Rich in both woodland and water, Erskine has some of the most picturesque beauty spots in all of Renfrewshire.
As a result, it’s been an area that humans have felt compelled to call home since the earliest days of civilisation.
On account of archaeological findings, it is believed that the area now known as Erskine was employed for agricultural purposes since around 3000 BC and by 1000 BC, it was inhabited by its original settlers.
As is the case with most provinces in the area, not much is known about the intervening years until we reach 1207 when it was first documented on maps. In all likelihood, the new recognition of the area came as a result of the confirmation of the church in Erskine by Florientus, the Bishop of nearby Glasgow.
From the reign of Alexander II of Scotland onwards, the Erskine clan held sway over the land and retained it as their barony. With both family and village sharing a name which roughly translates from old British to green rising ground, the lineage begins with Henry De Erskine and would stretch for centuries. In 1226, Erskine Castle was erected and while no physical aspect of its presence in the area remains, it’s widely accepted that it survived for over 400 years as the entire estate was acquired by Sir John Hamilton of Orbiston (better known as Bellshill) before in 1638 before passing into the ownership of Alexander Stuart in 1703.
Originally, Erskine remained a sparsely populated hamlet. In 1782, it comprised of just 12 houses and a church. During this period, the only industry that wasn’t agriculturally-focused came in the form of the Rashielee Quarries. There, The focus was on extracting whinstone which was predominantly used for the likes of pavements and jetties due to its durability. Afterwards, the materials were brought to nearby Rashielee Quays via a horse drawn wagon way and then loaded onto boats and barges. As while the area may be synonymous with venturing over the clyde today, it turns out that its access to the river has meant that it was always an advantageous place for crossings. Thus in 1771, the Erskine Ferry, which is often cited as the earliest of its kind to traverse the Clyde, was established as a punt that was pushed along by poles. From there, the process of modernisation would mean that it would eventually progress to a chain-ferry before it’d eventually use a steam powered vessel.
With the lands of Erskine now under the stewardship of Major General Robert W Stuart, the 11th Lord Blantyre, the area was set to be graced by one of its most long-standing and significant buildings. Upon retreating to the area in 1828 following the crucial role he played in the Napoleonic Wars , Stuart hired none other than Robert Smirke to oversee the design of Erskine House. Although he was still in the midst of finishing up The British Museum at the time, the London-born architect accepted the commission.
Bearing a striking resemblance to Lowther Castle in Cumbria, Smirk’s first country house design, it is estimated that this stately home cost over £50,000 to complete. In today’s money, that’d equate to around £2.5 million.
Unfortunately, any intentions that the Major General may have had of seeing out his retirement in Erskine wouldn’t come to fruition as he was killed in 1830 during Belgium’s fight for their independence.
Throughout the years, Erskine had remained a relatively close-knit community with population numbers remaining in the low hundreds. However, the construction of the Glasgow to Greenock railway saw an influx of new families make Erskine their home due to its proximity to the site.
In 1916, the long uninhabited Erskine House would become The Princess Louise Scottish Hospital for Limbless Sailors and Soldiers. From there, an indelible connection between Erskine and the treatment of those who’ve served their country would be established which is seen today through the nearby Erskine Veterans Village.
After generations of safely transporting both people and products alike over the Clyde, the Erskine ferry was set to be rendered obsolete through the construction of the Erskine Bridge. Conceived by William Brown OBE of Freeman Fox & Partners, it was formally opened by Princess Anne in 1971 and is now estimated to see over 35,000 vehicles per day.
Courtesy of its new transport link, the 1970s saw an immense amount of new housing being built in both the private and public sectors. Consequently, its new status as a commuter town and the “new community” initiative meant that the population would rise from 3,000 in 1961 to 15,000 in 2001.