James Gammell of Garvel House 1735-1825

James Gammell 1735-1825

James Gammell was born  in Greenock on 12 December 1735 to William Gammell and Margaret Scott.  William Gammell had been a shipmaster and later a merchant.  He became a Baillie of the town and the landowner of the Garvel estate.  James was their 4th child.  James attended the Greenock Grammar School with his brother William where one of his fellow pupils was James Watt.  Around 1760 he married Janet Geils, the daughter of a Glasgow merchant.  They had 3 sons, William who was born in 1762 and died in infancy,  Andrew, born 1764 and William, born 1765.

James seems to have followed his father into business but later went into business on his own as a merchant very involved in trade worldwide.  He became a town councillor in 1769 and later a baillie.  He was one of the local councillors who lobbied Parliament to pass the bill for improving the Greenock Harbour.  He was also one of the founders of what later became known as the Greenock Bank opening in 1785 and he remained an active partner in it until the 1800s.

His older son, Lt General William Gammell 1765-1802 is buried in Marintique

His younger son, Lt General Andrew Gammell 1764-1815 is buried in the cloisters of Westminster Abbey London.  It is not sure why he would be buried in what would seem to be a prestigeous place.  It seems however, a place could be “bought” subject to the approval of the Dean and Chapter of the Abbey and it could be that his regiment, the Regiment of Foot Guards asked for this place for a respected officer.. 

Garvel House was built by James Gammell in the family estate at Garvel in the eastern Cartsdyke area in the 1770s.      


Map of 1825 showing the Gammell Estate in the east of the town

In 1822 after his wife’s death James Gammell moved to one of his estates in the north east of Scotland and lived in Drumtochty Castle until his death in 1825.  He is buried in the local church yard of Fourdoun Parish.

The family are also remembered on a tombstone in the Old West Kirkyard.  When the church was moved to its present site on the Eplanade  and the graveyard cleared the remains were transferred to the Greenock Cemetery but the Gammell headstone was placed in the grounds of the church.  The stone which marks the life of William Gammell and his family is now very worn and damaged.  The inscription reads:

Wm Gammell mert, w Margt Scott, s Wm, chn d inf.

Jas Gammell banker in Greenock, w Janet Geils 28.4.1818 79, s Wm d inf.

Lieut Gen Andrew Gammell int Westminster Abbey.

Lieut Gen Wm Gammell int Martinique

After James’ death the Greenock property was sold in 1832 to John Scott of Hawkhill, a member of the shipbuilding family. 

Scott’s son-in-law Robert Sinclair renovated house and it became their family home.

After Mr and Mrs Sinclair’s death the house and estate passed to Mrs Sinclair’s bother, Charles Cunningham Scott in 1855.

The house and estate was purchased by the Greenock Harbour Trust in 1868 to allow for the expansion of the port with its growing shipping needs. All too soon the house itself was surrounded by docks and harbours a far cry from the countryside that surrounded the house when it was built, leaving it as an isolated reminder of its earlier history and prosperity.

In 2005 Garvel House was considered to be in a dangerous state of repair and it was considered that no future use could be made of the building at it was demolished.