Old Images of Paisley, Scotland

Categorised as Renfrewshire
Paisley High Street 1907
Paisley High Street, 1907. From page 169 of "The Paisley thread industry and the men who created and developed it, with notes concerning Paisley, old and new". British Library archives.

Glimpse history through old images of Paisley, in Renfrewshire, Scotland.

Old Pictures of Paisley 1835

The view of the town in 1835 showed quiet countryside to one side of the river, while a spire, mills and smoking chimneys rise across the landscape on the other side.

View of Paisley 1835
View of Paisley, 1835. From page 118 of “Historical description of the Abbey and Town of Paisley. By C. M. … Embellished with six engravings on steel. By J. Swan”. British Library archives.

This 1835 scene of Paisley’s High Street shows horses and carriages travelling along the cobbled streets, with elegant buildings rising into the air.

Paisley High Street 1835
Paisley High Street, 1835. From page 178 of “Historical description of the Abbey and Town of Paisley. By C. M. Swan”. Embellished with six engravings on steel. .. By J. Swan”. British Library archives.

Fountain Gardens

Paisley’s Fountain Gardens is the Renfrewshire town’s oldest public gardens, and contains one of Scotland’s three Category A listed fountains.

In 1797, prominent businessman John Love created the Hope Temple Gardens, which also contained the Hope Temple Museum and a bowling green.

Unfortunately, a disastrous American business venture left John Love bankrupt.

Businessman and philanthropist Thomas Coats bought the gardens in 1866. He brought in James Craig Niven to redesign the park and gardens , with a geometric layout, broader walkways, drinking fountains, rock garden and alpine beds.

26 May 1868 saw the official opening of the Fountain Gardens, which Coats gifted to the people of Paisley.

Love Street, close to the Fountain Gardens, is named after John Love.

Renfrewshire Council now maintains the gardens, and paid for the £650,000 restoration of the central fountain with the help of Historic Scotland, the Heritage Lottery Fund, and other fundraisers and benefactors.

Old picture of Fountain Gardens, Paisley 1868
Old picture of Fountain Gardens, Paisley in 1868. From page 20 of “Inaugural Ceremonies in honour of the opening of Fountain Gardens, Paisley, etc [With the deed of the transfer of the Gardens from T. Coats to the Town Council, etc.] L.P”. British Library archives.
Entrance to Fountain Gardens, Paisley 1868
Entrance to Fountain Gardens, Paisley, in 1868. From page 29 of “Inaugural Ceremonies in honour of the opening of Fountain Gardens, Paisley, etc [With the deed of the transfer of the Gardens from T. Coats to the Town Council, etc.] L.P”. British Library archives.
Fountain Gardens Verandah, Paisley 1868
Fountain Gardens Verandah, Paisley, 1868. From page 43 of “Inaugural Ceremonies in honour of the opening of Fountain Gardens, Paisley, etc [With the deed of the transfer of the Gardens from T. Coats to the Town Council, etc.] L.P”. British Library archives.
Fountain Gardens, Paisley 1868
Fountain Gardens, Paisley, 1868. From page 71 of “Inaugural Ceremonies in honour of the opening of Fountain Gardens, Paisley, etc (With the deed of the transfer of the Gardens from T. Coats to the Town Council, etc.] L.P”. British Library archives.

The next image of the Fountain Gardens, which formed part of the Detroit Publishing Company’s collection, is recorded as c,1890-1900. However, other similar images from the town were taken of places which were completed in 1894, so it is unlikely to have been taken before that date.

It’s a lovely image not just for showing the beauty of the Fountain Gardens, but also for capturing the nearby buildings. Just look at the nearby industrial chimneys, some of them billowing thick smoke into the air.

Fountain Gardens, Paisley, Scotland 1890s
Fountain Gardens, Paisley, Scotland, photochrom dated c1890-1900; Library of Congress archives

Paisley’s Town Hall

Paisley’s Town Hall, a Category A listed building which still stands in Abbey Close today, was officially opened as the ‘George A. Clark Town Hall” on 30 January 1882.

It was named after George Aitken Clark, a member of the Clark family who owned Anchor Mills. Knowing the civic leaders needed a public space in which to hold concerts and other public events, he left provision in his will for this purpose.

His mother laid the building’s foundation stone, on 22 October 1879.

Just south of the municipal buildings, the site was previously home to a dye works.

The Town Hall cost £50,000 to build, and was designed in the Classical style by William Henry Lynn and William Young.

In summer 2019, a £22 million project started, converting the Town Hall into a performing arts centre.

Town Hall Paisley 1882
Town Hall, Paisley, 1882. From page 39 of “The Inauguration of the George A. Clark Town Hall, Paisley, with . illustrations, etc”. British Library archives.
River Frontage Town Hall Paisley 1882
River Frontage, Town Hall, Paisley, in 1882. From page 6 of “The Inauguration of the George A. Clark Town Hall, Paisley, with illustrations, etc”. British Library archives.

Dunn Square

Water Wynd, now St. Mirren Street, used to have a number of old buildings, which were torn down during Queen Victoria’s reign, creating a controversial open space. Many parties wanted the land sold off to building developers, feeling the area was an eyesore.

In 1894, William Dunn, who became Sir William Dunn, Baronet, following his career as the constituency’s MP, donated the funds to the town to have a pleasant space created.

Constructing Dunn Square according to the design by architect James Donald, who won a competitive design process, cost £9,000 to complete.

Sir Peter Coats and Thomas Coats of the J.&P. Coats Company, are commemorated with statues in a commanding position of everyone who visits the area.

Dunn Square, Paisley, Scotland 1890s
Dunn Square, Paisley, Scotland, photochrom dated c1894-1900; Library of Congress archives

I’ve added a couple of close ups of the Dunn Street image, to see a bit more of the buildings which surrounded Dunn Square at the time.

Dunn Square, Paisley, Scotland 1890s
Dunn Square, Paisley, Scotland; closeup of the photochrom dated c1894-1900; Library of Congress archives
Dunn Square, Paisley, Scotland 1890s
Dunn Square, Paisley, Scotland; closeup of the photochrom dated c1894-1900; Library of Congress archives

Coats Memorial Church

Standing at the west end of Paisley’s High Street, the Thomas Coats Memorial Baptist Church was completed in May 1894.

The church is named after Thomas Coats (1809-1883), who was a co-founder of the J.&P. Coats Company, and devout member of the Baptist Church.

As a philanthropist, he was involved in the restoration of Paisley Abbey, construction of the Coats Observatory, and founding of the Paisley Fountain Gardens.

After his death, his close family funded the building of the Thomas Coats Memorial Baptist Church, which provided seating for a congregation of up to a thousand people.

Thomas Coats Memorial Baptist Church Paisley 1894-1900
Thomas Coats Memorial Baptist Church, Paisley, taken between 1894 and 1900. Part of the Detroit Publishing Company collection at the Library of Congress.

Video of Local Old Photographs

Enjoy a video presentation of fascinating old photos showing the local people and places through the decades.

Old Photographs Paisley Renfrewshire Scotland: Tourscotland (YouTube) 

Ferguslie Park

Today, Ferguslie Park sits in Pailsey’s suburbs, and its community is reportedly one of the most deprived in Scotland following closure of the regions’s traditional industries.

But Ferguslie has a long and rich documented history, going back to 1220 when Walter, The Stewart, granted the lands of the Forrest of Paisley to Paisley Abbey.

Following many changes of ownership of the land and Ferguslie Castle or House, by 1872 the estate was owned by wealthy merchant Thomas Coats. Ferguslie Park House was built in 1890 for his son, Sir Thomas Glen-Coats.

In 1926, a large party was held at Ferguslie Park House, in support of Lord Asquith, who stood as the Liberal candidate in a Paisley parliamentary election. Guests included Lord and Lady Asquith, David Lloyd George, his daughter Megan, and Lady Bonham Carter.

The house was demolished in the 1930s after it was given to the town of Paisley by Thomas Coats’ daughters Margaret and Lily Coats.

Old postcard of Ferguslie Park Paisley
Old postcard of Ferguslie Park, Paisley. Thanks to Mark Crombie on Flikr.

Find out more about Ferguslie in an article written by Stephen Clancy at the Urban Historian.

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