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Newshot Island, River Clyde, remains of diving support vessel and dredging barges.

A Scheduled Monument in Erskine and Inchinnan, Renfrewshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.9027 / 55°54'9"N

Longitude: -4.433 / 4°25'58"W

OS Eastings: 247989

OS Northings: 670402

OS Grid: NS479704

Mapcode National: GBR 3K.11CQ

Mapcode Global: WH3NS.WW7T

Entry Name: Newshot Island, River Clyde, remains of diving support vessel and dredging barges.

Scheduled Date: 4 June 2018

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13692

Schedule Class: Cultural

County: Renfrewshire

Electoral Ward: Erskine and Inchinnan

Traditional County: Renfrewshire

Description

The monument comprises the remains of dredging barges and a diving support vessel, visible as wrecks partially buried in intertidal sediments within a channel on the south bank of the River Clyde, southwest of Newshot Island. 

The group of dredging barges consist of at least 28 rectangular, flat-bottomed wooden open-decked punts, each approximately 9.5m long by 4.5m wide.  The dive support vessel is an open-decked craft of iron hull construction probably constructed around 1852. The hull measures 15.2m in length by 6m wide. Immediately adjacent to the diving support vessel is a square structure protruding from the sediment. The nature and function of this structure is unclear. There is high potential for buried remains to survive within the foreshore sediments, including structural features and equipment dislodged from these vessels, and mooring remains. There is also potential that the surrounding sediments will contain objects dredged from elsewhere in the River Clyde in connection with the deepening and ongoing maintenance of Clyde navigation channels.

The scheduled area is rectangular on plan measuring 110m by 70m and covering the remains described above. All modern survey markers are excluded from the scheduled area.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Statement of National Importance

Cultural Significance

The cultural significance of the monument has been assessed as follows:

Intrinsic Characteristics

The monument survives as a well-preserved collection of field remains partially buried in riverine sediment and surrounded by areas of saltmarsh. The condition and range of visible material, combined with the high likelihood of buried deposits means that this site can significantly enhance our understanding of the management of the Clyde estuary for navigation during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Although useful items were probably recovered from the diving support vessel when breaking activities took place in 1933, the hull was presumably abandoned at Newshot Island where it was likely targeted for scrap metal. However, the hull survives substantially intact with, in places, up to 75cm of the hull exposed to the line of the gunwhale (the top edge of the side of a boat). The vessel exhibits a riveted iron hull with a wide beam, a bluff-shaped bow and a straight stern with a cut-out to accommodate the diving bell. The metal box structure adjacent to the side of the hull adds to our interest although it may be un-related to the diving support vessel. Other identifiable features include circular voids in the hull for portholes, mooring bollards, and a cylindrical iron object measuring 1.5m in height, likely part of the vessel's steam boiler and engine equipment to power the lifting and winching gear.  There is high potential for other important buried features to survive within the riverine sediments around the vessel and within its interior. Researchers believe that the diving support vessel was the first of two purpose-built barges commissioned by the Clyde Navigation Trust, and that it saw a long period of use from the 1850s to early 1930s (Scape Trust 2017). Divers were required to assist in removal of larger boulders and areas of rock that could not be removed by steam dredgers. Its survival is of specific technological interest in connection with evolution in commercial diving technology, and the role of commercial diving in Clyde navigation dredging.

The dredging barges had a carrying capacity of around 10 tons, and they were designed to transport, often in towed raft formation comprising multiple barges, spoil excavated by steam dredgers for deposition elsewhere on the river bank where the spoil was re-used to reclaim land (Scape Trust 2017). The dredging barges at Newshot Island are well preserved and exhibit a simple load carrying design through their rectangular plan form and flat-bottomed hull shape. Of wooden and iron construction, many of them are structurally intact with visible wooden hull planking, frames, deck planking, cross-beams and iron knees. Visible fittings include mooring bollards and stanchions.

Contextual Characteristics

The site of the boat graveyard lies opposite the Clyde Navigation Trust's repair and maintenance yard at Dalmuir, constructed in 1867. Researchers believe that land at Newshot Island was rented by the Navigation Trust in 1860, and used for mooring parts of their fleet when not in use, and also as a disposal site for dredged spoil. It continued to be used as a dumping ground into the 20th century, even after the Clyde Navigation Trust moved from its Dalmuir yard to a new site at Renfrew in 1908.

Dredging was an important factor in adapting the River Clyde for seaborne trade and opening up Glasgow for mercantile commerce. By the middle of the 19th century, the improvement of the navigation of the Clyde was described by engineers as 'one of the most successful engineering operations achieved in Great Britain' (Bald 1845, 234). Until dredging operations, the channels of the upper river at Dumbuck were documented as being very shallow - estimated at less than 1m deep (Clyde Navigation 1871). As a result of dredging work to deepen channels, in 1854, nearly 500 vessels were logged arriving at Glasgow Harbour including vessels of up to 1427 tons (Riddell 1979: 123). Secondary benefits included a reduction in flood risk and the creation of reclaimed land for development.

The diving support vessel was one of only two such vessels commissioned by the Clyde Navigation Trust. Researchers believe that it is the earliest known diving support vessel in the UK. Use of wooden punts for carrying dredged material was widespread since at least the early 19th century. Records indicate that the Navigation Trust had around 355 punts in the fleet at its height in the early 1860s but that numbers declined after 1862 with the introduction of self-propelled hopper barges that dumped spoil at sea. This group of 28 wooden punts forms the easternmost and most comprehensive of a much wider group of punts, totalling 48 in all, and four other vessel hulks of wooden schooners abandoned on the foreshore around the area of Newshot Island. Although locally abundant, in our current state of knowledge there are no other such recorded sites in Scotland connected with the dredging industry.  

Associative Characteristics

The Clyde dredging works were part of a wider, longer-term river management scheme to meet the developing commercial needs of Glasgow. In 1759 the first of what would be many Acts of Parliament was passed, giving Glasgow's town councillors the powers "to cleanse, scour, straighten and improve" the River Clyde. These initial improvements were to meet demands of the lucrative trade with the Americas, particularly in tobacco, and would have provided waterborne access to Glasgow itself, the site of many merchant offices and warehouses. Further improvements were required as Glasgow rapidly industrialised and became a centre of shipbuilding as well as other heavy industry and trade. Regular dredging of the Clyde began in 1852.

The work was undertaken by successive civil engineers under the direction of the Clyde Navigation Trust established in 1858 including Charles Atherton, David Logan, William Bald, David Bremner, Andrew Duncan, and James Deas. Of these, Bremner, Ure, Duncan and Deas worked actively on the design of dredging vessels (Riddell, 1979). The engineer Robert Stevenson was responsible for recommending use of a diving bell to support dredging operations in more difficult stretches of the riverbed. The diving support vessel was built by the Glasgow shipyard of A & J Inglis & Co.

Statement of National Importance

This monument is of national importance as a well-preserved group of vessels remains related to the dredging activities that can significantly add to our understanding of the management of navigation on the River Clyde during the 18th and 19th centuries. The complex is particularly notable for the impressive survival of a diving support vessel believed to be the earliest such vessel in the UK, and in the widespread survival of wooden dredging barges that played an important role in extensive dredging operations to improve the navigability of the River Clyde for merchant shipping. Extensive archives of the Clyde Navigation Trust add to our understanding of the monument and no close parallels for this site have been identified. Due to this rarity, the loss of, or damage to, the monument would significantly diminish our ability to understand evolution in diving and dredging technology, and how the resulting improvements in navigation of the River Clyde contributed to Glasgow's growing prosperity during the 18th and 19th centuries as a great industrial city strongly connected with ship-borne trade and shipbuilding.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

Historic Environment Scotland http://www.canmore.org.uk reference number CANMORE IDs 102768 & 102465 (accessed on 13 March 2018).

Bald, W. 1845. 'Account of the Improvement of the Navigation of the River Clyde'. Civil Engineers and Architect's Journal 8: 235-235.

Clyde Navigation, 1871. Longitudinal section of the River Clyde shewing the greatest depths of the channel in the years 1758, 1824,1839,1853,1861, and 1871, respectively. Archive of the University of Glasgow. Maps c18:45 GLA20.

Hambly, J. 2015. 'Renfrewshire, Newshot Island, Survey', in Discovery Excav Scot, 15, 2014. Cathedral Communications Limited, Wiltshire, England: 171-172

Historic England 2017. Ships and boats prehistory to present, a selection guide. Copy available at https://content.historicengland.org.uk/images-books/publications/dsg-ships-boats/heag143-ships-and-boats-prehistory-to-present-sg.pdf/ (last accessed 22/03/2018).

Riddell, J. 1979. Clyde Navigation: a history of the development and deepening of the River Clyde. Edinburgh. John Donald Publishers.

SCAPE Trust, 2017. Scotland's Coastal Heritage at Risk Project

Newshot Island boat graveyard. Data Structure Report. Copy available at http://scharp.co.uk/media/medialibrary/2017/08/NEWSHOT-DSR-small.pdf (last accessed 22/03/2018)

Canmore

https://canmore.org.uk/site/102465/
https://canmore.org.uk/site/102768/

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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