LOVELY LEVENGROVE

park fountain as it will ,be 3.jpg 4

Spring is in the air and improvements to Levengrove Park are ongoing.

By Lizzie Healey

Pictures by Tom Gardiner and Robert Clifford

The Fountain at Levengrove Park in Dumbarton is primed for flowing and ready to go.

It has been given a complete face-lift and refurbishment as part of a £3.6 million from Heritage Lottery Funds.

The location and history of Levengrove Park is that it sits on a portion of the old estate of Levengrove and encompasses the site of Levengrove House.

The estate was split up and sold off for development in around 1867, the site being seen as “admirably adapted for villas”. Many Victorian villas now surround the park at Kirktonhill.

In 1894, the remaining unsold portions of the Levengrove Estate were bought by Messrs. William Denny and John MacMillan of Dumbarton, both eminent local shipbuilders.

They arranged for the land to be laid out as a public park for the people of the town and then gifted it back to the Town Council.

The park was opened in 1885 in a large ceremony involving a procession of all the town’s tradesmen. The park cost Denny and MacMillan £20,000 to purchase and develop.

The layout of the park is simple and based around the attractive pre-existing estate landscape.

Professional advice was sought on the design of the park from the curator of the Public Parks of Glasgow, Mr D. McLellan, who declared the site to be “all that could be desired, in fact it is as fine as I have ever seen.”

Mr. McLellan describes the park in its pre-existing state and his proposals in a letter to the Town Council in 1883:

“The lands extend to about 32 imperial acres; the soil I found to be of a light porous nature, resting on a subsoil of gritty gravel, and it appeared to be all perfectly dry, with the exception of about 8 acres near to the River Clyde.

“The ground undulates in a pleasing and easy manner, sufficient to carry of the surface water very quickly, thus rendering it particularly well adopted as a place of recreation for a large industrial community such as Dumbarton.

“About 20 acres could be set apart for games of various kinds, and a few acres could be devoted to flowers, garden and shrubberies.

“The wooding of the grounds is to be specially noticed for the beauty and grandeur of its trees, many of the specimens of which I am sure, cannot be surpassed in Dumbartonshire (sic).

“I would particularly advert to several very fine variegated hollies and two magnificent Cedars of Lebanon.

“It would be advisable, however, to plant a belting of young trees and shrubs round the margin, which in course of time, would give a furnished appearance to the Park.”

2 comments

  1. I once read somewhere that The land was going to get used for the new singer sewing machine factory and Denny and McMillan bought it and gave it to the people of Dumbarton to use as a park so they didn’t lose their workforce to the new factory..
    I’ve never seen this mentioned anywhere else and always wondered if there was any truth to it?

    1. I have read that story too Jimmy.

      For sure Singer’s did not settle in Clydebank right away, and were known to be looking to put down roots with all the requirements they needed, mostly land, A plentiful supply of water and good workers .

      In 1867, the Singer Company had decided that the demand for their sewing machines in the UK was sufficiently high to open a local factory in Glasgow on John Street. Glasgow, was selected for its iron-making industries, and cheap labour. Then in 1873, a new larger factory was completed on James Street, Bridgeton. Finally, in 1882, George McKenzie, now President-elect of the Singer Manufacturing Company, undertook the ground breaking ceremony on 46 acres of farmland at Kilbowie, Clydebank. So, as Levengrove Park was opened in 1885, then the timeline of the possibility that Singer’s ad considered Levengrove as well as Kilbowie , does hang together to some extent .

      Whether the purchase of the ground at Levengrove stymied Singer’s ambitions or not , it cannot be ruled out . (Unless some historian has looked through Singer’s board room minutes of the time , we may never know.) I have , however, seen business letters around that time between Babcock & Wilcox and Singer’s in the Glasgow University Business Archive, where board members of both Singer’s and B &W came to an ‘arrangement’ that these American-based companies would co-operate and share the resources of the, by now, established Singer Manufacturing site at Kilbowie , as Babcock were now desperate to find their own manufacturing base and workforce in Scotland.

      With the support of Singer’s (who had shared board members in both companies ) Babcock & Wilcox operated out of Kilbowie , and later in 1896 bought the Porterfield Forge site in Renfrew and relinquished the ‘borrowed’ manufacturing bays at Singers of Kilbowie. While there was both a lot of competition between established industries and incoming industries, there was also significant co-operation between the incoming American companies.

      This co-operation between the Americans was further demonstrated in the 1960s by the arrival of Diamond Power (Speciality ) Ltd (in which Babcock & Wilcox had a 38 % shareholding) and Babcock gave DPS a home on the long established Babcock & Wilcox Dumbarton Tube Works site, and yet another American company called ‘The Calorizing Corporation of Great Britain,’ who also found a home on the same site. All three of these companies had a symbiotic relationship, as well as a shared origin.

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