Image of map showing Inverclyde coast near Port Glasgow with shipbuilding firms labelled

Zoom into Inverclyde

Part of the historic county of Renfrewshire, Inverclyde is situated in the crook of the upper Firth of Clyde as it bends east toward Glasgow. Its largest towns, Greenock and Port Glasgow, were historic centres of shipbuilding. From the eighteenth century they were key ports for the British trade in goods from overseas, including commodities, such as tobacco and sugar, produced by African people held enslaved in the American and Caribbean colonies. Because of its importance in the sugar industry Greenock was sometimes known as ‘Sugaropolis’ in the nineteenth century. Inverclyde’s other towns and villages include Gourock, Inverkip, and Wemyss Bay along the coast and Kilmacolm and Quarrier’s Village inland to the southeast.

Where to find local collections:  

Watt Library family and local history services.

Inverclyde Archives.

Books – non fiction:

Two centuries of shipbuilding by the Scotts at Greenock, 1920.

Book – fiction:

Annals of the Parish; or, The chronicle of Dalmailing during the ministry of the Rev. Micah Balwhidder by John Galt, 1821. [On Internet Archive. 1910 edition.]

The humours of Greenock fair; or, the taylor made a man by Archibald MacLaren, 1790. [On Eighteenth Century Collections Online. NLS login required: follow links to database and then search by title.]


Cathcart Street, Greenock by Thomas Stuart Black, 1930c.

Badminton in the Garden by Mr. Martin, 1932.

Manuscript collection:

24 letters of John Clark, John Cunningham and Colin MacLarty, all in Jamaica, to friends and relatives at Greenock, 1772-1881. MS.50258. [Letters from enslavers in Jamaica. Material can be consulted in the Special Collections Reading Room.]


River Clyde – Dunoon to Port Glasgow by the Hydrographic Office, 1963.

Plan of the Town of Greenock from Actual Survey by John Wood, 1825.

Reid’s new map of the river and Firth of Clyde, from Carmyle to Gourock, prepared from map supplied by James Deas, [1890c].

‘Our Bondage and Our Freedom’ – Frederick Douglass in Scotland, 2019. [Shows sites in Gourock where abolitionist Frederick Douglass spoke.]

An e-resource:

Statistical Accounts of Scotland 1791-1845. [Includes parishes of Greenock, Innerkip, Kilmacolm, and Port Glasgow. NLS login required.]

A business:

Gourock Ropework Company. See Truck to Keelson: Ropes for Mayflower II, 1956c.

A person:

James Watt. See Mr. Watt’s specification of his method of lessening the consumption of steam and fuel in fire engines by James Watt, [1792?]. [In Medicine, Science and Technology on Eighteenth Century Collections Online. NLS login required: follow links to database and then search by title.] For Watt’s involvement with the slave trade, see the further resources below.

Marion Laird. See Memoirs of the life and experiences of Marion Laird, an unmarried woman in Greenock by Marion Laird, 1781. [On Eighteenth Century Collections Online. NLS login required: follow links to database and then search by title.]

A song or piece of music:

‘There’s nae luck about the house’ by Jean Adams. [In Songs of Scotland prior to Burns, edited by Robert Chambers, 1890.] See also ‘Adam [Adams], Jean (1704-1765)’ by Karina Williamson. [In The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. NLS login required.]

A castle or other historic building:

Newark Castle. See Newark Castle II by John Clerk. [On SCRAN. NLS login required.]

Windyhill in Kilmacolm. [Photograph in Dekorative Kunst. House designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh.]


Sugar. See Charles Goad Fire Insurance Plan of Greenock – Vol. I, Sheet 2. See also Walker’s Sugar Refinery, Greenock, Renfrewshire by John Hume. [On SCRAN. NLS login required.]

A photograph:

Newark Shipbuilding Yard, Port Glasgow, Renfrewshire by John Hume. [On SCRAN. NLS login required.]

Further reading:

Sugar & ships: a retrospective exhibition of paintings of Greenock and the Clyde, 1995.

James Watt (1736-1819): Culture, innovation and enlightenment, edited by Caroline Archer-Parré and Malcolm Dick, 2020. [Online access in NLS reading room.] See also ‘James Watt and Slavery in Scotland’ by Stephen Mullen, 2020. [On History Workshop.]

Inverclyde region ephemera, 1951-. [A collection of ephemera from, and related to, a wide range of firms, organisations, buildings and places located in Inverclyde, Scotland.]