Glasgow's transport infrastructure was transformed in the 1770s by two canals. The Monkland Canal ran to the eastern edge of the city from Coatbridge in Lanarkshire, and the Forth and Clyde Canal reached Glasgow in 1775 from the new port of Grangemouth, on the Forth. Neither canal was finished and it took until 1790 for the Forth and Clyde to reach the Clyde at Bowling and connect the two coasts. At the same time it was extended from the original Hamilton Hill basin to a new terminal, Port Dundas, which the Monkland also joined in 1793.
As a ship canal, the Forth and Clyde extended the scope of coastal shipping. Trade coming into Port Dundas from Grangemouth was considerable, with cargoes being unloaded at Grangemouth from large vessels into lighters (or barges) and towed to Glasgow by horses. Grain, timber and coal were the main commodities and so much trade came into Port Dundas from the east that it was effectively an east coast port in the heart of Glasgow. Regular sailings for cargo and passengers were established to Europe, London and other east coast ports.
The Monkland Canal was used only by barges. It was made to bring coal from the Monklands district of Lanarkshire into the city to create competition and hence lower the price for the cartel of mine owners who had mines around the city and who controlled fuel prices. It succeeded, paving the way for Glasgow's industrial expansion.
A third canal, the Glasgow, Paisley and Ardrossan, reached Glasgow in 1811. It was on the south side of the Clyde and went from Port Eglinton to Johnstone in Renfrewshire. Money and demand ran out before it was completed and it never got to the Ayrshire coast at Ardrossan.
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