Welcome to our new website. We have added some new sections to the website, including Local History Articles, and by the end of the year we hope to have added all of the articles from the Journal.
Mottes were mounds, usually artificially constructed, with a defensive wooden or stone castle tower built on the flat top. They were introduced into Scotland by Norman settlers in the twelfth century. The best examples in the Gryffe area are Denniston Motte and Castle Hill Motte (alternatively designated as Ranfurly Motte) which is situated on Old Ranfurly Golf Course. Both would have been topped by towers.
Denniston Motte is a strange looking grass covered mound, 4 metres high, and appears incongruous in the surrounding terrain. It is situated to the south of the B788 and can be seen from the cycle path from Bridge of Weir to Kilmacolm.
The site was partially excavated in the nineteenth century and revealed four rows of rough boulders a metre below the surface at the summit. This was regarded as possible evidence of stone foundations of a structure. Later, evidence of the motte’s occupation and use in the early medieval period was corroborated when a sherd of twelfth or thirteenth century white gritty pottery was found on the south side of the mound.
It is considered possible that the motte belonged to Hugh de Danielstoun, a knight whose name appeared on the Ragman Roll in 1296. (The 1296 Ragman Roll was signed at Berwick by most of the prominent Scottish landowners to swear allegiance to Edward I after his victory at the Battle of Dunbar.) Later use of the site as some kind of meeting place was indicated by the discovery of a 15th – 16th century bronze or copper jetton or counting piece, found in a sheep scrape on the north side of the motte.
Castle Hill Motte on Old Ranfurly Golf Course is more widely known and is regarded as the best example of a motte in Renfrewshire. The mound itself is not man-made. It sits on the edge of a five metre high north-facing natural scarp and is surrounded on the other sides by a rock-cut man-made ditch three to four metres wide and up to one metre in depth. Finds from Castle Hill Motte, including Samian pottery (Roman), a bronze key, green glazed pottery, bones, charcoal and whitening material were displayed at the Palace of History Exhibition in Glasgow in 1911.
Further information can be found in Renfrewshire, A Scottish County’s Hidden Past by Derek Alexander and Gordon McCrae and in RLHF Journal, Vol. 4.
©2013 Helen J. Calcluth
A Village Co-op
Older residents in Kilbarchan will remember with some nostalgia the Kilbarchan Co-operative Society. Its shops were the equivalent of a supermarket on the doorstep. Unlike modern supermarket stores, the various departments, all conveniently within walking distance, were situated throughout the village. The ‘High Co’ was in New Street, the ‘Low Co’ was in Low Barholm and the dairy, the butcher’s shop and the drapery were in High Barholm, where the present-day co-op convenience store is situated. The ‘Low Co’ and the ‘High Co’ stocked a wide range of groceries. While the customer waited, dried goods were carefully weighed and supplied in brown paper bags. Butter, taken from a wooden barrel, was carefully weighed and shaped with wooden butter pats into useable small blocks. The co-operative shops afforded a relaxed and sociable atmosphere where village customers and shopkeepers could pass the time of day and catch up with local affairs and gossip.
The co-operative movement began in Rochdale in 1844 when the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers, with a membership of thirty tradesmen, including ten local weavers, set up a consumer co-operative grocery store where consumers were paid a patronage dividend. The movement rapidly spread. Ten years later there were almost one thousand co-operatives in Britain. But how did it begin in Kilbarchan?
An early non-dividend co-operative was run in Kilbarchan by village Chartists in the 1850s, but this was not run on Rochdale lines and was short-lived. In 1872 Kilbarchan Co-operative Society, run on the Rochdale principles, was started in a weaving shop in New Street. A few years later another co-operative was established at 36 High Barholm, but it soon got into financial difficulties and was taken over by the New Street co-operative in the 1880s. By 1899 the Kilbarchan Co-operative Society was thriving with two grocery shops in the village – a central store at No.4 New Street, run by Robert Hart and a branch at No.1 Low Barholm, run by John Miller.
In the nineteenth century the Co-operative was regarded not just as a retail outlet but, officially in Parliamentary Papers, also as a Friendly Society. As well as paying dividends, Kilbarchan Co-operative Society organised annual excursions for its members. In 1885 the excursion to Ardrossan was accompanied by Kilbarchan Instrumental Brass Band. Another excursion went to Rothesay. In 1886 Malcolm Neil, a prominent co-operator in Kilbarchan, was elected as a director of the Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Society. However, Malcolm Neil is better remembered as one of the joint pursuers in the famous Kilbarchan Right-of Way case.
Kilbarchan Co-operative Society continued to prosper. In 1904, the society bought 1216 square yards of ground bounded by Well Strand from Richard Hunter of Glentyan Estate. A new two storey building was erected on the site in High Barholm. By 1910 this building, with four flats in the upper storey, housed the co-operative’s Fleshing Department run by David Murphy and its Drapery and Boot Department run by Christina Gibson. Also, a co-operative Coal Department, run by Colin Lind, had been established at Milliken Park Station. All this was in addition to the New Street and Low Barholm grocery stores. By 1912 further expansion added a dairy in the High Barholm building. The administration of the business was run by a committee of local men who acted as president, secretary and treasurer.
By 1975, more than a century after the founding of the Kilbarchan Co-operative Society, the shops in High Barholm and New Street, under the ownership of Paisley Co-operative Manufacturing Society, were still serving the village, but the ‘Low Co’ had closed.
© 2012 Helen Calcluth
The three-storey stone tower which lies in Johnstone Castle housing estate is one of the few surviving castles in Renfrewshire. It is also the most confusing. To understand it, we need to ignore modern place names and go back 400 years to two estates, Johnstone and Cochrane, one on each side of the Black Cart Water.
The first estate, on the north side of the Black Cart, in Kilbarchan Parish, was what we will call ‘Old’ Johnstone estate. Old Johnstone was traditionally owned by the Wallace family. They had one of the biggest castles in Renfrewshire, which is sketched on Timothy Pont’s surveys in the 1580s. In the early 1600s, Old Johnstone was purchased by a branch of the Houstons of Houston, who became the Houstons of Johnstone. They became important in Kilbarchan parish and had a family aisle in Kilbarchan Kirk.
The second estate lies on the south side of the Black Cart, in the Abbey Parish, known as Cochrane Estate. In the early 1500s, Cochrane was split into Easter and Wester Cochrane. The part of interest to us is Easter Cochrane, which included the lands of Quarrelton, Hag, Greenend and Cartside. At its heart was a tower house called Easter Cochrane. By the late seventeenth century, Easter Cochrane was owned by an old Renfrewshire family, the Porterfields, who sold it to the Houstons of Johnstone. This made the Houstons owners of estates on both sides of the Black Cart in this area. In 1730 ‘Old’ Johnstone was purchased by McDowall of Castle Semple, on behalf of his friend James Milliken, a sugar planter about to return from the Caribbean. On his return, Milliken demolished the old castle of Johnstone, building Milliken House nearby, and renaming the lands north of the Cart as Milliken Estate, after himself.
Thereafter, George Houston of Johnstone concentrated his efforts on his remaining estate of Easter Cochrane, south of the Black Cart, which was rich in coal and lime. Easter Cochrane tower became Houston’s residence, and adopted the ‘Johnstone’ name, effectively switching the name ‘Johnstone Castle’ from the north to the south of the Black Cart, from the great castle which had stood on what was now Milliken estate, to the more modest tower which survives at Easter Cochrane. The switch of the Johnstone name from the north to the south of the Black Cart was reinforced when Houston of Johnstone commenced the planned town of Johnstone on Easter Cochrane land from the 1780s.
The earliest sketch of Easter Cochrane tower was on Pont’s survey of the 1580s. By the 1730s, John Watt showed it as a central tower with two wings, a walled garden to the rear, and a long tree lined avenue heading north. To the south was the steading or fermtoun of Quarrelton. The tower was surrounded by coal and lime pits, and a reservoir on the Craigbog Burn, which powered a water powered engine to drain the mines. By the 1770s, Houston had converted this engine from water to steam power and the reservoir became an ornamental pond, then disappeared.
The house was altered and extended several times, including alterations in 1812 possibly by architect James Gillespie Graham. By the Victorian period, the old tower had turned into a grand castellated mansion, which retained the ‘Johnstone Castle’ name. The surrounding area became landscaped parkland, with only the numerous old coal pits to hint at the source of Houston’s wealth. Careful study of surviving photos of the mansion reveals the old tower still embedded in its heart. By the 1940s, the castle was in the centre of an army camp, surrounded by rows of corrugated huts. The camp had various uses, initially holding Polish soldiers, then as a prison of war camp, and finally as housing for returning British servicemen. By the 1950s the mansion was in ruins and demolished. The part comprising the old tower was saved, leaving it as it stands today, but with the ‘wrong’ name.
The story doesn’t end with this tower. A short distance to the west stands a prominent hillock, ringed by old estate paths, now hidden by woods. In the 1730s this mound was named ‘Castle Hill’ – perhaps the predecessor of Johnstone Castle, alias Easter Cochrane?
In September 2006, Renfrewshire Local History Forum carried out a small excavation at Johnstone Castle as part of Scottish Archaeology Month and Renfrewshire Doors Open Day.
© 2012 Stuart Nisbet
Lime has been used since early times for mortar, harling and plaster. From the second half of the 18th century, as advances were made in agriculture, lime was also in great demand as a fertiliser. The land around Howwood and Corseford contained seams of coal and lime. This provided the raw materials needed for the lime industry.
A partnership between the Houstons of Johnstone and McDowalls of Castle Semple established large scale lime works at Corseford in 1775. This important site had a limestone quarry and adjacent coal mines. Two types of limekilns – clamp kilns and draw kilns – were used in the West of Scotland at this time. The Houstons’ lime works favoured clamp kilns as these were more economical to build. A clamp kiln was simply a u-shaped hollow dug into the hillside. Alternate layers of lime and coal were kept burning together in the clamp kilns for about two weeks to produce powdered lime. Lime works operated at Corseford for over one hundred years until 1886, when the Corseford Coal and Limestone Pits closed.
The other type of kiln, the draw kiln, was a substantial stone built structure. Although draw kilns were common in Renfrewshire in the nineteenth century, today the Midtown Draw Kiln, near the Skiff Woods above Howwood, is the only upstanding draw kiln in Renfrewshire.
The draw kiln was a more sophisticated type of kiln although the method of production was in not radically different. Alternate layers of coal and lime were burned on the top of the structure. The fire was kept burning continuously for a whole season. Because the fire was above ground level, the burnt lime dropped down into a draw hole where it could be collected with relative ease. The draw kiln had the advantage over the clamp kiln because batches of lime could be produced and collected for distribution every two days.
Midtown Limekiln was built into the edge of a large limestone quarry and mine, and has three draw holes enclosed within an arched chamber. The arched chamber was large enough to accommodate a horse and cart, allowing the lime worker shelter from the elements when drawing off the lime and when loading the lime on to carts for distribution.
The work force at Corseford’s clamp kilns worked out in the open in all weathers and the workers must often have been cold, wet and very filthy! It would seem preferable to have been a lime worker at the Midtown Draw Kiln with its more sophisticated method of production and its shelter for at least some of the working day.
Further information can be obtained in articles by Stuart Nisbet in Renfrewshire Local History Forum Journals, Vols. 9 and 10.
© 2012 Helen Calcluth (from research by Stuart Nisbet)
The following article was written by the thirteen year old grandson of our Vice-President. It is completely his own work. We were so impressed by Aidan’s research skills that we felt his article on the history of Paisley merited publication. It is gratifying that the younger generation are showing a keen interest in local history research.
By Aidan Shearer
Paisley is the largest town in Renfrewshire. It is situated on the northern edge of the Gleniffer Braes. Sitting on the banks of the White Cart Water it feeds into the River Clyde. The name Paisley may come from the Brythonic Passeleg ‘basilica’ meaning ‘major church’ recalling an early undocumented importance.
It is believed that Saint Mirin founded a community on this site in the 7th Century. Long after his death a shrine to him was made and the abbey became a popular destination for pilgrims. In 1163 Walter Fitz Alan (first High Steward of Scotland) issued a charter for a priory on his land in Paisley. Around 13 monks came down from the Cluniac priory in Shropshire to found the community. It was made an abbey around 1219. In 1307 Edward I of England had the abbey burned down and it was rebuilt later in the 14th Century. William Wallace is believed to have been educated in the Abbey when he was a boy. Robert II was born and buried there. Marjorie Bruce (mother of Robert II), all six High Stewards of Scotland and the wives of Robert II and III are also buried there.
Saint Mirin was born in 565. He was an Irish monk and was also known as Mirren of Benchor (Bangor) Merinus, Merryn and Meadhran. His feast day is celebrated on 15th September. When he was a young boy his mother took him to Bangor Abbey in the north east of Ireland where he was placed under the care of St Comgall. When St. Regulus had made himself known in St Andrews he appointed many men to go and bring the gospel to Scotland and one of them was St Mirin.
From roughly 1800-1850 weavers in Paisley became the foremost makers of ‘Paisley shawls’. Unique additions to their handlooms and Jacquard looms permitted them to work in five different colours when most weavers were producing shawls using only two. The design became known as the Paisley Pattern.
St. Mirren F. C. was founded in 1877: Nickname – The Buddies or the Saints: Ground – St Mirren Park: Chairman – Stewart Gilmour: Manager – Danny Lennon: Highest win – 15 – 0 against Glasgow University Trophies won: First Division – 4: Scottish Cup – 3: Challenge Cup – 1: Victory Cup -1: Anglo Scottish Cup Winners – 1: Summer Cup – 1: Epson Invitational Tournament – 1 and Renfrewshire Cup – 54
Places of Interest
Renfrewshire House – headquarters of Renfrewshire Council.
Thomas Coats Memorial Church – largest Baptist Church in Europe.
Dooslan Stane – was a meeting point for the weavers unions in the south of Paisley. It is the congregating point for the Sma’ Shot parade which takes place on the first Saturday of July.
Archie Gemmill – Footballer: Gerard Butler – Actor: Paolo Nutini – Singer/songwriter: David Tennant – Actor: Fred Goodwin – Banker: Owen Coyle – Manager of Bolton Wanderers: Paul Gallacher – Footballer: Jamie Langfield – Footballer: Derek McInnes – Manager of Bristol City: Paul Lambert – Manager of Aston Villa.
Former President of the United States of America Ronald Reagan’s maternal great-great grandparents (Claude Wilson and Margaret Downey) were married in Paisley.
© 2012 Aidan Shearer
We are still waiting for an article from his Granny!
Robert, 3rd Lord Semple, (c. 1505-1573) was known as The Great Lord Semple. He lived in unsettled, violent times and was involved in on-going local feuds, battles between Scotland and England and religious conflict within Scotland engendered by the reformation. As a young man, Robert fought in numerous skirmishes with local families. These often entailed criminal offences such as reiving, spoliation and even murder, but perpetrators as influential and powerful as the Semples were seldom called to account.
After the death of King James V in 1542, Mary, his six day old daughter, became Queen and Scotland was ruled for some years by regents. Robert Semple was a staunch supporter of the House of Stuart and frequently attended court. A Catholic by faith, he seems at times to have found it politically expedient to give some tacit support to Protestant views. In 1544 Robert had a violent skirmish with two monks in the Paisley Abbey because he wanted ‘adequate cautioners’ (verification of authenticity) for the relics and ornaments held in the St Mirin Aisle. However, this action was not regarded as untoward, apparently, for in April of the following year he was granted by charter the Bailliary of Regality of Paisley for defending the monks of Paisley Abbey from heretics and tyrants.
Another more serious incident occurred in 1550, when in a heated argument at a gathering of nobles in the house of the Regent in Edinburgh, Robert Semple, who was said to have been supporting the new religion, became so incensed that he drew his dagger and stabbed William, 3rd Lord Crichton of Sanquhar, through the heart. With help of influential friends his death sentence for this murderous offence was reduced to a contract to pay compensation to Lord Crichton’s family.
On the international scene, conflict between England and France led Henry VIII to declare war on the Scots to force a marriage between his son Edward and the infant Mary Queen of Scots. The ensuing war was known as The Rough Wooing (1543-1550). In 1547 Robert fought at the Battle of Pinkie and, despite a rescue attempt by his friends, was taken prisoner by the English.
In the 1550s Robert, now 3rd Lord Semple and a staunch supporter of Mary of Guise, decided to build a fortified tower where his family and retainers could find refuge from the threat of marauding local or government attackers. This defensive structure, known as the Peel Tower, was built on a small rocky island on Castle Semple Loch. In October, 1560, the 2nd Earl of Arran, besieged the Semple castle. Held up for a week by violent storms, the Earl eventually set up his artillery and attacked the castle. The next day, the gatehouse tower fell and the castle was surrendered on the following day. Semple’s son was taken prisoner and the Semple Castle and Peel Tower were occupied by Arran’s forces.
However, in 1567 after the murder of Darnley, Queen Mary’s husband, Lord Semple changed sides. He fought against the Queen’s forces at the Battle of Carberry Hill in that year and at the Battle of Langside in 1568, when Mary was defeated and subsequently fled to England. He was appointed Commendator (the secular equivalent of Abbot) of Paisley Abbey and was a member of Regent Moray’s secret council. However, after Moray was murdered in 1570, Semple was captured by the Hamiltons and imprisoned in Argyll for a year in the custody of Lord Boyd.
Robert, the Great Lord Semple, died around 1573, most probably at Castle Semple in Lochwinnoch. Although no evidence of his burial stone exists today, a drawing of part of a complete stone (c.5 x 2 feet) which lay in Lochwinnoch Churchyard in the late 19th century shows the Semple Arms and the initials of Robert, 3rd Lord Semple and his first wife Isabel Hamilton. No date or other inscription appeared on the stone. The Great Lord Semple certainly was strong, influential and powerful and could endure hardship – but was he really ‘Great’?
© 2012 Helen Calcluth
The book launch by Derek Alexander of ‘RENFREWSHIRE a Scottish County’s Hidden Past’ was held in Waterstone’s in Braehead on the 14th of June. Derek Alexander and the late Gordon McCrae, are co-authors of the book. In his address at the book launch Derek read some excerpts from the book and expressed his hope the book would encourage others to look for Renfrewshire’s ‘hidden past’.
Gordon was a noted local historian and studied archaeology at Liverpool University. Past students of Paisley University (the University of the West of Scotland) will remember him as its Depute Librarian.
Gordon was a founder member of Renfrewshire Local History Forum in 1988. His passion for local history and archaeology and unbounded enthusiasm is almost legendary. He organised and led numerous Forum field trips round the county, liberally sharing his extensive knowledge – and boiled sweets! His sudden death in 2005 was a tragic loss to the Forum. This book has been dedicated to his memory.
The book covers archaeological sites in Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire and Inverclyde from the Palaeolithic to Early Modern Times. The archaeological sites are set within their historical context and the book is illustrated by more than one hundred maps, plans and illustrations.
Many local sites, in or near the villages where the Gryffe Advertizer is distributed, are covered in the book. These include, among others, Castle Semple Estate and the Collegiate Church at Lochwinnoch, Whitemoss and Barochan Roman forts near Bishopton, the excavation at South Mound in Houston, the late Bronze Age homestead at Knapps, Duchal Castle near Kilmacolm, the mote hill on Old Ranfurly Golf Course in Bridge of Weir, a moated manor and enclosure near the Wallace Monument in Elderslie, the crannogs in the Clyde at Langbank, Elliston Castle and the Midton Lime Kiln at Howwood, and excavations at the Old Churchyard and the Weaver’s Cottage in Kilbarchan.
For those interested in the seeking out archaeological evidence for the history of Renfrewshire, ‘RENFREWSHIRE A Scottish County’s Hidden Past’ is an excellent resource. For the many walkers who roam around our local area, the information in the book will provide additional points of interest in their walks. ‘RENFREWSHIRE A Scottish County’s Hidden Past’ (published by Birlinn Ltd.) can be obtained from Renfrewshire Local History Forum as well as from commercial booksellers.
© 2012 Helen Calcluth
by Bill Speirs, Johnstone History Society
Kaimhill Cottages were built on the site of the former farm steading of West Kaimhill. Both cottages were built in a style common to the agricultural cottages in 19th century Scotland. They were situated in an acre of ground between Kaimhill and Coalbeg Farms to the north of the road from Locher Bridge to Crosslee. The main building consisted of two cottages abutting each other, with various additions built on at later dates.
The original occupant of the first cottage to be built was John Barr, late of the adjacent farm of Coalbog. Perhaps making a career change from farmer to builder, James Barr ‘seized’ (took possession of) in June, 1801, an acre of ground with the houses thereon being part of the lands of Kaimhill called Coalbog. These old farm buildings may have been deemed only suitable material for dismantling and for re-use in the construction of the improved steading buildings then being erected.
John Barr appears to have worked as a mason for some years and later became overseer at Craigends. He continued in the Cunninghames’ employ till March, 1827, when he retired to his cottage at Little Kaimhill. He died in the 1830s and was buried in Kilbarchan East Church graveyard. His wife, Mary, aged 75, still lived in the cottage in 1841.
The next occupants of the cottage in the first half of nineteenth century were coalminers. John Craig was probably employed in the coal pits being worked in conjunction with the nearby lime works by the side of the Gryffe. About 1845 John McGilchrist, a coal and lime master from Balgrogan, Campsie in Stirlingshire moved to Bridge of Weir and lived in the cottage with his wife and six children He became a local coalmaster, probably operating Kaimhill Coal and Limeworks from then until 1859, when it closed and he returned to Campsie.
The 1861 census for Kaimhill had the first notification of two cottages on the site. One cottage was of one room only and was occupied by James Livingston, a retired farmer aged 82, and his wife and son. The other cottage had two rooms and was occupied by William Woodrow, age 36, a grain miller from Kilbarchan, and his wife and family. Later James Stevenson, a carter from Kilbarchan, and his family occupied the larger cottage before moving to Barnbeth where the Stevensons of Barnbeth ran a potato merchants business from a yard in Church Street in Johnstone until 1881.
By 1881 both cottages had been extended. Hugh Wallace, a mason who had owned a building business in Hill Street, Kilmarnock in the 1860s, moved to Kaimhill in 1873. He is a likely candidate for the person who carried out at least some of the substantial changes to the cottages between 1871 and 1881. Sadly, he died in unfortunate circumstances in 1883. He was last seen in Bridge of Weir village on his way home and is supposed to have had a considerable amount of money in his possession. Some days later his body was found in the River Gryffe near a ford. As he was a prosperous man he is an unlikely candidate for suicide. Perhaps he was making his way home via the ford and lost his footing.
Later occupants of the cottage at the end of the century included George McKenzie, a painter and photographic artist, William Lee, a retired farmer, and Hugh Keith, a railway contractor, who died at Kaimhill in 1925. The cottages remained in the possession of the Keith family for another 50 odd years.
© 2012 Bill Speirs
A walker or cyclist travelling on a winter’s day along the cycle track from Lochwinnoch to Kilbirnie may see on the left of the track (just after it passes Hole Farm, about 2km. from Lochwinnoch) a tall chimney, standing in isolation as if stranded among the encroaching trees near the edge of the loch. What was the building? What was it used for?
The first known building on the site appears on the 1857 Ordnance Survey map. The accompanying notes described it as a strong stone building supporting a large waterwheel which helped to pump water from the then-drained Barr Loch. It was built at the expense of Colonel McDowall, owner of the Castle Semple Estate from 1841, so it probably dated from the late 1840s.
When McDowall inherited the estate (which included Barr Loch), the loch was used as meadows for oats and hay. Successive owners of the estate from the 17th century had attempted to drain the loch, but with patchy and often short-lived success. The most elaborate scheme (and that inherited by McDowall) was carried out by James Adam between 1813 and 1815. The waterwheel and pump were McDowall’s attempt to make Adam’s system more effective.
By the time of the next Ordnance Survey map in 1897, the large waterwheel was taken down, probably because of problems with the water supply. It was replaced by a steam engine, and the present high chimney was built. The existing buildings were modified and extended to accommodate these changes. The purpose of the building was still the same – to help keep the loch drained – although the pumping mechanism was changed to a more efficient one.
The other change shown on the 1897 map was the addition of a completely new structure at the corner of the pumping-house. This was a sawmill, with its own source of power (a small, water-driven turbine). It can never have been more than a small estate sawmill, possibly supplying the furniture-manufacturing firms of Lochwinnoch.
The sawmill continued in use until after the Second World War, eventually closing in the late 1940s. The fate of the pumping engine is less certain: Barr Loch continued in its drained state until 1946 (albeit as rough grazing), but then flooded suddenly, to become a loch again. Did the pumping engine survive until 1946 or was it abandoned earlier?
© 2012 Ian Brough