Robert Burns visited Dumbarton  on 29th June 1787. The full story of that visit can be found via the "Dumbarton Connection" button on the Home Page or click here.

The town he visited would have been very different from the present day Dumbarton.

The picture below shows the road through Renton, where he visited the Smollet Monument erected in 1774, and how it looks today, with War Memorial beside it. The three beehive-like chimneys are those of the Glass Works opened in 1777.

By the 17th century Dumbarton was an important port with trade routes going as far afield as the West Indies.


The first detailed map of Dumbarton, surveyed in 1777, shows a ship carpenters’ yard just downstream of the town bridge between the Quay and the High Street. The town was a major centre for shipbuilding; a trade that lasted until the Denny yard closed in 1964.

The most obvious changes in the maps is the shape of the River Leven. The large expanse of water to the north of the town centre has been filled and the Broadmeadow Industrial Estate built on the reclaimed land.


At one point there were 20 shipbuilding yards in the town

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In 1776 James Dunlop of Garnkirk established Dumbarton’s 1st industry-- the glassworks. 

In its heyday, from 1800-1830’s,  it was one of the most important glassworks in Britain, producing  over 90% of all  glass made in Scotland and employing three hundred workers.  


The 6-acre site and works were owned by the wealthy and influential Dixon Family from 1817 until 1831, and by James Christie from 1837-50. 

The three typical glass cones dominated the site, as the industry dominated the town’s economy.  


The glassworks was highly self sufficient, and owned five coal-works, four tramways, two wharves, two bottle works, a brewery, farm and seven sailing vessels. 

By 1850 foreign imports flooded the market and the glassworks were closed.


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In 1801, the population of the town was 2541

The current population is around 20,000

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Robert Burns in Dumbarton in 1787