Glentyan Estate Photographs by Charles Hunter, taken in, or before,1922

Glentyan House was built by Alexander Speirs, a local linen merchant, in the late eighteenth century. A subsequent owner, Richard Hubbert Hunter, owned the estate from 1898 until his death in 1939. He kept the gardens well maintained and invested in new additional features to enhance his estate. His son Charles, who inherited the estate on the death of his father, was a keen photographer.

Some years ago, a box of Charles Hunter’s glass negatives was given to me by Charles’s sister, Elspeth. When I first saw the negatives, they were carefully wrapped in pages of an old newspaper, dated 1922. The photographs provide a unique visual record of Glentyan Estate around one hundred years ago.

Charles Hunter, took the above photograph of Glentyan House in, or before, 1922. The frontage of the house remains as it was one hundred years ago, but the tower with the flagpole on the roof has been removed.  Elspeth Hunter, remembers that during WW2 the tower was used as a look-out post by the ARP wardens. She remembers being in the tower with her parents on a dark night when a German plane flew overhead and family members on duty had to quickly cover the bright white  letter ‘W’ on their warden helmets in case they were spotted by the German pilot.

Glentyan  House. showing roof tower, Charles Hunter

In the image above, a  painted wooden plaque of Richard Hunter’s coat of arms can be seen  in the apex above the front entrance. The armorial bearings in the centre of the plaque showed two hunting horns and ‘the sun in his splendour’, topped by  a falcon and the Hunter clan motto, SEMPER SUBLIMA . The plaque, too, has now gone. After gracing the house for around one hundred years, sadly, in 2010 this colourful wooden plaque fell to the ground and shattered.

 

(Click on image to enlarge)

The  image above shows the brightly coloured plaque.  ( some letters of the motto can be distinguished in the enlarged image )   –   Top right showing SEMPER and a rather vague SUBLIMA

Charles’s photographs of Glentyan  Estate taken in the early 1920s, also include the beautiful formal rose garden at the rear of house.

Glentyan House, rear view and rose garden, Charles Hunter

Included, too, is this excellent image of the enormous glass house in the walled garden.  Only the much-ruined wall of the walled garden remains today.

Glass House in the walled garden, Charles Hunter

Richard Hunter kept his woodlands and gardens well maintained and invested in new additional features to enhance his estate. The most significant was the creation of an artificial lake, now known as Glentyan Loch. His additions also included a full sized tennis court. Glentyan Loch, and the tennis court, were used by the family for leisure and recreation. The photograph below shows the boat house on the left with a punt gun, used for fowling, moored centre front.

Glentyan Loch and boat house, Charles Hunter

A main feature on Glentyan Loch was the Japanese Bridge which separated the loch from the old mill dam which had powered Glentyan Corn Mill.

The Japanese Bridge, Charles Hunter

Charles Hunter’s box  contained over sixty glass negatives. His sister Elspeth wanted them to be kept in Kilbarchan. Ian Trushell processed the photographs, and the glass negatives are now in safe keeping in the village.

© 2021  Helen Calcluth

Kilbarchan Laundries 1, Glentyan Laundry.

In the 1870s Robert Gibson, born in Newton on Ayr in 1826, was the founder of Glentyan Laundry in Merchants Close. Robert was brought up in Kilbarchan. His father, an Ayrshire handloom weaver, had moved to Kilbarchan, and in the 1840s the Gibson family lived in Barholm where James and three of his sons, including Robert, were silk handloom weavers. Robert married Mary Love in 1861. Over the next twenty years, the demand for handloom weaving declined and the number of village weavers dropped from around 883 to 678.

Robert must have seen the writing on the wall. Before 1881, he had established himself as a ‘washer and dresser’, living with his family in Merchants Close. (A ‘washer and dresser’ was a laundryman.) Robert set up his laundry in the old bleachfield building in Merchants’ Close and he and his family lived in Bleachfield House (later known as Woodside Cottage). The laundry was a family concern. Robert’s three eldest daughters were ‘laundress ironers’ and the youngest, Elizabeth, aged 13, was a ‘laundress collar machine ironer’. Matthew, aged 18 was a ‘ mangler and packer’ and John had worked as a washer and dresser.

Work in the laundry was hard and, at times, dangerous  –  steam presses, hot irons,  and moving machinery.  One serious accident occurred in 1900. A local girl, Mary Munn was seriously injured in the laundry when her hair became tangled in an overhead revolving shaft. She seems to have made a good recovery and later married Robert’s youngest son, Tom.

Robert’s Glentyan Laundry appears to have been a very successful, lucrative family business. In 1885 Robert still rented the laundry building and house from Thomas Mann of Glentyan, but by 1895 he was owner of both properties. In 1898 his wife, Mary, died and Robert appears to have taken a backseat in the business and his sons became partners in  the laundry. However, in 1904 sons John and Tom, as partners, left the business to set up their own establishment at the other end of the village, and Glentyan Laundry was sold to James Guthrie McVicar.

James McVicar, too, was an Ayrshire man, born in Newton on Ayr on 20th August, 1879. According to his descendants, his father, also named James Guthrie McVicar, had business dealings with the Kilbarchan weavers in previous years. He is documented in census records as a mercantile cashier. Young James became proprietor of Glenyan Laundry and Woodside Cottage before his marriage to Agnes Rintoul from Glasgow in 1908. The couple had two children, Agnes, (b 1909) and William (b 1915), both born in Kilbarchan.

When  James took over the business, the laundry was mainly steam powered. The building with an adjacent chimney, shown upstream from the main laundry building on the OS map of 1812, was probably the boiler house. Glentyan Laundry served the village through WW1, but after the war, times were hard and James was concerned that trade was not picking up. As a member of the Laundry Trade Board (Great Britain), in 1922 he forwarded an objection to the Trade Board concerning their proposals on changes to piece rates for laundry workers. Trade seems to have improved in the 1930s. In 1941 James, aged 61, died suddenly of a cerebral hemorrhage.  His wife Agnes died the following year and the laundry closed a few years later.

James’s grandson  found this painting (unknown artist) of the Glentyan Laundry and Woodside Cottage among family papers. It dates from the early 1900s.

Merchants Close  (early 1900s) Courtesy of Ewan McVicar

© 2021 Helen Calcluth, Renfrewshire Local History Forum

Kilbarchan Laundries 2, Cartbank Laundry.

Cartbank Laundry was founded about 1903 by brothers, John and Tom Gibson, the sons of Robert Gibson, the owner of Glentyan Laundry. Cartbank Laundry was built on what is now the flat grassy area, on the right of the entry to the cycle path opposite Waterston Terrace. Over the seventy years of its existence little change was made to the west frontage of the main building, and the cobbled path leading up to the laundry which, according to family descendants, was designed specifically to allow easy access to horses and carts. It was still in its original form when photographed in 1974. The building on the right was a later addition.

From an early age the two brothers had worked in their father’s laundry, gaining experience in all aspects of the trade. They were ambitious young men and well able to run their own business. In 1910, both brothers were married with young families and lived Easwald Bank. John was in No.18 and  Tom was in No.17. Business prospered and before 1915 John, the elder brother, bought Riversdale in Tandlehill Road and Tom bought  St Katherines in Ladysmith Avenue. The brothers were now men of property   –     no more bed recesses,  no more shared toilets, and their own private gardens!

In the 1920s Gibson Bros. of Cartbank Laundry continued to expand and modernise. They had clients not only in surrounding villages, but also in Paisley and Glasgow. They no longer used horse and cart for deliveries, and owned  a small fleet of delivery vans. In the 1920s it was a regular procedure for Cartbank Laundry delivery van drivers to hand over their week’s takings to the company’s main office on a Thursday. Unfortunately, this regular procedure was public knowledge in the area. On the evening of  February, 1925, two robbers broke into the laundry main office and over three hundred pounds of silver coins were stolen. (More about the Cartbank robbery in the subsequent article, “Robbbery in the Laundry”.

The following advert appeared in the Brochure for Kilbarchan Fete which was held in Glentyan Estate on 8th June, 1929.

In 1937 Gibson Brothers became a Limited Company, with John and Tom as Directors and   members of the next Gibson generation joined the family firm. John died in 1950, and Tom in 1965, and the next generation of Gibsons continued to run the company.

In the 1960s, laundry businesses all over the country, including Cartbank Laundry, saw a slow steady decline in demand for their services. Although Cartbank Laundry was still a viable, solvent  business, the company ceased trading in 1974. The laundry buildings, later used as a store by the paper manufacturers, Smith and McLaurin, were destroyed by fire  in July, 1977.

Above sketch is based on OS map: Renfrewshire, XI7, 1912

Excellent images of Cartbank Laundry are available on Canmore. Click on link below.   

https://canmore.org.uk/site/143742/johnston-kilbarchan-road-cart-bank-laundry

© 2021, Helen Calcluth, Renfrewshire Local History Forum

Kilbarchan Laundries 3, Robbery at the Laundry

In the 1920s it was a regular procedure for Cartbank Laundry van drivers to deliver their  week’s takings to the company’s main office on a Thursday. After closing time on Thursday 19th February, 1925 two men, John Feeney and Robert Robertson, gained entry to Cartbank Laundry’s premises by forcing an outside door with a tyre lever. They gained access to the main office and stole an estimated total of £500. Their plan had been to blow up the laundry  safe  with explosives (their bag of explosives was later recovered from the crime scene), but this original plan was scrapped when they found a large quantity of loose coins and notes in an unlocked rolltop desk. The robbers, with heavy paper bags filled with notes and coins and with their pockets bulging with loose silver, hurriedly left the scene. They jumped on to a passing tram car bound for Paisley to make their escape. Relieved, they  sat on the top deck of the open-topped tram.

 

Open-topped tram in Low Barholm, Kilbarchan

But that is not the end of the story. When the tram reached Johnstone High Street, one of the robbers dropped a bag of silver coins. The paper bag burst open! Some coins spilled on the floor and some fell from the moving tram on to the street below. In a state of panic both robbers tried to make their escape, but the tram conductor, John Sinclair, who had felt suspicious when the two boarded the tram in Kilbarchan, caught one of the men. An elderly gentleman who was passing by jumped on to the tram platform to assist John. While under their restraint, the apprehended robber threw handfuls of silver coins, amounting to almost fifty pounds, to gathering spectators asking them to help him to escape and inciting them to help themselves to the  scattered coins. The police soon arrived on the scene and the man was promptly arrested. Meanwhile, the second robber escaped the scene.

But the saga continues. After half an hour’s delay, the tram continued on its journey to Paisley with Detective Sergeant Murray of Johnstone Burgh Police on board. When the tram reached the Thorn, the second robber, who had escaped from the tram in the High Street, unsuspectingly, again boarded the tram. He was immediately recognized by the conductor and speedily arrested by Detective Murray.

Later, a third man, who was walking from Johnstone through Elderslie, dropped a bag of silver coins on the pavement. He told some people who had helped him to gather up the scattered coins, that the money was his shop takings. When this incident was reported to the police he was regarded as a possible third suspect in the Cartbank robbery.

The two apprehended robbers appeared before Sheriff Hamilton in Paisley. John Feeney, a habitual criminal, was sentenced to four years penal servitude and David  Robertson received a two year jail sentence. Most of the stolen money, including thirty pounds from the shower of silver coins scattered on the pavement, was recovered and returned to Gibson Brothers.

© 2021 Helen Calcluth. Renfrewshire Local History Forum

John Cuninghame, Laird of Craigends (1759-1822), 2

John Cuninghame, 13th Laird of Craigends, inherited Craigends estate in 1792. In 1800 he married his second wife, Margaret, the daughter of Sir William Cuninghame-Fairlie of Robertland. John and Margaret had five sons and six daughters.

His memorial stone in the entrance tower of Kilbarchan old Parish Church extols his kindness, wisdom, sincerity and his trust in God. It also makes mention of a protracted and painful illness which he bore with fortitude.

Despite suffering from frequent debilitating bouts of gout and arthritis John led an active life. His diary, written from 1814 to December 1815, provides a detailed account of his life.

John was responsible for the running of Craigends estate. This involved the organisation of haymaking, harvest-time, sheep shearing, tree cutting and pruning vines, engaging the mole-catcher, attending cattle fairs in Johnstone. In the winter of 1814, when the dam at Locher Mill burst its banks, he contracted William White to inspect the dam and make repairs. He held a regular Rent Court where he collected rent from his estate tenants. He also had a substantial income from Granville Estate in Jamaica and lodged his West-India income in a bank in Paisley.

John was a Justice of the Peace and a Commissioner of Supply for the County. In this latter capacity he was responsible for ensuring local roads and tolls were in good order. He had also a keen interest in a surveying and new building.  He visited the site for Napier’s new house on Milliken Estate and took his eldest son, Willie, to see George MacFarlane’s plans for his proposed new house at Clippens.

Religion was important to John, and the family regularly attended services in both Kilbarchan Church and Houston and Killellan Church. Margaret was especially friendly with Ann Monteith, the wife of the Houston minister.

John’s and Margaret’s social circle included the Napiers of Milliken, the Porterfields of Duchal, the Alexanders of Southbar, the Flemings of Barochan, the Napiers of Blackstoun and the Maxwells of Pollock. These family friends dined together, travelling from house to house by horse and chaise. On the 28th of November, 1815, soon after the marriage of William Milliken Napier to Elizabeth Stirling of Kippendavie, John was invited to meet the new bride. He found her “very agreeable tho’ not such a beauty as I had been led to believe she was”. The men enjoyed salmon fishing, shooting partridges and hunting with hounds. John hunted with his friends at Skiff in Johnstone, Kilmacolm, Barochan Mill, and Formakin Mill.

John had a close involvement in the home life of his children. He showed great concern when the children had chickenpox and promptly sent for doctor Pinkerton. He noted in his diary that Johnnie, aged ten, fell through the ceiling of the coal house, but thankfully was not badly hurt, and that Lillie fell off a chair and bruised her eye and cheek. On a visit to Paisley he took his daughter, Fanny, for a haircut.  He also recorded each of the children’s birthdays and arranged a holiday for them in Largs. His elder boys were tutored by Mr. Robert Smith, until the 2nd of March, 1815 when he was ordained as minister of Lochwinnoch Parish Church.

Entries in this unique personal diary ended on 26th December 1815. John died in 1822 and his eldest son, William, at the age of twenty-one, became the next laird.

© 2020, Helen Calcluth 

(See also previous article on John Cunninghame of Craigends (1759 – 1822) 

The Big Dig, Paisley Abbey Drain

The medieval drain Abbey Drain at Paisley was rediscovered in 1990. This stone-built drain is a tunnel-like structure with a high arched roof.  After the discovery, a deep layer of compacted mud and silt was removed and numerous artefacts, including an almost intact large pottery chamber pot, buckles, coins, a knife handle, a tuning peg, pieces of slate inscribed with polyphonic music and thousands of pottery sherds were discovered.

Since 2010, members of Renfrewshire Local History Forum have participated as volunteers in the numerous GUARD Archaeology excavations at Paisley Abbey Drain. ‘The Big Dig’ in 2019 surpassed all expectations. Two trenches were dug on the site. In Trench 1, the intact arch covering the outlet from the drain into the river was revealed. In Trench 2, the outer top stones covering the internal arched roof of the drain were uncovered.

Trench 1: Top of the arched outlet from the Drain into the White Cart

Trench 2    Outer Top Stones on the roof of the Drain

The most interesting find was a number of fragments of a glass wine bottle with the seal intact. The seal, considered to be the seal of the Cochranes of Paisley, shows a coronet and a horse and dates from the late 17th century to early 18th century.

The Forum’s involvement with the Abbey Drain began in 1999 when it organised the Abbey and Drain Conference held in Paisley Town Hall. The resounding success of the conference led to the Forum’s publication of The Monastery and Abbey of Paisley, edited by John Maldon, in 2000. The book includes the lectures from the conference with additional papers. Our interest in the Drain continued and, in August 2009, volunteers from the Forum assisted at Glasgow University in washing and sorting the pottery recovered from the Drain in 1990. Since then, Forum members have volunteered over the years at all of the six excavations led by GUARD Archaeology at Paisley Abbey Drain. In the earlier digs the Victorian remains of Abbey Close, which had been built directly on top of the drain site and, at a deeper level, a medieval wall beside some cobbled paving and an enigmatic circular feature. The Forum also assisted at Doors Open Day in 2018 and 2019 and some lucky members were privileged to have a tour down the Abbey Drain.

© 2019 Helen Calcluth

Renfrewshire’s Slave Legacy 1

Between the 1620s and 1807, British ships carried around six million Africans across the Atlantic, mostly to the Caribbean. Conditions there were so bad that many died. From a Scottish perspective, relatively few Africans were traded on ships from Scottish ports. However, it has recently become clear that Scots were heavily involved in another equally traumatic issue. This was the owning of large numbers of Africans on sugar plantations.

In Renfrewshire the leading landowners formed an elite group who dominated the major social and power positions in the county as MPs, Sheriffs, and Patrons of Parish Kirks. Some were among the earliest in Scotland to improve their lands. They drained, enclosed and fertilised their lands at a faster rate than the rest of Scotland. These innovations and improvements needed finance beyond the proceeds from rent and agriculture.

This raises a simple question. Did any of their money which improved the Renfrewshire landscape come directly from slave ownership? To date, their colonial connections have been shrouded in vague, celebratory language. For example, that they ‘spent time in the Indies’; that they married into their sugar fortune (and didn’t make it personally); and that they were career soldiers (not slave overseers or planters). When William Semple visited all Renfrewshire’s landowners in 1782 to compile his History of the Shire, he found that some were quite evasive about their origins.

The estate papers and private records of various landowners give snapshots of plantation involvement through the 18th century. In recent years, personal trips to the Caribbean by the writer have tracked down the full extent of plantation ownership by some of Renfrewshire’s landed elite. Now, a more comprehensive picture has emerged. In 1834, twenty-seven years after the abolition of slave trading, slave ownership was finally banned in the British Empire.

The British Government compensated planters for the loss of their slaves (the slaves received nothing). For the first time, Government records give us a full picture of Scotland’s slave ownership. The results are surprising. Although Scotland contained only10% of the British population, it received 15% of the slave compensation money. In Glasgow and the west of Scotland, landowners received more slave compensation than Liverpool.

In recent decades Scotland has become a much more multi-cultural society. Beyond history, we owe it to those with African heritage to be honest about past connections. Over the next few issues we will look at Renfrewshire landowners who were major slave owning families and received government compensation in 1834. We will find that landowners in almost every parish were involved. Further information on slavery compensation can be found at www.ucl.ac.uk

© 2019 Stuart Nisbet

John Love, a Kilbarchan Weaver

John Love (born in 1806) was a typical Kilbarchan weaver. He was also a well renowned bee-keeper.

In 1841 he and his wife Mary lived in the upper storey of Mount Pleasant, the last house on the right in Shuttle Street. Mary’s brother Robert Climie, her two sisters and her widowed mother were also part of the household.

John Love and his brother-in-law, Robert Climie, had their loomshop on the ground floor of the property. Both were silk handloom weavers. John’s wife, Mary, worked as a pirn winder and their twelve year old son was learning the weaving trade.

John and Robert cultivated flowers in their large garden and kept bees. John, however, was the gardening expert and was well-renowned as a Kilbarchan florist-weaver. The garden was a floral display of roses, herbaceous plants, and grafted fruit trees. However, the greatest attraction in the garden was John’s display of ‘pinks’ (carnations). He was acknowledged as the Scottish champion ‘pink’ grower.

John had numerous bee-hives, but one bee-house was unique. It was a model of a two-storey dwelling house, complete with chimney and chimney sweep. John’s other skill was as a taxidermist. His collection of numerous, carefully stuffed specimens of natural history was on display in his house.

In the mid-1870s John, who had been a tenant in Mount Pleasant for almost forty years, was forced by a new owner to vacate the property. John and his unmarried daughter, Elizabeth, moved to Paisley where they continued to work now as worsted weavers, in less pleasant surroundings.

John stayed in Paisley for some years, and then at the age of seventy-six, moved to the island of Bute to look after a fruit garden where he grew, among other produce, strawberries and Caledonian plum trees and kept bees. However, John missed his old home in Kilbarchan.

Like many ordinary Kilbarchan weavers, he often took the time to communicate his feelings in verse. In one letter sent from Bute to a friend, John wrote the touching lines,

Yes! that is the tale I whisper,

As I muse in the firelight glow,

As I sit in the hush of the evening,

And think of long ago.

After five years in Bute, John was pleased to come back to Kilbarchan and lived with a family named George at Bleachfield House in Merchant Close. In 1891 his friend described John, who looked only in his late sixties, as ‘a yellow haired laddie of eighty five summers’. He was of middle height, nimble, fleet of foot and of an amiable disposition.  He was a healthy individual who had sought medical attendance only once in his long life. John Love died in Kilbarchan in 1896 at the age eighty-nine

© 2020 Helen Calcluth

The Glasgow, Paisley, Ardrossan Canal

The Glasgow, Paisley, Ardrossan Canal was first proposed by James Watt in 1773. In 1804 a survey by Thomas Telford led to parliamentary permission to build the first phase of the canal from Glasgow to Johnstone. Hugh, 12th Earl of Eglinton, was the chief investor in the project. He had recently built his new deep sea harbour at Ardrossan and was keen to have direct access by canal to Glasgow.  Other investors included William Houston of Johnstone and William Dixon of Govan. A canal in the vicinity of their coal and iron mines would afford them easy access to Glasgow markets. Canal access to Glasgow was expected to be considerably more efficient than transporting goods by wagons on the turnpike roads. Work began in 1805. In addition to transportation of goods, a passenger service was planned.

The first section of the canal, from Paisley to Johnstone, opened on the 6th November, 1810. Amid great celebration the Countess of Eglinton was launched. Four days later, on the Martinmas Day holiday, tragedy struck. When passengers from Johnstone were disembarking at the canal basin in Paisley, an excited crowd of holiday makers on a family day out surged on to the boat causing it to capsize. Of the eighty-five people who lost their lives on this disastrous day at least one quarter were children.

The full stretch of the canal from Glasgow to Johnstone was completed in 1811, but because of the death of the Earl of Eglinton in 1819 and the lack of further funding, construction of the remaining section to Ardrossan was abandoned.

Two more passenger boats, the Paisley and the Countess of Glasgow were added to the fleet. The cabin class fare was 1s.3d. and the second class fare was 10d. In 1814 the canal sold over 35,000 fares and the service was popular with all classes of society.  In 1815 John Cuninghame of Craigends recorded in his diary that he had sent his chaise to Johnstone to meet friends arriving by boat from Glasgow. By 1836 there were twelve passenger sailings per day on the canal.

The Glasgow, Paisley, Ardrossan Canal appears to have been a profitable project for the investors until 1840 when, with the advent of the railways, the canal passenger service had competition. The Glasgow & Paisley Joint Railway opened the first rail line from Glasgow to Paisley in 1840. Rail travel between Paisley and Glasgow was quicker by train than the two hour journey by canal boat and when the rail company reduced its fares in1843 the canal passenger service was no longer viable. Although the passenger service ended in 1843 the canal company continued to transport goods until1869.

The canal became quieter and seems to have become a repository for stolen goods. It is reported that in 1852 brass fittings, and copper piping, stolen from the Kilbarchan horse-drawn fire engine, were found in Johnstone Canal by three local men. Kilbarchan Front Committee gave the men 7s.6d. for the recovery of these valuable fittings.

In 1869 the Glasgow and South Western Railway Company purchased the canal.  This rail company continued to operate the transport of goods on the canal until 1881. In that year they began work to build a second rail line from Glasgow to Paisley, largely following the route of the canal. The canal was drained in 1882 and their Canal Line to Paisley opened in 1885.

©2019 Helen Calcluth

Kilbarchan Old Parish Churchyard

Work in progress

October, 2018
Since the church closed two years ago, the church yard has been poorly maintained, except for occasional grass-cutting by Renfrewshire Council. By the end of the summer the grass was long, more than twenty unwanted saplings were thriving in Captain Stirling’s burial enclosure, and other gravestones were obscured by bushes and undergrowth.
Our volunteer members strimmed and raked the long grass, weeded overgrown plots, removed unwanted bushes and saplings and collected all the rubbish in plastic bags for removal.

Volunteer group with Peter wielding the strimmer (and Ian as a shadow)

Interestingly, in the process, we found a number of unrecorded graves. We hope to be able to photograph all the gravestones in the churchyard when the weather improves
The committee would like to thank our volunteers who helped to tidy up Kilbarchan Old Parish Churchyard. We would also like to express our thanks to Inchinnan Historical Interest Group for the use of their strimmer.

Alistair and Ian removing bushes from overgrown burial plot.
Anne and Jean clearing Stirling Enclosure of saplings and weeds
Awaiting uplift