History and heritage of Bishopton

In 1951, archaeologist Kenneth Arthur Steer discovered crop marks which denoted the previous existence of a roman fort at Whitemoss Farm.

Alongside it, experts believe that Roman camps were littered around the area on account of its ability to help them defend the western flank of what was known as the Antonine Wall which stretched right across the country from the Clyde to the Forth.

Later, fragments of Samian pottery which were date-marked to correspond with the era of the Antonine era were found in the area and have since been taken to Glasgow University’s Hunterian Museum for the purposes of display and preservation.

Said to have been inhabited by the Romans from around 110AD until their occupation of central belt Scotland petered out in the 200’s, not much is known of what transpired within the region until the 1300’s when the lands of Bishopton– which had originally been viewed as part of the Parish Of Erskine– came into the possession of the Brisbane family.

With its name of “bishop’s toun” originally owing to its status as a summer retreat for visiting members of the clergy– 1332 saw the lands come into the possession of this noble family  in addition to territory in Stirling and Ayr. Corresponding with the era that William Brisbane became Chancellor of Scotland, it is believed that a large dwelling with a tower and adjoining building was built. Although this is difficult to substantiate, some degree of evidence would be provided by Thomas Pont’s 16th century map which depicted the building– flanked by a ring of trees–  as the main landmark of Bishoptoun.

After it underwent large-scale modernisation, the Brisbanes would sell the home to John Walkinshaw and at that point, the deed would change hands numerous times in quick succession, with owners including Sir John Maxwell of Pollok and a man only identified as Sir J Campbell before it would join the ranks of the Erskine estates of Robert Stewartl, the 11th Lord Of Blantyre, in the 19th century.

At this stage, Bishopton was still a tight-knit, rural community. Up until 1840, its inhabitants actually defined themselves as residents of two distinct villages known as Blackstown and Easter Rossland respectively.

In 1882, Francis Groomes’ Ordnance Survey of Scotland stated that contained little more than a  “a free church, 2 inns, and a post office, with money order, savings’ bank, and telegraph departments.” In 1900, the village accounted for just 21 homes.

However, the 20th century would see a gradual upswing in population, with the number of horses rising to 140 in 1933. Shortly afterwards, its untapped potential became clear and the first socially rented homes were constructed by Renfrewshire County Council in the lead-up to World War II. As the 20th century progressed, this initiative  would be expanded upon throughout the 60’s & 70’s in order to form the modern-day boundaries of Bishopton.

On the subject of conflict, the legacy of major global disputes has an indelible connection to the area of Bishopton. As unlike many of the bordering areas, Bishopton’s main export for much of the 20th century would centre around munitions.

This began in 1915 with the opening of the Georgetown Filling Factory. Named after Prime Minister Lloyd George, this location would see its workers assemble “40,000 items of Quick Firing (QF) ammunition, and 200,000 lbs of Breech Loading (BL) cartridges per week”. Said to have been visited by a young Winston Churchill, the factory employed upwards of 10,000 people, had its own magazine– The Georgetown Gazette-  and had two railway lines to transport its massive workforce.

Although it would close its doors in 1919, much of its remaining buildings would be enlisted once more when Bishopton next became a centre for the production of ammunition. After the Ministry Of Defence purchased a further 2000 acres of land in the area, the advent of World War II led to the opening of the Royal Ordnance Factory. Playing host to over 20,000 staff, the factory was Royal Ordnance’s “primary manufacturer of propellants for gun and rocket systems.”