Docks on the River Clyde

Clydesite Magazine.

  1. Glasgow Custom House Quay
  2. The Broomielaw ( Clyde Place Quay)
  3. Bridge Wharf( South side of river opposite Broomielaw)
  4. Windmillcroft  Quay West street to Kingston Docks
  5. Kingston Dock
  6. Springfield Quay Kingston Dock to where brewers Fare is at the Quay
  7. General Terminus Quay
  8. Anderson Quay / Lancefield Quay
  9. Finnieston Quay / Stobcross Quay
  10. Mavisbank Quay / Plantation Quay
  11. Princess Dock
  12. Govan Dry Docks
  13. Yorkhill Quay
  14. Meadowside Quay / Meadowside granary
  15. Merklands Quay
  16. Shieldhall Riverside Quay / King George V Dock
  17. Rothesay Dock
  18. Esso Terminal
  19. Greenock
  20. Port Glasgow
  21. Ayr
  22. Irvine
  23. Troon
  24. Ardrossan
  25. Campbeltown

New Irvine Harbour was constructed in 1677 in deeper water near the mouth of the river Irvine. For a time after 1760, Irvine was the 3rd busiest port in Scotland, Large quantities of coal were being exported to Ireland, by 1870 the 50 Irvine registered vessels were trading far afield as North America.

Shipbuilding grew significantly from the late 1800,s ,

From The Clyde, The Making of a River by John Riddell

(from Glasgow History web ) Broomielaw named after ‘Brumelaw Croft;, extended from Jamaica street bridge to Finnieston Quay.  Glasg Merchants financed building of Glasgow’s first quay, at the Broomielaw in 1688, Europes first commercial steamer service departed from the Broomielaw quay in 1812. 

The first addition to the old Broomielaw  quay was completed in 1792 it was followed in 1809 by a new Quay to the west designed by John Rennie. The 415 yard long wall extending from what is presently York Street along to McAlpine Street and was known as Anderston Quay and was  completed in 1814 

Anderston Quay was extended from the western end of the wooden steamboat wharf at Clyde street downstream to what is no Hydepark street. This wall was commenced in 1827 and was completed 4 years later in 1831. The design was similar to that of reconstructed Broomielaw Quay and the cost of the 250 yard addition was approximately £96 per linear yard. 

By 1838 some 430 yards of wooden-decked wharf extended from the Broomielaw Bridge along the south bank to West street.

In the early 1820’s Henry bell proposed to build a small canal from the Broomielaw eastward to Glasgow green, together with a dock at the latter site. Glasgow green, then and still is a traditional public open space of the city, lay to the north of the Clyde and just to the east of the wooden Hutchistown bridge. It was thus closer to the new industrial areas than the Broomielaw. Bell did not submit any plans of his novel scheme.

In 1834 Jesse Hartley suggested another canal between the Broomielaw and Glasgow Green.He proposed to narrow the river to 300 feet. On the ground thus reclaimed a 110 foot wide canal would be excavated. The surface of this canal was to be 2 feet above high water spring tides, Entrance to the canal was to be at a lock at Broomielaw Quay, a small lock would be built to connect with the Clyde. 

IN 1833 Charles Atherton the first engineer employed by the Clyde Trustees, widened the harbour by the construction of a405 yard  Quay set back a distance of 400feet from the Broomielaw and Anderston Quay’s , The wall was built in the dry, with the underlying piles being driven from the base of the trench excavated on the wall line. The 20 foot high masonry superstructure was also erected without the problems of tidal working. Only once the wall was completed was excavation of the ground between it and the river was begun and the original wooden wharf demolished. This was the New Clyde Place Quay formed on the south side of the river being first used in 1837.

Windmill Croft Quay added 335 yards to the available berth age when it was opened in 1839.

Hydepark Quay on the north side, extended the berth age westward to Napier’s Lancefield fitting out basin and was first used by shipping in 1840.

Even with this these additional quays , an Admiralty report in 1846 stated that vessels were lying alongside the quays in Glasgow Harbour five or six a breast, and that the space in the middle of the channel was but just sufficient to allow steamers to wind’ At least 1,000 yards of additional berthage would be required to allow vessels to berth no more than 3 or 4 abreast and to prevent delays in loading and unloading which some times lasted a week or more.

Finnieston Quay which was an extension to Lancefield Quay was opened in 1848. This completed the north side accommodation downstream to the Stobcross shipyards. 

Springfield Quay was completed in 1850

In 1840 a tramway was opened between Windmillcroft Quay and the collieries of Govan and Pollock. 

In February 1849, General terminus Quay had 400 yard length of wall allocated to the shipment of coal by rail.  It became the centre of all coal shipments. The low-water depth then available alongside the quay was 12 feet.

General terminus quay, was equipped initially with one hydraulic and 2 steam powered cranes for lifting and tipping coal wagons.  The hydraulic crane was one of the earliest W G Armstrong models and was supplied with high pressure water from the Glasgow Gorbals Water Works.. By 1885 the three cranes were handling some of 150,000 tons of coal per year.

The addition of Springfield and General Terminus Quays increased the accommodation for shipping in Glasgow Harbour to 3,391 yards. And greatly relieved the pressure on the old up river  berths. 

The river between Broomielaw bridge and Stockwell Street  bridge, became known as the upper harbour. Public pressure resulted in only the North side being developed and the Quay here was developed in three stages,  The first was a 170 yard length in the centre area, which opened in 1852 , and this was followed in 1855 and 1857 by sections west and east, the former was 137 yards long and extended downstream to the Broomielaw Quay, while the latter resulted in a short 52 yard wall which completed the berth age eastwards to the Stockwell street bridge.

The next extension was to be between General Terminus Quay  downstream to the western end of Mavisbank, originally to have a minimum depth of 12 feet, but changed to have a minimum  depth of 20 feet, over 200 yards of the 516 yards of Mavisbank Quay , to allow for larger vessels to come up to Glasgow. This new accommodation was fully opened in 1858 and its deep water went a long way to satisfy the demands of the growing number of foreign trade steamers for berths , where they could remain afloat. Many of these vessels and the larger sailing ships, carried emigrants from Scotland to North America, Australia, and New Zealand, and for many Scots Mavisbank Quay was the last part of their homeland on which they ever set foot.

The completion of Mavisbank Quay also brought Glasgow’s Harbour first era of quay wall construction to an end. All the riverside quays were to be built to a different design and the wooden baring piles was to be superseded by techniques more appropriate to the steadily deepening river. The fifty years commencing in 1809 had seen eleven fold increases in the extent of the accommodation provided at Glasgow by the River Improvement trust, the riverbank quay had increased from 385 yards to 4,266 yards in this time, and the harbour now stretched westwards from the city for more than a mile.  

More than half-way through the 19th century Glasgow found itself in the unique position among three major British ports of still having all of its ships berthed alongside riverside Quays, and no Docks.


Although the second stage in the development of Glasgow Harbour did not commence physically until 1864 , it’s extent and nature were virtually decided 10 years before .

Some 11/2 million tons of shipping and over one millions tons of cargo we’re being handled by the Clyde Navigation in the early 1850,s making the harbour one of the busiest and most congested in the country. With the accommodation confined to the riverbank quays, and concentrated into the mile or so of waterways nearest to the city, the tonnage worked per acre of water space and per yard of quay , was fully 50%’ greater than the corresponding figures for London, Liverpool, and Hull. Vessels continued to berth at the quay,s three, four and even five abreast.

There were three choices for the way forward . According to John Ures report in 1854

1.The shipyards could be by passed and new riverbank quays constructed downstream of there sites. To many negatives, further away from the city , transport  still by horse and cart 

2. Purchase the shipyards and move them down river, as was done with Todd and MacGregor , and Thomas Wingate. This would be difficult to get the owners agreement, it would only be a short term solution , 

3. Was to build new accommodation to be provided by quays sited off the main channel.

Stobcross basin with a water area of 36 acres ,,yielding a total length of quay of 3,547 yards,  It took the them form of an outer rectangular basin of dimensions 1,000 feet by 70o feet with two,parallel extensions each,, 1,600 feet by 290 feet wide leading of to the east side. A low water minimum of 20 feet, and 30 feet at high tide. The cost of this was estimated at £616,000

The dock had to be capable to allow the turning of large ships,  I.e those of a length greater than 350″feet, who at present had to be towed up,or down the river, as the width did not allow for the ships to be turned.

Windmillcroft is the other tidal basin planned with a water area of six acres and berth age totalling 860 yards. Allowing a width of 140 feet between the existing Windmillcroft Quay and the a north quay of the docks would permit a basin 240 feet wide to be built. Increasing the water depth to 16 ft at low tide would then provide useful accommodation for steamers up to 400 tons. The entrance had already been constructed between Windmillcroft and Springfield Quats. The estimated costs were £127,000 or approximately £150 per yard of berth age.

When Winmillcroft went ahead in 1864 the new specification by  John Ures successor Andrew Duncan was for a rectangular basin 1,100 feet long and 210 feet wide with a low water depth of 14 ft. This basically similar to the original plan except that the overall width was reduced by some 30 ft. As little preparation work was required the contract was signed 1/6/1864 at a cost of £71,321. The contract was awarded to the contractor who built Mavisbank Quay, David Manwell of Pollockshields. As the Trustees had always laid great emphasis on the continuity of there Quayage and on the ready access to it, and it was considered essential that traffic be allowed  to cross the basin entrance . A horizontal swinging bridge designed by John Yule and Co, while the gap to be spanned was only 60 feet with the pivot point being on the east side of the entrance at a distance of 50ft, therefore the bridge length was 168 ft. 

The Basin was formally opened 31/10/1867, and it’s total cost, when completed in 1868,  including, bridge, roads, sheds etc. was £118,200 excluding cost of the land. Eventually it was to be known as Kingston Dock

It could hold 22 ships of 500 tons, 2 deep around the 830 yards of its quays , away from the dangers of the main shipping channel.

Before going ahead with the Stobcross Basin, 700 yards of Quay wall between Glasgow and Govan was to be built trialling a new method of construction planned for Stobcross, This new quay was to be built in two stages, with the dividing line being the site of the Clyde Villa a Shipyard of J & G Thomson, the purchase of this yard was agreed in 1870 and over the next 2 years transferred to a new site on the north bank of the Clyde opposite the mouth of the river cart, Here the town of Clydebank grew up around the new yard until in 1899 Thomson’s were bought over by the Sheffield steel maker John Brown and Co.

The 400 yard length of wall extending downstream from Mavisbank Qusy to the Clyde Villa shipyard was the first section of Plantation Quay to be completed. It was designed by Dean and Bateman in 1870 , and was not only the first length of new Quay to be built since 1858, but was the first with brick walls founded on cylinders , instead of wooden piles.

Cylinders built up from bricks had been used for foundations  in India for many centuries.

John Milroy a builder who was already using this method on the Glasgow Union Railway Bridge across the Clyde  was awarded the contract, The cylinders were made up of brick rings of 12 foot diameter and were hollow in the centre, 

The method of foundation construction was to excavate a trench on the line of the wall down to about low water level and to start sinking of the cylinders from this point. A circular cast iron shoe was placed beneath the first ring, the shoe being shaped so as to divert the spoil into the hollow centre of the cylinder . Loading of the shoe by placing further rings of brick above it then forced it down into the ground as displaced spoil was removed from the centre by a grab type excavator patented by Milroy. Each of the cylinders had a projecting tongue built into one side which keyed into a groove cut in its neighbour 

The successful completion of the first length this wall  in 1872, had  low water depth of 20 feet. 

The vacation of the Villa shipyard at this time allowed the second phase to go ahead, constructed in the same principle as before except that instead of a line of single brick built cylinders, the foundation was changed to one comprising interlocking groups of triple cylinders made up of rings cast of concrete. This stranger base, also resulted in the quicker sinking of the 102 cylinders required to an average depth of 40 feet in only 76 weeks, 

Plantation quay was fully opened in early 1875 and it’s deep water provided valuable berths for the steamships operated by the Allen and State lines in the North American trade.

Together with the addition of a wooden wharf completed at Yorkhill two years before Plantation brought the accommodation for shipping in Glasgow harbour up to 6,708 yards .

In 1872 the contract for the first phase, consisting of the entrance and the near rectangular turning basin , of the new Stobhill Basin was awarded to T S Hunter of Edinburgh, whose price for the construction of the walls and excavation of the basin was £160,00, with an agreed completion date of March 1878