A report has recently been submitted on the results of a programme of archaeological monitoring conducted by staff of Headland Archaeology Ltd during public realm landscaping works at James Watt Dock, Greenock. The work included a 'reactive watching brief' where archaeological monitoring of groundbreaking works was undertaken where and when archaeological remains were uncovered during groundbreaking works or in areas of known archaeological sensitivity.
The site of James Watt Dock, Garvel Island and Great Harbour form the eastern extent of a waterfront that elevated Greenock and the Inverclyde region into one of the prime centres of maritime industry and commerce in Scotland from the 18th century until gradual decline in recent decades. James Watt Dock was widely acclaimed as the 'champion' of the waterfront facilities of the day. During initial the site visit by Headland, a rapid photographic record of the general site was taken. These are located with reference to the main features of the James Watt Dock: a large sugar warehouse along the south side of the dock and two large E-W aligned deep water docks divided by a central pier and enclosed by a second pier to the north. The photographs recorded a number of original features including the remains of numerous railway lines running along both the north and south sides of the surviving sugar warehouse and some also leading into the building itself. These railway tracks were also recorded both to the east and west sides of the warehouse with a number also running along the dock piers.
A large area of cobbles at the eastern end of the docks were cleared, while to the west of the warehouse current surfaces were also removed, though the depth of excavation was limited (approximately 0.15 m) and no earlier surfaces or features were revealed. Excavations were monitored at the north-east corner of the warehouse, close to the southern bay of the docks. This revealed the junction of a large brick-built service culvert that was aligned both N-S along the dock side and E-W along the northern side of the warehouse. A number of cast-iron pipes and more modern cables were visible in this culvert. Along the cobbled surface at the eastern end of the docks a number of square manhole covers with brick surrounds were recorded. These were thought to be associated with this culvert. This culvert was considered to be part of the original dock construction, dated to the late 1870s.