River Leven

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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Leven, a river of Dumbartonshire, carrying the surplus water from Loch Lomond to the Firth of Clyde. It leaves the loch at the extreme S end, immediately to the E of Balloch pier, and takes a very winding south-by-easterly course to the Clyde at Dumbarton, passing through the parish of Bonhill and along the boundary between the parishes of Dumbarton and Cardross. Measured in a straight line, its length is 5¼ miles, but there are so many windings that the real course is 7¼ The fall from the loch to the mouth is only 23 feet, and the discharge is about 60,000 cubic feet per minute. The tide flows up for about 3 miles. The scenery along its whole course was formerly very soft and pretty, and in some reaches it is so still; while the valley, about 2 miles broad, is rich and fertile. Pennant described it as 'unspeakably beautiful, very fertile, and finely watered;' and its beauty has also been sung by Smollett, whose paternal estate of Bonhill is on its banks, in his Ode to Leven Water, where he addresses it as

'Pure stream. in whose transparent wave
My youthful limbs I wont to lave;'

but the transparency is, alas, now gone. The purity and softness of the water fits it admirably for bleaching and dyeing purposes, and the banks of the river have accordingly become spotted with a continuous series of printfields, bleach-fields, and dye-works, particularly in connection with turkey-red dyeing. After washing the villages or towns of Balloch, Jamestown, Alexandria, Bonhill, and Renton, which are on its banks, and in the neighbourhood of which these industries are carried on, the stream is no longer so pure as it might be, though it is to be hoped that at no distant date there will again be considerable improvement. The fishing used formerly to be good, and notwithstanding the pollution, salmon, sea-trout, river-trout, perch, pike, eels, and flounders are still occasionally to be got, though salmon and sea-trout die in the effort to ascend, unless the river be in flood. The half mile of the course below Dumbarton may be navigated by vessels of fair size, and a considerable amount of ship-building is carried on along the banks. The only tributary of any size is the Murroch Burn from the E, which enters half-way between Renton and Dumbarton.—Ord. Sur., sh. 30, 1866.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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