-the River Clyde
-making the River Clyde navigable

The Scotland Guide
© David Williams


For a long time the stretch of the river between Glasgow and Greenock was very shallow, perhaps less than 1m (3 feet) in many places, and was thus quite unsuitable for navigation. Harbours in Ayrshire were used by the city`s merchants and in the 1690s Port Glasgow (30km (20 miles) downstream) was established as the city`s harbour.

After the 1707 Union with England there were more opportunities for peaceful seaborne trade and some attempts were made to deepen the river, but it was not until 1768 that John Golborne took on the huge task of making the river navigable. Golborne narrowed the river using a series of jetties about 13km (8 miles) downstream of the city. These allowed a faster flow of water which scoured the riverbed, taking huge amounts of silt downstream into the Firth of Clyde. Until this time the river was some hundreds of feet wide in places and it had a number of sandy islands (or `inches`); Golborne arranged the dredging of these or joined them up with the riverbanks. Further deepening was undertaken in 1799 by John Rennie and in 1805 by Thomas Telford who joined up Golborne`s jetties and filled the resulting enclosures with material dredged from the riverbed. As well as allowing substantial ships to reach the city, all this engineering work provided new land on which docks, shipyards, houses and farms could be established.

This article is based on the guidebook "The Glasgow Guide".

This is the Queen`s Dock in 1980 being filled in with rubble in order to provide a base for the building of the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC). The dock operated from 1877 to 1969. The original width of the river can be appreciated from this picture as the water stretched from beyond the left of the picture to well beyond the Finnieston Crane, the large crane on the very right of the picture. The crane stands on what became the north bank of the river.
Next River Clyde article:
The industrial river
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Glasgow and the River Clyde
List of River Clyde articles:
The River Clyde

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