Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Clyde Navigation Trust

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Navigation along the River Clyde was improved over many years by increasing the water depth and the channel width to enable shipping to gain access to Glasgow from the Firth of Clyde.

Scotland's first dry dock was built at Port Glasgow in 1758-62

1759 Act of Parliament gave Glasgow's town councillors the powers "to cleanse, scour, straighten and improve" the River Clyde between Glasgow Bridge and the Dumbuck Ford near Dumbarton.

Eminent engineers of the day were consulted, including John Golborne and John Smeaton. Golborne engineered the first large-scale measure, which consisted of building stone groynes or jetties out from the banks at regular intervals in order to restrict the channel width, causing scouring of the river bed. This was successful and from 1771-5 the river's depth increased from 1.25m to over 2m, reaching 3.7m by 1781.

From 1799, John Rennie (the elder) proposed increasing the number of groynes to more than 500 and their lengths were standardised.

On the advice of Thomas Telford, from 1806 some groynes were shortened and the river brought to a uniform width at various locations by completion of the parallel walls across their ends. Telford

By 1830 a water depth of 4.6m had been achieved. David Logan (c1786-1839) and later engineers continued the practice.

1858 The original River Improvement Trust was superceded by the Clyde Navigation Trust, established to enable Glasgow's shipbuilders, merchants and industrialists to work together in developing and managing the river and its trade.

By 1871, under the direction of Clyde Navigation Trust's Engineer in Chief, James Deas, a minimum depth of 6.7m at high water was available between Greenock and the Broomielaw quays — a distance of 35km. By then Glasgow was the Clyde’s greatest port and was the world’s largest centre for ship building.

1936 D. and C. Stevenson, Engineers to the Clyde Lighthouses Trust, directed deepening operations west of Port Glasgow to accommodate the RMS Queen Mary on her inaugural passage downriver from Clydebank on 24th March but, despite these precautions, she ran aground twice during the voyage.

1992 Port facilities on the river and in the Firth of Clyde became the responsibility of Clydeport plc.

See Also

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Sources of Information

  • Engineering Timelines [1]