Paisley is a town in the West Central Scotland, approximately eight miles west of Glasgow. A former burgh town, Paisley is the administrative centre of the Renfrewshire council area. The town grew up on either side of a ford of the White Cart River and occupies the lowland to the north of the Gleniffer Braes. To the north, between Paisley and the River Clyde lies the town of Renfew and to the east, Johnstone. With the post war expansion of the neighbouring towns and cities, Paisley has become part of a large connerbation known as Greater Glasgow. At one time, Paisley was the largest town in Scotland, exceeding the size of some Scottish cities, but recently the population had declined. Now 74,170  people call Paisley their home.
The town is thought to date to Roman times and is the possible site of a Roman fort. In the 12th century a priory was founded at Paisley around which a settlement soon grew. Within a hundred years of its foundation the priory had achieved the status of an Abbey. The town became famous during the 18th and 19th centuries for the production of thread and cloth, especially cotton with the distinctive Paisley Pattern.
Paisley origins were as a religios centre. It is claimed that a chapel was 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 at Paisley in 1163 by members of the Cluniac priory at Wenlock in Shropshire, England at the behest of Walter fitz Alan, 1st High Steward of Scotland. In 1245, the priory at Paisley was raised to the status of Abbey. The Abbey and adjacent 'Place' (palace), are now used by the Church of Scotland. Parts of the 13th Century structures remain, though the building has undergone many and extensive alterations and reconstructions. The Abbey was once one of Scotland's major religious sites. Paisley Abbey was much favored by the Bruce and Stewart royal families. It is generally accepted that William Wallace the great hero of Scottish independence who inspired the film Braveheart was educated in the Abbey. Paisley Abbey is the burial place of all six High Stewards of Scotland, Marjorie Bruce (who was the mother of Robert II), the wives of Robert II and King Robert III.
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 and many new trades sprang up The town's first school was established in 1577 by the Town Council. During the 18th century, weaving became the town's principal industry. In the 19th century, Paisley became well-known for producing Paisley Shawls and for their distinctive Paisley Pattern which originated around this time.
Through its weaving fraternity, Paisley gained notoriety as being a literate and somewhat radical town. During the 19th Century there was a real mixture of religious opinions and healthy drink-fuelled debate raged at night amongst weavers, poets, merchants, masons and others. The poet Robert Tannahill lived in this setting, working as a weaver. The people of Paisley were also active in the Radical War of 1820.
In comparison to other nearby towns such as Clydebank, Paisley suffered little to German bombing during the second world war. Early on the morning of Tuesday May 7, 1941, a parachute mine fell on a medical post in the west end of the town. The bomb killed 92 people. A second parachute mine fell on Newton Street killing two firemen.
In the later 20th century, the textile industry in Paisley declined. The Clark and Coats mills closed with work being relocated to America. The Coats mills were largely demolished in the 1990's and the land used for new housing developments. The Clark mill has recently been converted into luxury apartments. Some other mill buildings have been converted into office buildings.
In the 1960s the town centre underwent considerable redevelopment resulting in the demolition of the County Buildings in County Square and the adjacent police station and town gaol. These fine Victorian edifices were replaced by the brutalist concrete Gilmour House and the Piazza shopping centre which spans the White Cart Water.
The west of the building provides an example of original Gothic architecture dating to the 12th century. The east end and tower date to the late 19th and early 20th centuries and are examples of Gothic Revival architecture.
Paisley's Town Hall, the George A. Clark Town Hall, was funded by Clarks family, the owners of the Anchor thread mills. In response, their main competitor in the production of thread in the town, Sir Peter Coats, funded the building of the equally magnificent Paisley Museum and Library in 1871. These, and many other remarkably grand buildings in Paisley, testify to the power, influence and success of the textile industry in the town.
The Thomas Coats Memorial Church is an example of Gothic Revival architecture. It dominates the town's skyline with its crown spire more than 60 metres high. Opened in 1894 and designed by Hippolyte Jean Blanc it is the largest Baptist church in Europe. The exterior is made of old red sandstone. Inside, the church is decorated with wood carvings, mosaic floors and marble fonts. The church also contains a 3040 pipe Hill Organ.
The Cathedral Church of Saint Mirin (commonly called St Mirin's Cathedral), set at the junction between Incle Street and Glasgow Road, is the seat of the Catholic Bishop of Paisley. The church was completed in 1931 to replace an earlier building, in nearby East Buchanan Street, which dated from 1808. The original St Mirin's church was the first Catholic church to be built in Scotland since the Reformation. With the erection of the Diocese of Paisley in 1947 the church was raised to cathedral status.
St Matthew's Church (Church of the Nazarene) is built on an island in the middle of Gordon Street at the junction with Bridge Street and Loanend, and Cotton Street. It is of the Art Nouveau in style. Designed by local architect W D McLennan, a contemporary of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The church was built in 1906.
The Russell Institute was built in 1926 as a medical center. It has an Art Nouveau style. On the first level on the outside, a number of small bronze statues depict small children with various illnesses.
The Anchor Mill building (built 1886) is an “A” listed protected building. It was converted, in 2005, into modern apartments. The building is an example of successful redevelopment of old industrial areas.
Paisley Civic Centre designed by Sir Basil Spence and Partners was built in the 1960s to house the Renfrewshire county council offices. It was intended to become the civic hub for Paisley but the absence of any shops and non-council premises prevented this from happening. It became the home of the Renfrew sub-region of Strathclyde Regional Council in 1975 and later, in 1996, of Renfrewshire Council. It is listed by the conservation organisation DoCoMoMo as one of the sixty key Scottish monuments of the post-war period.
The local daily newspaper is the Paisley Daily Express whose offices are located on New Street in the centre of Paisley. There are two weekly papers, the Paisley People and the Paisley Gazette which are delivered for free to houses in the area. The locally based radio station Q96, has gone off air and has been replaced with 96.3 Rock Radio. Despite being based in Baillieston, Glasgow the terms of the licence state that it must carry Renfrewshire based material.
Museums and galleries, Performing arts, Music and film, Open spaces, Language, Media, Sport, Religion
The local football team is St Mirren F.C. — a Scottish Premier League football team. Their last major success was on 16 May 1987 when St Mirren won the Scottish Cup, with thousands crowding the streets to see the team. The team them lost performace and was for some time relegated to the Scottish First Division. In (2006), the team won the Scottish Football League First Division and has returned to the Scottish Premier League.
Paisley is also the base for Scotland's only professional basketball team, the Scottish Rocks; and an ice hockey team, the Paisley Pirates. Both teams use the 5,300 seat Braehead Arena for home games. The Rocks are one of the leading basketball teams in the United Kingdom, competing in the elite British Basketball League. The franchise relocated to the Paisley from Edinburgh in 2002 and have built up a loyal and passionate fan base in the area since.
Paisley also has two cricket grounds, Kelburne Cricket Club and Ferguslie Cricket Club. The two cricketers Majid Haq and Omer Hussain, who are Scottish international cricketers, have played for Kelburne and both currently play for Ferguslie Cricket Club. In addition, Paisley is home to two rugby clubs; Paisley RFC who play Rugby Union and the Paisley Hurricanes who play Rugby League. Both clubs are currently based at the Anchor Recreational Grounds and run several teams at youth and senior level while also providing coaches to local schools.
Glasgow International Airport's terminal buildings are located in the north of Paisley at Abbotsinch. The airport authority and the many businesses located in around the airport are a major source of employment for Paisley and towns nearby.
Paisley is connected to the UK motorway network with the M8 running along the northern edge of the town and the M77 motorway passes a few miles to the South East. A class trunk roads connecting to neighboring towns and cities include the A737 to Irivin and Ayrshire and the A123545 to wherever.
The town is linked by rail to Glasgow city centre as well as to Inverclyde and the Ayrshire coast, being served by four stations (Paisley Gilmour Street, Paisley St James, Paisley Canal and Hawkhead). The rail links also connect to Glasgow Prestwick International Airport and ferry routes to Dunoon, the Arran (Brodick), Bute (Rothsay) and Ireland (Belfast).
There are plans in place, and Royal Assent has been given, for a rail link from the Inverclyde Line to Glasgow International Airport. This is planned to be completed by 2009, with services starting in 2010.
Frequent bus routes connect to other nearby towns and Glasgow city centre.
The University of Paisley was created in 1992. The University had previously been know as Paisley College of Technology and prior to that as Paisley Central Institution. The Institution dates to 1896. The other higher education facility in the town is Reid Kerr College. There are four Secondary Schools in Paisley: Paisley Grammar School, Castlehead High School, St Andrew's Academy and Gleniffer High School. The oldest of these is Paisley Grammar which was founded in 1586.
Paisley was at one time famous for its weaving industry. For nearly a hundred years until the 1870s shawls of the Paisley pattern were in fashion. Until the Jacquard loom was introduced in the 1820s weaving was a cottage industry. This innovation led to the industrialisation of the process. As a result many weavers lost their livelihoods and left for Canada and Australia. One of these John Hart, a Paisley mill owner settled at Perth,Ontario, where he had a Book Store and Mercantile shop.
Due to its damp, mild climate 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 (Coats Viyella) said to be the largest of their kind in the world at that time. In the 1950s the mills diversified into the production of synthetic threads but with cheap foreign imports and the establishment by Coats of mills in India and Brazil the writing was on the wall for Paisley and production began to diminish rapidly. By the end of the 1980s there was no thread being produced in Paisley. Both the weaving and thread industries have left a permanent mark on the town in the form of the many places with textile related names, for example, Dyer's Wynd, Cotton Street, Thread Street, Shuttle Street, Lawn Street, Silk Street, Mill Street and Incle Street.
The town also supported a number of engineering works some of which relied on the textile industry, others on shipbuilding. With the decline of both of these industries in the west of Scotland the engineering works too have all but gone.
In the mid 1970s industry in Paisley went into rapid decline. The preserve manufacturer Robertsons, which was founded in Paisley in the 1860s, closed its Stevenson Street factory and transferred production to Bristol, Manchester and London. This closure was followed by those of the engineering firms of Fullerton, Hodgart and Barclay and Whites Engineering.
In the 1970s, as an attempt to keep heavy industry in the area alive, a large car manufacturing plan was constructed for Hillman on the edge of town between Paisley and Linwood. This became a major employer for the area. The plant produced models such as the Hillman Imp, etc etc etc. However, the plant struggled. A series of take overs, first by Chrysler and then by Peugeot Talbot failed to revive the site and in 1981 the area was dealt a massive blow when Peugeot Talbot, announced that their factory would cease production. Almost 5000 workers were laid off. The knock on effect on other businesses in the area was immeasurable and.
Other businesses to have closed in recent years are the Scottish Gas distribution and service centre, CPC Foods Ltd, a subsidiary of Unilever, which produced Hellmann's mayonnaise, Gerber baby foods and Knorr soups, Cadbury's distribution centre and William Grant & Sons the Scotch whisky producer.
Some of the large employers remaining in the town are the Scotch whisky blenders and bottlers, Chivas Brothers, now a subsidiary of Pernod Ricard, and a pigment production plant of the Swiss company Ciba Geigy. Both companies employ considerably fewer people than in the past. Glasgow International Airport which is situated to the north of Paisley is a major centre of employment. Many Paisley people travel outside of the town for work and the town has become a commuter town for the neighboring City of Glasgow.
The town is surrounded by several large residential areas that were created after the Housing Act of 1946. These include Glenburn (south), Foxbar (south west), Ferguslie Park (north west), Gallowhill (North East) and Hunterhill (South East). Ferguslie Park was named by the Scottish Executive's most deprived area in 2006.
Nearer the centre of the town remains many areas of older housing. The town centre, Williamsburgh and Charleston areas contain many examples of Scottish tenement flats. Three to four storeys tall, with shops on the ground floor and constructed of local blond and red sandstone. These tenement flats have been extensively restored and modernised over the last two decades.
Twinned or Sister towns and cities
- 2001 Census
- The South Clyde Estuary (1986) by Frank Arneil Walker, RIAS Publishing
- BBC News, "Scotland reveals most deprived areas", October 2006