Paisley patterns

Anchor Mill, Paisley

During the current restrictions, one of the few reasons we are allowed to cross the city boundary is to visit Mum who lives in Paisley on Glasgow’s eastern border. It’s a historic town, and aspects of it have featured in posts before, but it’s never had a whole post to itself. Now, when I have no new travels to write about, is the time to pull together some of the photos we have taken there over the last few years.

Paisley became prominent in the 19th century as a centre of the weaving industry. By 1993 all the mills had closed, including the Anchor Mill, shown above, which is now housing.  However, the legacy lives on in street names such as Mill Street, Cotton Street, Thread Street, Shuttle Street, Lawn Street, Silk Street, and Gauze Street, and in the fact that the town gave its name to the Paisley shawl and the Paisley pattern from which I take my title. That’s the last you’ll hear from me about weaving though – I’m going to show you some patterns or themes that I found in the town.

The Abbey and around

Long before its weaving heyday, Paisley became prominent in the 12th century with the establishment of Paisley Abbey, an important religious hub. The smaller adjoining building is known as the Place of Paisley and is the sole remaining part of the extensive monastery associated with the Abbey.

Nearby is the Town Hall, seen here reflected in the White Cart Water, a tributary of the River Clyde. Still in the historic part of town, at the top of Church Hill is Oakshaw Trinity which, as a result of mergers, is part of both the Church of Scotland and the United Reformed Church.

Overall, Paisley town centre has the highest concentration of listed buildings of anywhere in Scotland outside of Edinburgh – these have been just a few.

Memorials

I have driven past the first three memorials in this section hundreds, if not thousands, of times but have only recently investigated on foot. As I drive into Paisley, the first memorial I see is this cairn to Marjorie Bruce, eldest daughter of King Robert I, otherwise known as Robert the Bruce.

The caption tells that she was fatally injured by falling from her horse near this spot in 1316. Her son, born posthumously, became Robert II, first of the Stewart Kings of Scotland. Why was he a Stewart, not a Bruce? Paisley Abbey was founded by Walter FitzAlan, the first High Steward of Scotland (the officer who controlled the domestic affairs of the royal household). His descendants adopted the surname Steward, which became Stewart, and later still was changed to Stuart. Marjorie Bruce married the sixth High Steward, thus her son was the first king of the Stewart dynasty. All six High Stewards are buried in the Abbey, as is Marjorie herself. The title of High Steward was merged into the crown with Robert II and is still held by the current Prince of Wales.

Further towards town is this statue of St Mirin, next to St Mirin’s Roman Catholic Cathedral. St Mirin (c563-600) is the patron saint of Paisley, and his monument was erected in 2003. He also gave his name to the local football team, St Mirren.

Having driven past the town centre, I take a right turn to head up to Mum’s house. At the corner is this Hygienic Fountain with its inscription from the Gospel of St John “whosoever drinketh of this water” … etc.

In the centre of town is Dunn Square, an open space presented to Paisley in 1894 by Sir William Dunn, MP for the Burgh from 1891 to 1906. His monument is this scantily clad woman with her back to the ubiquitous Queen Victoria.

On the railings nearby is a memorial I find far more interesting and poignant. A tree was planted in 2010 by the Renfrewshire Women’s Association and dedicated to the memory of all Renfrewshire women who “live in fear of violence and abuse, or have been murdered by their violent partner”. Next to the tree and plaque hangs a garland and it is always updated. In the gallery below, the trailing white ribbons are from 2012 and the other two are from February and Christmas 2020. It’s nice to know that the memorial is so carefully tended.

Street art

The Paisley First Murals Project has been created to help breathe new life into the town centre and uses only local artists. The most concentrated area is Browns Lane where street artists Mark Worst and Danny McDermott created a tribute to some well-known Buddies (the name for people coming from Paisley) including Gerry Rafferty and Joe Egan of Stealers Wheel, the Cup-winning St Mirren Team of 1987, singer Paolo Nutini and local historian Ellen Farmer. John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix are definitely NOT Paisley buddies, but appear on the side of nearby music venue, The Bungalow.

The Kingfisher, also by Mark Worst, is on Johnston Street. It highlights one of the town’s relatively unknown sons, Alexander Wilson, who is credited with establishing ornithology as a science.

And Breathe by Duncan Wilson and Reborn by Kevin Cantwell are on Lawn Street and Lady Lane respectively.

The trail has inspired some of the businesses around town to create their own art, such as these murals on Japan Street Food on Renfrew Road.

Pub signs and ghost signs

I do love a good sign! The Tea Gardens Tavern sounds a lot more genteel to me than it actually looks.

The Belhaven Brewery is particularly good at designing attractive signs – The Tea Gardens and all but one of the signs below are by Belhaven.

And finally to ghost signs. I can’t remember exactly where these are from, but I think they are all around the Espedair Street / Neilston Road area. Wm Semple Son & Co. Ltd, Engineers and Smiths, is a definite ghost sign. I’m not sure if Alison Stuart, Florist, counts as she still seems to be in business, but it’s certainly a very old sign. I’m also not sure what the initials and date on a gable signify, but they look attractive.

And that’s the end of my whistle stop tour of Paisley, which is by no means definitive. Other posts which have featured Paisley include:

The Great Tapestry of Scotland and the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry, both of which took place in Anchor Mill, as shown in this post’s header, and have interior shots of its central atrium.

Glasgow Gallivanting March 2019 features Thomas Coats Memorial Church with one of the most fabulous loos ever, February 2020 includes another stroll round the town centre with a different selection of historic buildings, and June 2020 has the tale of Mrs Donoghue and the snail in the ginger beer.

Now to see what else I can recycle a post from …

69 Comments »

  1. Anabel, one of my earliest memories as a toddler is sitting on the floor of my parents’ clothes closet examining the paisley pattern on one of my mother’s dresses. I used to tell her that I loved paisleys and wanted a dress just like that when I grew up.

    Jude

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  2. How timely you should have posted about Paisely this week Anabel! I’ve been on the hunt for my Maxwell ancestors again recently after being contacted by some extended cousins and have honed in on some baptisms in the mid 1700s in the parish of Abbey Paisely Renfrewshire. These are possible family connections of my Maxwell line. I believe they were also connected to the parish of St Cuthberts in Edinburgh and from there made their way to London. Apparently there was a branch of the Maxwells who moved up to Renfrewshire from the family stronghold in Dumfrieshire at some point, which presumably accounts for the large number of Maxwell family records in Abbey Paisley. Have got my Maxwell line well sourced from the mid 1770s onwards in London and know they retained links to Scotland but trying to work out which branch of the Maxwell clan they descend from is tricky to say the least. Very interested to see your photos and hear about the local history of Paisley, thanks for sharing 🙂

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  3. I also never knew there was a place named Paisley or where the word originated. Thanks for the gorgeous tour and the history. I’m learning to use Google Maps so I can actually gain an understanding of Scotland. I love these “field trips”.

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  4. I love all those murals! I didn’t realise there were so many in Paisley. My son has a friend who paints murals, and it’s a tremendous skill that really enhances an area. Hard to imagine how they do it!

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  5. What a cool area! And I’m glad you’re allowed to go visit your mother. Not seeing elderly loved ones is the worst part of the restrictions, and I’m glad those in charge have figured out that those visits are necessary. Hope you are all vaccinated soon!

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  6. Love the reflected shot of the mill, Anabel, and the abbey looks good against the blue sky. So dour those grey stone buildings. Very Scottish 🙂 The street art is impressive though.
    I used to love the paisley pattern. My husband still has a tie with a pretty paisley print 🙂 🙂

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  7. Thank you for this post – what marvellous street art! Statues, public fountains, gable ends, pub signs; the things we all miss when we’re not allowed out, even if we don’t realise we miss them.

    I haven’t been to Paisley for over a decade, and even then I was only passing through on my way to the airport. Places always look different from the back of a taxi. This looks like a proper saunter – just the sort of jaunt we all need in lockdown. Your photos look like they were taken recently (no people)…

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    • It’s amazing, isn’t it? You never see the best bits when travelling to airports or railway stations. Some of these were in lockdown, but by no means all, eg the photos of the abbey in summer were from a couple of years ago. Paisley does just seem to be quiet, which is a shame. More people should visit!

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