Paisley made textiles, textiles made Paisley

Cotton Street, Silk Street, Gauze Street … walk around Paisley town centre and a quick look at the street names makes clear that Paisley made textiles, and textiles made Paisley.

The first official notice of the presence of weaving in Paisley is found in the Poll Tax Roll of 1695, which records that from a total population of 1,129 souls, there were 99 weavers and apprentices employed in the town.

The Incorporation of Weavers was founded in 1702 and the Act of Union in 1707 brought rapid trade expansion with access to the English and colonial markets.

Paisley weavers were developing a reputation for their ingenuity in producing fine-linen fabrics such as lawns and gauzes.

By 1781, there were 6,800 looms in Paisley, with 2,000 weaving linen and 4,800 weaving silk. In 1783 and 1784, records show nearly two million yards of linen was produced locally.

The weaving of fine muslins began to replace silk weaving, making patterned clothing more affordable to the general public. The spinning of linen and cotton yarn also became increasingly common.

A town built on textiles

Explore Paisley's textile heritage

Just as the harness weaver had a draw-boy, each block printer had a tearer. These tearers were boys and girls, and if the draw-boys were a demonstrative class, the tearers were not behind them. When the day’s work was over, they issued in a stream from the orate, their hands and arms stained with all the colours of the rainbow, and they made the streets lively on the way home.

Matthew Blair
The Paisley shawl and the men who produced it, 1907

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