"   (ADL Feature Type: "countries, 4th order divisions")
Administrative units: Greenock ScoP       Renfrewshire ScoCnty
Place: Greenock

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