The dry docks at Govan – Govan Graving Docks – were completed in the late nineteenth century with the last one to be built, the large dock nearest to Govan Road, opening on 27th April 1898.
Commissioned by James Deas, the Chief Engineer of the Clyde Navigation Trust, No. 1 dry dock and No. 3 dry dock were the deepest dry docks in Britain when opened and could accommodate the largest ships in the world of the time. They pre-date the former burgh of Govan being incorporated into the City of Glasgow. The docks were used to repair and refit hundreds of Clydebuilt ships and were in active use until the late 1980s.
Since closing down the site has lain derelict and for much of that time it has continued to lie derelict and deteriorating in the ownership of property developers who have just been sitting on the land waiting for the right time to redevelop it.
The walls of the dry docks are built from grey granite some of which is hand carved and are category A-listed. The only remaining building on the site is the sandstone pump house for No.1 dry dock. Also an A-listed building it is in poor condition with only the walls and a few roof beams remaining. Govan Graving Docks is a significant piece of Glasgow’s shipbuilding and maritime heritage and is the only major historic dock complex on the Upper Clyde that has not been filled in to make way for modern redevelopments.
The site is currently under threat of redevelopment for private housing however the Clyde Docks Preservation Initiative is leading the development of an alternative proposal to bring the site back to life as a maritime park. This could see a nature reserve, social-enterprise franchise opportunities for young and long term unemployed people from the area and ships in the docks once again.
At the height of Clyde shipbuilding almost a fifth of all the ships in the world were built on the river. There is now very little trace left of Glasgow’s rich industrial past but we aim to bring something of that past into the future. Something tangible, living and immersive – not just pictures in a museum archive for posterity.
We aim to see one of the dry docks restored to working order to be used for restoration work on historic ships and for replica ship and boat building projects. It could become a place to build tall ships. We aim to see the pump house building (shown in the photograph) restored as a visitor centre and cafe.
A new independent charity has been set up – Govan Docks Maritime Park – that aims to seek ownership of the historic docks and secure funding to transform them into a world-class visitor attraction.
This is a project that is being driven from the grass roots by the community and maritime enthusiasts.
We need to raise £6,500 to produce a short documentary about the history and future potential of the docks. Interviewing local people and experts about the potential and the exciting challenges bringing the site back to life will involve.
This is your chance to become part of Govan Graving Docks' story!
Production of the film will enable young and long term unemployed people from the local area to gain skills and experience in media production, camera operation and video editing.