Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland


Paisley (/'pe?zli/ PAYZ-lee; Scots: Paisley, Scottish Gaelic: P?islig ['p?a??l?k?]) is a large town situated in the west central Lowlands of Scotland. Located north of the Gleniffer Braes, the town borders the city of Glasgow to the east, and straddles the banks of the White Cart Water, a tributary of the River Clyde.

Paisley serves as the administrative centre for the Renfrewshire council area, and is the largest town in the historic county of the same name. It is often cited as "Scotland's largest town" and is the fifth largest settlement in the country, although it does not have city status.

The town became prominent in the 12th century, with the establishment of Paisley Abbey, an important religious hub which formerly had control over other local churches.

By the 19th century, Paisley was a centre of the weaving industry, giving its name to the Paisley shawl and the Paisley pattern. The town's associations with political radicalism were highlighted by its involvement in the Radical War of 1820, with striking weavers being instrumental in the protests. By 1993, all of Paisley's mills had closed, although they are memorialised in the town's museums and civic history.[2]


Early history

Thomas Coats Memorial Baptist Church, Paisley, Scotland, ca. 1890?1900.

Map of Paisley in early 1900s

Formerly and variously known as Paislay,[3] Passelet, Passeleth, and Passelay[4] the burgh's name is of uncertain origin; some sources suggest a derivation either from the Brittonic word pasgill, "pasture", or from the Cumbric basaleg, "basilica", (i.e. major church), derived from the Greek ?as????? basilika. Some Scottish placename books suggest "P?ssa's wood/clearing", from the Old English personal name P?ssa, "clearing", and leah, "wood". Pasilege (1182) and Paslie (1214) are recorded previous spellings of the name. The Gaelic translation is P?islig.

It is worth noting that some sources favour the name of the town as having its roots in the Gaelic word Baisleac, which is, like the Cumbric basaleg, derived from basilika.[5] As Paisley was part of the Cumbric speaking Kingdom of Strathclyde, before being absorbed into the Gaelic speaking Kingdom of Alba in the 11th century, and with Cumbric being considered extinct by the 12th century, it is uncertain whether the name of Paisley is of Cumbric or Gaelic origin, due to the linguistic shift that occurred around this time.

The Anchor Mills (1886) ? a remnant of Paisley's Victorian industrial heritage.

The Roman name for Paisley was Vanduara.[6]

Paisley has monastic origins. A chapel is said to have been established by the 6th / 7th-century Irish monk, Saint Mirin, at a site near a waterfall on the White Cart Water known as the Hammils. Though Paisley lacks contemporary documentation it may have been, along with Glasgow and Govan, a major religious centre of the Kingdom of Strathclyde. A priory was established in 1163 from the Cluniac priory at Wenlock in Shropshire, England at the behest of Walter fitz Alan, Steward of Scotland (died 1177). In 1245 this was raised to the status of an abbey. The restored Abbey and adjacent 'Place' (palace), constructed out of part of the medieval claustral buildings, survive as a Church of Scotland parish church. One of Scotland's major religious houses, Paisley Abbey was much favoured by the Bruce and Stewart royal families. King Robert III (1390?1406) was buried in the Abbey. His tomb has not survived, but that of Princess Marjorie Bruce (1296?1316), ancestor of the Stewarts, is one of Scotland's few royal monuments to survive the Reformation.[7]

Paisley coalesced under James II's wish that the lands should become a single regality and, as a result, markets, trading and commerce began to flourish. In 1488 the town's status was raised by James IV to Burgh of barony. Many trades sprang up and the first school was established in 1577 by the Town Council.[8]

Witch Trials

The Paisley witches, also known as the Bargarran witches or the Renfrewshire witches, were tried in Paisley in 1697. Seven were convicted and five were hanged and then burnt on the Gallow Green. Their remains were buried at Maxwelton Cross in the west end of the town. This was the last mass execution for witchcraft in western Europe.[9] A horse shoe was placed on top of the site to lock in the evil. A horse shoe is still visible in the middle of this busy road junction today?though not the original. The modern shoe is made of bronze and bears the inscription, "Pain Inflicted, Suffering Endured, Injustice Done".[10]

Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution, based on the textile industry, turned Paisley from a small market town to an important industrial town in the late 18th century. Its location attracted English mill owners; immigrants from Ayrshire and the Highlands poured into a town that offered jobs to women and children until silk fell out of fashion in 1790.[11] The mills switched to the imitation Kashmir (cashmere) shawls called "Paisley". Under the leadership of Thomas Coats (1809?1893), Paisley became the world centre for thread making. The high-status skilled weavers mobilised themselves in radical protests after 1790, culminating in the failed "Radical War" of 1820. Overproduction, the collapse of the shawl market and a general depression in the textile industry led to technical changes that reduced the importance of weavers. Politically the mill owners remained in control of the town.[12]

Origins of Paisley Shawls

By the mid-19th century weaving had become the town's principal industry. The Paisley weavers' most famous products were the shawls, which bore the Paisley Pattern made fashionable after being worn by a young Queen Victoria. Despite being of a Kashmiri design and manufactured in other parts of Europe, the teardrop-like pattern soon became known by Paisley's name across the western world.[13][14] Although the shawls dropped out of fashion in the 1870s, the Paisley pattern remains an important symbol of the town: the Paisley Museum maintains a significant collection of the original shawls in this design, and it has been used, for example, in the modern logo of Renfrewshire Council, the local authority.[15]

According to Monique L?vi-Strauss,[16] information on the history of Kashmir shawls' weaving techniques had been described in books, but in a very unintelligible language. John Irwin[17][18] published a book named Shawls, a Study in Indo-European Influences, in 1955, in which he relates the Kashmir shawl's history and how these shawls spread on the European market during the 19th century. The book showed images of shawls woven in India and also fifteen images of shawls woven in United Kingdom, amongst which is one assigned to a Paisley manufacture, circa 1850. But according to Monique L?vi-Strauss, it resembles by many details a shawl designed by a French designer named Antony Berrus, born in 1815 at N?mes-France and died in 1883.[19] The designer studied at the drawing School of N?mes, before settling in Paris and opening in the French capital his own successful design studio, which employed 200 designers. His textile drawings were sold to Lyon in France, in Scotland, in England, in Austria and also in Kashmir. The fact that shawl patterns drawings were made in Europe, sold there and also to India, made the research work extremely difficult, in order to give a precise location of manufacture. Therefore, in 1973, John Irwin published an update of his book, named as The Kashmir Shawl, in which he removed all the images of the shawls related to a European manufacturing.[20] Monique L?vi-Strauss clearly states that her research led her to focus on the shawls creative industries in France in the 19th century, for the reason that the shawl industries in the United Kingdom (Paisley), Austria (Vienna), Germany (Elberfeld) were inspired by France (Paris) and never the opposite. The author then invited textile specialists from these countries to conduct research on their own field. Monique L?vi-Strauss notes the large influence that Kashmir had on the French shawl creative industries, narrowly linking the French history of Kashmir shawls to the Indian ones.[19]

Political radicalism

Through its weaving fraternity, Paisley gained notoriety as being a literate and somewhat radical town and between 1816 and 1820 became the scene of a Radical War. Political intrigue, early trades unionism and reforming zeal came together to produce mass demonstrations, cavalry charges down the high street, public riots and trials for treason. Documentation from the period indicates that overthrow of the government was even contemplated by some.[21] The weavers of Paisley were certainly active in the 'Radical War'. The perceived radical nature of the inhabitants prompted the Tory Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli to comment "Keep your eye on Paisley". The poet Robert Tannahill lived in this setting, working as a weaver. Paisley's annual Sma' Shot Day celebrations held on the first Saturday of July [22] were initiated in 1856 to commemorate a 19th-century dispute between weavers and employers over payment for "sma' shot" ? a small cotton thread which, although unseen, was necessary in holding together garments.[23]

A permanent military presence was established in the town with the completion of Paisley Barracks in 1822.[24]

Economic hardship

The economic crisis of 1841?43 hit Paisley hard as most of the mills shut down. Among the mill owners, 67 of 112 went bankrupt. A quarter of the population was on poor relief. The Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel decided to act. He secured additional funds for relief and sent his own representative to the town to supervise its distribution. He convinced Queen Victoria to wear Paisley products in order to popularise the products and stimulate demand.[25]

The American Civil War of 1861?1865 cut off cotton supplies to the textile mills of Paisley. The mills in 1861 had a stock of cotton in reserve, but by 1862 there were large-scale shortages and shutdowns. There were no alternative jobs for the workers, and local authorities refused to provide relief. Voluntary relief efforts were inadequate, and the unemployed workers refused to go to workhouses. Workers blamed not the United States, but rather the officials in London for their hardship and did not support the idea of war with the United States.[26]

First World War

Paisley War Memorial

Paisley suffered heavy losses in the First World War. The town's war memorial was designed by Sir Robert Lorimer (other sources say Harold Tarbolton[27]) in 1922 and depicts Robert the Bruce going into battle on horseback escorted by footsoldiers dressed as First World War infantry soldiers. It was sculpted by Alice Meredith Williams.[28]

Bottled snail incident

Paisley was also the site of an incident that gave rise to a major legal precedent. In a Paisley cafe in 1928, a woman claimed to find a dead snail in a bottle of ginger beer, and became ill. She sued the manufacturer for negligence. At the time a manufacturer was considered liable only if there was a contract in place with the harmed party. After Donoghue v Stevenson, a precedent was established that manufacturers (and other "neighbours" or fellow citizens) owe a duty not to do foreseeable harm to others by negligence, regardless of contractual obligations, which paved the way for modern tort law. The case is often called the "Paisley snail".[29]

Second World War

Owing to its industrial roots, Paisley, like many industrial towns in Renfrewshire, became a target for German Luftwaffe bombers during World War II. Although it was not bombed as heavily as nearby Glasgow (see Clydebank Blitz), air raids still occurred periodically during the early years of the war, killing nearly a hundred people in several separate incidents; on 6 May 1941, a parachute mine was dropped in the early hours of the morning claiming 92 victims; this is billed the worst disaster in Paisley's history.[30] The Gleniffer Braes, on the southern outskirts of Paisley, are home to a number of "decoy ponds" (mock airfields) used by the RAF after the Battle of Britain as part of a project code-named "Starfish Decoy" designed to confuse German spies.[31]

Industrial decline

Paisley, as with other areas in Renfrewshire, was at one time famous for its weaving and textile industries. As a consequence, the Paisley pattern has long symbolic associations with the town. Until the Jacquard loom was introduced in the 1820s, weaving was a cottage industry. This innovation led to the industrialisation of the process and many larger mills were created in the town. Also as a consequence of greater mechanisation, many weavers lost their livelihoods and left for Canada and Australia. Paisley was for many years a centre for the manufacture of cotton sewing thread. At the heyday of Paisley thread manufacture in the 1930s, there were 28,000 people employed in the huge Anchor and Ferguslie mills of J & P Coats Ltd, said to be the largest of their kind in the world at that time.[32] In the 1950s, the mills diversified into the production of synthetic threads but production diminished rapidly as a result of less expensive imports from overseas and the establishment of mills in India and Brazil by J & P Coats. By the end of the 1993, there was no thread being produced in Paisley.[33]

The town also supported a number of engineering works some of which relied on the textile industry, others on shipbuilding. Paisley once had five shipyards including John Fullerton and Company (1866?1928), Bow, McLachlan and Company (1872?1932) and Fleming and Ferguson (1877?1969).[34]

Advertisement for Brown & Polson's, 1894

Advertisement for the Ferguslie Thread Works in the 1867 Paris World Fair catalogue

A number of food manufacture companies existed in Paisley. The preserve manufacturer Robertsons began in Paisley as a grocer whose wife started making marmalade from oranges in 1860.[35] This product was successful and a factory was opened in Storie Street, Paisley, to produce it in 1866 and additional factories were later opened in Manchester, London and Bristol.[36] The company was taken over by Rank Hovis McDougall who closed its Stevenson Street factory and transferred production to England in the 1970s. Brown and Polson was formed in Paisley in 1840 and two years later started producing starch for the weaving trades, by 1860 it was making food products including its patent cornflour.[36][37] It later became CPC Foods Ltd,[38] a subsidiary of Unilever, which produced Hellmann's mayonnaise, Gerber baby foods and Knorr soups. The company ceased production in Paisley in 2002.[39]

In 1981 Peugeot Talbot, formerly Chrysler and before that Rootes, announced that its Linwood factory just outside Paisley would cease production. This led to the loss of almost 5,000 jobs.[40]

At one time M&Co. (Mackays) had its head office in Caledonia House in Paisley.[41]


In 2015, the town launched its bid to become UK City of Culture in 2021.[42] On 15 July 2017 Paisley was announced as one of five shortlisted candidates,[43] On 7 December 2017 it lost to Coventry. Following the announcement, Renfrewshire Council and the Paisley 2021 Board stated that Paisley's "journey will continue" and that the bid process was "just the beginning" for regeneration processes in the town.[44]

Latitude: 000000, Longitude: -4.423889


Paisley Town Centre
Paisley Town Centre


Matches 1 to 50 of 157

1 2 3 4 Next»

   Last Name, Given Name(s)    Birth    Person ID 
1 Adam, Jean  6 Apr 1740Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I10594
2 Adam, Thomas  Abt 1708Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I10958
3 Anderson, Elizabeth  11 Jun 1761Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I17162
4 Anderson, James  Abt 1765Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I12881
5 Anderson, Janet  6 Oct 1757Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I17161
6 Anderson, Jean  22 Jul 1769Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I17164
7 Anderson, John  6 Apr 1731Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I17157
8 Anderson, William  10 Jul 1764Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I17163
9 Armour, Agnes Fulton  22 Jul 1819Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I17170
10 Armour, Anne  3 May 1833Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I17174
11 Armour, Jean  21 Mar 1826Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I17169
12 Armour, John  22 Feb 1822Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I17173
13 Armour, Margaret  20 Feb 1816Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I17171
14 Armour, Mary  29 Apr 1824Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I17172
15 Armour, Robert  26 May 1814Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I17168
16 Bowie, Agnes  1 Sep 1792Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I24130
17 Bridget, Jenet  1816Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I7804
18 Bridget, Thomas  1785Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I19258
19 Broody, Margreat  Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I22977
20 Bryson, Hon George Sr.  16 Dec 1813Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I8404
21 Bryson, James  1770Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I8401
22 Bryson, Jean  1815Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I8405
23 Bryson, John  28 Apr 1799Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I8403
24 Bryson, Robert  1817Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I8406
25 Cameron, Isabella  1 Jun 1808Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I19911
26 Carswell, Janet  1826Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I8407
27 Cochran, Jane  16 Nov 1792Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I8402
28 Cochran, Margaret  1733Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I17156
29 Cochrane, Joseph  14 Feb 1735/36Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I10593
30 Cook, Thomas  30 Sep 1837Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I42632
31 Duncan, Agnes  2 Feb 1816Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I2324
32 Duncan, Alexander  22 Nov 1811Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I2322
33 Duncan, Catherine  16 Jun 1805Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I2302
34 Duncan, Daniel  4 Sep 1818Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I2325
35 Duncan, Elisabeth  4 Aug 1820Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I2800
36 Duncan, Dr. George  30 Jan 1800Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I2299
37 Duncan, Isabella  1 May 1803Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I2301
38 Duncan, Jane  1814Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I2305
39 Duncan, Jean  20 Dec 1805Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I2320
40 Duncan, Jean "Jane"  6 Mar 1798Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I2298
41 Duncan, John  8 Mar 1814Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I2323
42 Duncan, Margaret  19 Apr 1804Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I2319
43 Duncan, Mary A.  28 Sep 1801Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I2300
44 Duncan, Robert  10 Mar 1809Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I2321
45 Dunlop, Andrew  29 Aug 1828Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I26182
46 Dunlop, Andrew  2 Sep 1855Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I26181
47 Dunlop, James  Nov 1866Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I42831
48 Dunlop, Jean  6 Jan 1869Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I30150
49 Dunlop, John Sr.  23 Nov 1835Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I11272
50 Dunlop, John  1858Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I11268

1 2 3 4 Next»


Matches 1 to 20 of 20

   Last Name, Given Name(s)    Christening    Person ID 
1 Cochran, Jane  18 Nov 1792Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I8402
2 Cochrane, John  6 Mar 1764Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I10557
3 Duncan, Agnes  19 Feb 1816Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I2324
4 Duncan, Jean "Jane"  8 Mar 1798Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I2298
5 Erskine, John  24 May 1759Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I10953
6 Erskine, Margaret  31 Oct 1754Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I15383
7 Erskine, Robert  17 Apr 1757Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I10954
8 Gemmill, James  27 Dec 1818Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I7803
9 Gemmill, Mary Veitch Pittcairn  24 Oct 1816Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I6102
10 Gifford, Jean  8 Jan 1791Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I2348
11 Hamilton, Gavin McPherson  2 Feb 1829Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I19748
12 Lang, Mary  22 Feb 1818Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I8174
13 Simpson, Margaret  14 Dec 1823Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I24139
14 Slater, James  26 May 1768Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I23080
15 Slater, James  23 Jul 1772Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I15760
16 Smith, John  15 Apr 1779Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I42024
17 Wark, John  15 Oct 1797Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I11106
18 Wilson, Mary Elizabeth  24 Oct 1799Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I12928
19 Wilson, McKinlay  Jul 1809Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I38773
20 Wilson, Dr William  13 Mar 1806Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I38772


Matches 1 to 10 of 10

   Last Name, Given Name(s)    Death    Person ID 
1 Adam, Thomas  Abt 1781Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I10958
2 Arbuckle, Margaret JEAN  16 Sep 1815Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I8183
3 Gemmill, Margaret  Bef 1793Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I35873
4 Hamilton, Norris  20 Nov 1792Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I33719
5 Laing, Aurthur  1821Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I25709
6 Lang, Isobelle  Jan 1816Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I12968
7 Lockhart, Elizabeth  1832Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I27157
8 Love, Janet  11 Jan 1822Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I23082
9 Neilson, James  1813Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I27464
10 Smith, Jean  Bef 1821Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I42398

Alt. Birth

Matches 1 to 5 of 5

   Last Name, Given Name(s)    Alt. Birth    Person ID 
1 Anderson, Margaret  5 Jan 1756Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I2317
2 Bryson, Robert  Abt 1825Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I8406
3 Cameron, James Sr.  1 Apr 1812Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I15367
4 Gifford, Robert  Abt 1756Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I2316
5 Lockhart, Elizabeth  22 Mar 1833Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland I2329


Matches 1 to 9 of 9

   Family    Marriage    Family ID 
1 Bryson / Cochran  17 Oct 1813Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland F2830
2 Bryson / Symson  13 Feb 1796Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland F15111
3 Cochrane / Adam  20 Jun 1761Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland F3498
4 Cochrane / Erskine  3 Jun 1790Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland F3488
5 Lang / Wilson  28 Jun 1817Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland F2757
6 McGee / Easden  23 Jun 1792Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland F3135
7 Peters / McFadyen  17 Feb 1821Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland F5993
8 Smith / Erskine  28 Jan 1804Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland F14880
9 Wark / McKelvin  8 Apr 1797Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland F3137

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