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Finlaystone House, timber ponds 505m north east of

A Scheduled Monument in Inverclyde East, Inverclyde

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.9309 / 55°55'51"N

Longitude: -4.6117 / 4°36'41"W

OS Eastings: 236940

OS Northings: 673949

OS Grid: NS369739

Mapcode National: GBR 0K.Z7ZH

Mapcode Global: WH3NQ.4674

Entry Name: Finlaystone House, timber ponds 505m NE of

Scheduled Date: 31 March 2011

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12871

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Industrial: marine

Location: Erskine/Kilmacolm

County: Inverclyde

Electoral Ward: Inverclyde East

Traditional County: Renfrewshire

Description

The monument comprises part of a system of interconnected square and rectilinear timber ponds formed by vertical timber posts. Standing on the S foreshore of the Clyde estuary between Port Glasgow and Langbank, these ponds date to the early or mid 18th century and were in use probably into the early 19th century. They functioned as storage for timber imported to Greenock and Port Glasgow from North America before its sale to local shipyards.

Approximately 1.4km in length, this part of the timber pond system comprises eight blocks of rectangular or square ponds. Each block of ponds is separated by a corridor or channel up to 240m long and 30m wide, which facilitated the floating of the timber into storage. While the width of the blocks varies from approximately 90m to 260m, most are around 225m wide. Most of the blocks are sub-divided internally into two or four compartments. The timber ponds extend approximately 250m NNE from the high water mark into the Clyde estuary.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan, with maximum dimensions of 1.44km WNW-ESE by 255m transversely, to include the remains described above, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduled area excludes the above-ground elements of all metal warning poles and the upper 500mm of the sea defences to allow for their maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics

Appearing as long rows of timbers visible at most times except high tide, the timber ponds comprise blocks of large rectangular or square post-defined enclosures, embedded into the foreshore. The exposed surfaces of the timbers are abraded, but the foreshore at this point shows no signs of erosion. Indeed it is likely that the ponds will be trapping sediment. This indicates that the timber remains below seabed level will be well-preserved.

Some enclosures have been sub-divided internally, mostly into two or four compartments. Vessels carrying timber to Port Glasgow unloaded their cargo into the river nearby and each pond had a single entrance facing onto a long corridor or channel between the blocks, which presumably enabled timber to be floated into the ponds. Prior to being unloaded, a number was carved into each piece of timber and an iron ring fixed to it, allowing individual timbers to be chained together and then moved as larger rafts into the appropriate ponds.

In terms of construction, each pond is bounded by a mixture of evenly-spaced large posts with thinner stake-like posts between them. This arrangement was designed to allow water to flow freely in and out of the ponds while preventing the timbers from escaping into the River Clyde. Contemporary accounts record that when timber did escape from the ponds, such as during stormy weather, the Clyde was effectively closed to shipping. Across the whole system of timber ponds there are noticeable differences in size, shape and internal layout, suggesting that ponds were added and the whole system developed over several decades as the demand for wood increased. It is possible that the earlier timber ponds are those towards the western end of the complex.

Contextual characteristics

Port Glasgow's timber ponds operated on a rental basis, with timber dealers using them to store imported wood until their stock was bought by local shipyards. Interestingly, the land the ponds occupy may have been the property of the shipyard owners. Visually arresting, the timber ponds present a tangible reminder of the extensive coastal and international maritime trade that flourished in the Clyde estuary during the period. Located close to the shipbuilding centres at Port Glasgow and Greenock, the timber ponds are also a direct connection to the pre-iron and steel period of ship construction.

Historic mapping from the 18th and 19th centuries reveals timber ponds in the vicinity of most major ports and shipbuilding centres, a reflection of the importance of this trade. However, there are very few if any surviving examples of timber ponds across Scotland and the UK. This is mostly because dockland and harbour areas have undergone extensive development since the 18th century. Nowadays, place-names (which appear across north America as well as in Britain) often provide the only clue to the earlier existence of timber ponds.

Associative characteristics

Port Glasgow's Latin motto, 'Ter et Quarter anno Revisiens Aequor Atlanticum Impune' (translated as 'three and four times a year revisiting the Atlantic with impunity'), refers to the timber trade with Canada and the United States.

Standing almost adjacent to Fergusson's yard in Port Glasgow, these timber ponds remain in close proximity to today's shipbuilding industry. Along with buildings such as the sugar warehouses in Greenock, the timber ponds are among only a handful of surviving structures recounting the area's rich mercantile and maritime heritage.

In 2002, the timber ponds played a role in 'Taggart', the popular Glaswegian crime drama. In this episode, the body of Detective Inspector Mike Jardine had been dumped in the river and carried downstream by the current before washing into the timber ponds where it was discovered.

National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, in particular the 18th- and early 19th-century shipbuilding industry of Port Glasgow and Greenock. The monument is a visible and highly significant reminder of the international trading connections of these towns during that period and underlines the importance of the timber trade to the area. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand the role of timber in relation to industries such as shipbuilding and our capacity to identify regional characteristics or trends in the dating, function and construction of timber ponds.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

The site is recorded by the RCAHMS as NS37SE 144 and by the West of Scotland Archaeology Service Sites and Monuments Record as NS37SE 51577. The monument lies wholly within the Inner Clyde SSSI, SNH Reference 1701.

References

Maynard, A 1969, 'Stumps in the sand: the story of the old timber ponds of Port Glasgow', Scotland's Magazine 63, July 1969

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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