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The Henry Bell

Read about the first successful passenger carrying steam boat service in Europe.

19–29 James Street, Helensburgh, Argyll and Bute, G84 8AS

The area’s outstanding scenery and clean air attracted wealthy Glasgow merchants to build handsome villas here, overlooking the Clyde and Gare Loch. Travel to and from the town was mainly by boat – revolutionised in 1812 by Henry Bell’s Comet, the first passenger-carrying steam boat. Helensburgh then developed as a seaside resort. Bell was the owner of the Baths Hotel and was the town’s first Provost, commemorated by the pink polished granite obelisk on the seafront.

A print and text about Henry Bell.


The text reads: Henry Bell was born on 7 April 1767. He was from a family well known at the time as millwrights, builders and engineers. He embarked on various apprenticeships and in 1787 decided to pursue his interest in ship mechanics.

He had a keen interest in steam power for shipping and in 1808 Henry Bell and his wife moved to Helensburgh where he pursued this.

In 1812 he built his steam boat the Comet, which in August of that year made the historical trip from Glasgow to Greenock.

He soon began a passenger service on the Comet between Glasgow, Greenock and Helensburgh and is famed for being the first person to do this in Europe.

Henry Bell died in Helensburgh in 1830 aged 62.

Prints and text about the Comet.


The text reads: In 1812, Henry Bell revolutionised travel to and from Helensburgh with his steam boat the Comet.

It was the first successful passenger carrying steam boat service in Europe.

He was the town’s first Provost.

Sketches and plans of Henry Bell’s Comet.



A print of Charles Mackintosh and his wife, Margaret MacDonald.


Charles Mackintosh was an architect, designer, water colourist and artist. He studied at the nearby Glasgow School of Art.

Many of the local history images used in our artwork were courtesy of Helensburgh Heritage Trust.


External photograph of the building – main entrance.


If you have information on the history of this pub, then we’d like you to share it with us. Please e-mail all information to: pubhistories@jdwetherspoon.co.uk