Archive Record

Collection Inverclyde Archives: Business and Organisational Records
Catalogue Number BG101
Object Name Fonds
Level of description Fonds
Title Greenock Library, papers
Date 1782-1973
Creator Greenock Library
Dates of Creation 1782-1973
Scope & Content Contains: ledger 1870-73, cash account book, 1883-1902, 1903-1937; 1883 reprint of the 2nd catalogue (1792); Bundle of miscellaneous papers, 1869-1911, including a narrative statement of the early history of the library dated 1904; Correspondence, 1782-1911; Committee minute book, 1848-1878, 1886-1906, 1914-1945, 1953-63; Recommendations books, commenced 1813 then 1850-1913, 1913-1971; Library section catalogues, includes catalogue of books presented to the library with correspondence, 1934-1960; Borrowing receipts book, 1896-1972; Correspondence, 1900-1905, 1906-1953, 1906-1915-25, 1934-1935, 1939-45 1946-52, 1952-55, 1954-58, 1959-61, 1958-59; Subscribers register, 1898- 1911,1938-1941; Proprietors register, 1893-1925, 1926-1951; Donations receipt book, 1909-1922; Account book, 1914-1921; Correspondence relating to lectures, c.1864 to c.1886; Correspondence, 1973, to the proprietors concerning change of constitution; Autograph books with catalogue, n.d.; Minute books(various), 1794-1831, 1955-1973; Proprietors and subscribers register, 1850-1870; Borrowings registers, 1888-1890, 1913; Librarians notebooks, c.1880-c.1944; Minute book, 1906-1914; purchase of books receipts, 1783; Statement of subscribers supporting increase of subscription, 1802 (contains 56 signatures); Subscribers tickets; Librarian's account books, 1867-1876, 1876-1896, 1896-1940; Register of lending statistics, 1910-1916, 1916-1926, 1941-1957; Reservations book, n.d.; Register of donations to the fund for building a house of refuge for juvenile offenders and orphans in Greenock, c.1839; Inventory and valuation of fixtures and fittings, pictures, busts etc, 1896; Catalogue of the Young request, 1939; Financial statements, 1934-1952; Purchases ledger, 1940-1973; Botanical library subscriptions book, 1861-1863; Proprietors subs book, 1862; Priority ledger, commencing 1932; Financial papers including annual reports, c.1949-1960; library clerk's letter book, 1911-22; poster, Bye-Laws, 1896.
Extent of Description 3.00m
Admin/Biographical History The Watt Library of today is a direct descendent of one of Greenock's most notable and historic institutions, the Greenock Library which was founded on 1st January 1783. It was one of the first subscription libraries in Scotland.

Over the next 40 to 50 years the Greenock library continued to grow and changed premises several times. The Library's growth was helped by a large number of donations of single works as well as several important donations of money or books to form special collections. In 1816, James Watt donated a sum of £100 to "form the beginnings of a scientific library" and the following year the widow of William Spence presented her husband's mathematical collection to found a mathematical library "for the use of the students of the town of Greenock". By 1831
, the collections had grown to some 6.00 volumes with a membership of about 200.
The James Watt Club was formed in Greenock in 1813, and following the death of Watt in 1819, they suggested erecting a memorial to him, by 1826, £2000 had been raised. Sir Francis Chantry was commissioned to execute a marble statue of the inventor and on 3rd March, 1828, his eldest son James, offered £2,000 to build a new building to contain the statue and "the books and properties of the Greenock Library." When the relevant estimates were finally submitted it was found that the costs of £4100 for the main building and £660 for the wings greatly exceeded the original amount put forward by John Watt junior. However, on hearing this, Mr Watt confirmed his generosity by agreeing to meet the increased costs for the building.

The designs for the Watt Monument building were drawn up by the architect Sir Edward Blore. On Tuesday Tuesday, 25th August, 1835, a large congregation attended a service in the Mid Kirk in memory of James Watt, after which, it was reported, that one of the largest concourses of men ever seen in Greenock, marched from Cathcart Square to the Watt Monument site in Union Street. Here, although unwell at the time, Sir Michael Shaw Stewart laid the foundation stone, having the inscription. "To receive and preserve for the contemplation of succeeding generations, a marble statue dedicated by the inhabitants of Greenock to the memory of their illustrious townsman James Watt , and to afford accommodation for a Scientific Library founded by him (in 1816) and for the Public Library of Greenock.". Unfortunately, subsequent details of the construction of the building are elusive. However, a paragraph in the 'Greenock Advertiser' of 29th June, 1837, informs us that "The transfer of the books of the public library, from the Hall of the Masonic Lodge to the elegant saloon in the Watt Monument is now in considerable forwardness."

The building had been open to subscribers of the Greenock Library from the previous year, providing a permanent home for the collections after 54 years in a variety of premises. At this time, only the central portion of the building was completed, although this contained the library, a hall, committee rooms and a separate house for the librarian in Kelly Street. With increased costs, it was some years before the wings were added, at a cost of £1000 and following fund-raising by the Watt Club. Even then the remaining debt on the building was not cleared off until 1852 when a ladies' bazaar raised £936 19s 3d for the building.

Installed in its splendid new premises, the Greenock Library entered a period of rapid growth. At the transfer, the librarian was the Rev. John Dunn, teacher of languages at the Grammar School who had first been appointed in 1807. Mr Dunn was succeeded by James Black, also a language teacher, who, after four years, was succeeded by his wife. Mrs Black remained librarian for the next 25 years, and throughout this period was greatly respected as the "keeper of the books and dispenser of literature". For many years after her retirement she was remembered for the wonderful parties she frequently gave at the library.

By the time the eighth catalogue of the Greenock Library was published in 1844, the library had extended to about 8500 volumes. Over the next 10 years, membership fluctuated, going down to 158 in 1867. During the Second World War the membership peaked at 1104.

Due to falling numbers the library closed on 31st December, 1973, when it was taken over by the Greenock Corporation and renovated. The building re-opened to the public on 11th December, 1974, re-organised for its specialist function of local history and archives.

Search Terms Watt Library (Greenock Library), Union Street, Greenock (est. 1838)
Parent ObjectID CA52