Did you know the Erskine Bridge celebrated it’s 50th birthday in July?

The iconic crossing over the Clyde opened on the 2 July 1971, becoming the first fixed link between West Dunbartonshire and Renfrewshire. The cable-stayed steel box girder bridge was designed by Freeman Fox and Partners.

Discussions on the need for a bridge began in the 1930s, though it was the early 1960s before significant progress was made. As proposals for the network of motorways and dual carriageways in Central and West Scotland matured, it became clear that a bridge at this location would be an important piece of the jigsaw.

It was an ambitious and technically challenging project. The completion led to significant reductions in journey times, particularly during the busy tourist season when traffic reaches its peak.

Today, the bridge carries over 35,000 vehicles every day. A notably slender design adds to the unique and recognisable appearance of what was not just the first large-scale cable stayed bridge in Scotland but, for a time, the bridge with the longest cable-stayed span in the world. The project cost £10.5 million, the equivalent of almost £150 million today.

The Erskine Bridge was also awarded Category A status by Historic Environment Scotland (HES) in November 2018.

Take a closer at this amazing structure with the video above!

Now that you’ve read all about the history of Renfrew’s Bascule Bridge with this first blog, find out some facts you didn’t know about the Grade A listed structure.

Did you know…

  1. The Scherzer style Bascule Bridge in Renfrew is the only surviving rolling lift bridge in Scotland.
  2. ‘Bascule’ is French for a seesaw. This type of bridge provides roadway while allowing a ship to pass through when needed. Tower Bridge in London is one of the best known examples of a Bascule bridge.
  3. When the bridge opens, it reaches skyward almost 120 feet above the ground.
  4. The Bascule Bridge became Category A listed in December 1994.
  5. Construction for the new bridge broadened the White Cart’s channel at the bridges from 48 to 90 feet. Previously, the narrow river had limited the size of craft that could be constructed in local shipbuilding yards.
  6. The Bascule Bridge was designed and built by Sir William Arrol & Co., who also built some other famous bridges around the UK including the Forth and Tay rail bridges, and Tower Bridge in London. The founder, Sir William Arrol, was born in Houston in 1839 and his father was a cotton spinner.
  7. In the 1830s, while steam navigation was still in its early days, a passenger steamer called ‘The Cupid’ travelled down the Cart and Clyde as far as Rothesay, taking 12 hours there and back. It was nicknamed ‘The Stupid’, on account of its tendency to run into sandbanks.
  8. In November 1880, a horse and wagon load of straw were completely blown off a previous bridge into the river. The driver escaped just in time and received damages of £105.
  9. In the 1980s, it was reported that an eccentric American oil tycoon wanted to buy the Bascule Bridge and even visited the structure in an 18-foot black limousine.
  10. When the bridge opened, it cost two shillings and sixpence for vessels to pass under the bridge between 6am and 6pm, and this was to be paid both inwards and outwards.

Read more about the amazing Bascule Bridge

The Bascule Bridge is a major feature on the main approach to Renfrew town centre from the airport. To this day, people gather to watch the grade A listed structure rise into the sky.

But do you know how the only remaining rolling lift bridge in Scotland came to be? Find out with this blog by Rachael Morris.

Looking Back

Before the affectionately known “tin bridge” was constructed, there were several other structures which stood in its place and the local landscape sustained some significant changes too. In fact, records suggest that there were three swing bridges across the canalised part of the White Cart at Inchinnan Bridge between around 1792 and 1920.

Up until 1759, a ford or ferry helped people to cross the joined mouth of the Black and White Cart. But as the 18th century progressed, it became more obvious a road bridge was needed to improve travel between the growing city of Glasgow and Renfrewshire. So in 1759, an arched stone bridge was constructed on the site of the former fording place. This ran in a straight line across the mouth of the Black and White Cart rivers, connecting with the Abbotsinch Paisley Road. However, there were lots of shallows close by and small vessels couldn’t always get their masts underneath. This bridge eventually collapsed due to floodtides in the early 19th century and two separate bridges, which are still in use today, were built to replace it.

Around 1790, to improve navigation of the White Cart water to Paisley, a half mile long canal was cut at Blythswood, to ease the river’s problems for the few craft which used it, forming the stretch of water which the current bridge raises itself skyward over.

The first bridge to cross this new canal seemingly lasted until 1835. The Clyde to Paisley River Improvement led to its replacement. In 1876 the bridge was replaced again, before this structure finally became completely outmoded in 1920, as both road users complained about the condition of the road and Paisley Shipbuilders complained about the bridge’s waterway obstructing capabilities.

Timeline of the Bascule Bridge, Renfrew

 

Building the Bascule Bridge

In 1920, power was granted to the burgh of Paisley to improve the navigation channel at Inchinnan and replace the old swing bridge with a more modern structure. The following year, Sir William Arrol & Co. received the contract for the new bridge.

Construction for the new bridge broadened the White Cart’s channel at the bridges from 48 to 90 feet so that much larger boats could now pass down, answering the complaints of Paisley shipbuilders, who found the narrowness of the river had previously limited the size of craft that could be erected in their yards. During the construction, a light railway was even laid to haul excavated materials upstream in trucks.

The new structure featured a clear opening span of 90 feet, with a 20-foot roadway and two footways for pedestrians. When open, it reaches a height of almost 120 feet above ground. And while the previous structure was a hand operated cast iron bridge, with a capacity limited to a three-ton vehicle, the new bridge is electrically operated and offered a much improved capacity of 30 tons.

The project cost around £62,000 to complete, costs which were shared between Paisley Town Council, Local Authorities and the shipbuilders on the Cart.

 

The Grand Opening

Approximately three years after receiving the contract, the inauguration of the bridge took place on Wednesday 21 March 1923. A 6,000 strong crowd came to watch Provost Lang formally declare the new Scherzer style bridge open. The Provost’s remarks were short and to the point, “I now declare the bridge open and may it have a longer and a much more useful life than its predecessor.” After the bridge was lowered and the crowd had lined up across the footway for a photograph, the invited guests hopped into waiting cars and travelled over the new bridge to Paisley, where tea was served with Provost Lang presiding. A week later, on Wednesday 28 March, the bridge officially opened for use.

Historic image of The Bascule Bridge

The Bascule Bridge – The Heritage Centre, Renfrewshire Leisure

 

Meeting road and water demands

The new bridge formed a very important link in road communication between Glasgow and the lower reaches of the Clyde, greatly increasing traffic facilities on the roads between Glasgow and Greenock, and giving access to Ayrshire and the South of Scotland. However, the structure also provided a vital water gateway which improved access from Paisley Harbour to the Clyde and sea.

In 1936 it was reported that the bridge was raised 20 times a week to allow shipping to proceed to and from Paisley Harbour. However, since the closure of Paisley Harbour in the late 1960s, it is now almost an event to witness the bridge being raised.

Later, Babcock and Wilson in Renfrew relied on the bridge for transferring heavy structures on barges. While it was reported in 1975 that the bridge had only opened for two vessels in the last three years, Babcock and Wilcox said the bridge was vital to the future of their factory.

 

Lindsay McKillop, from Renfrew Community Council, said:

“The “tin bridge” has been part of Renfrew’s history for many years and it is really important to take a moment to recognise its significance as the only remaining rolling lift bridge in the entire country. The bridge is a historical working exhibition of engineering and, to this day, it is held in high regard in the engineering world.

“Lots of people travel far and wide to see the bridge opening. And for those of us who live locally, I think we are quite spoiled to have such a marvel of engineering on our doorstep and to see the bridge lit up in all its splendour.

“For nearly 100 years, the Bascule Bridge has been part of our history and stands proud as it says welcome to or goodbye from Renfrew.”

Protecting the future of the Bascule Bridge

Since the bridge was built, a number of repair and restoration works have been undertaken to help safeguard the future of the structure.

Between 2001 and 2004, Renfrewshire Council undertook major restoration work on the bridge to save the important road link from imminent closure, whilst also removing a long standing weight restriction and re-establishing the opening facility to secure the use of the water for freight and pleasure craft.

Due to the complexity and historical significance of the bridge, the restoration was carried out in several stages and required careful planning and coordination. A major new architectural lighting system was also installed in complementary tones to highlight this unusual structure. The restoration work cost in excess of £1 million and was awarded a commendation from the Saltire Society for Civil Engineering.

 

Looking forward

In more recent years, it is a rare occasion to see the giant iron arm of the bridge lifting skyward over the Cart, but it is an impressive sight none-the-less. And to this day, people still gather to watch the only surviving bridge of its kind in Scotland roll back on its special track and lift into the sky above the White Cart water.

Find out more fascinating facts about the Bascule Bridge

Today marks International Museum Day – what better way to celebrate than to showcase some of your fabulous #ShowUsYourPaisley submissions.

This year’s theme is The Future of Museums: Recover and Reimagine which perfectly compliments  Paisley Museum’s £42million transformation project and the vision for what the venue will become when it reopens in 2023.

This year’s International Museum Day embraces co-creation so in that sprit we wanted to show off some of the fantastic items you’ve shared as part of the #ShowUsYourPaisley public call-out.

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The call-out encourages the public to share any objects they have incorporating the famous pattern, with the museum considering the most intriguing and unusual submissions for inclusion in a new display being created as part of the museum’s redevelopment.

There’s still time to share your Paisley Pattern items with the museum team. The deadline is Sunday 30 May 2021 to submit your item suggestions for consideration. They should be emailed to paisleymuseum@renfrewshire.gov.uk, or shared on social media using #ShowUsYourPaisley and tagging @paisleymuseum and include a photograph, description and story behind the object.

 

“The Paisley pattern has had a lasting impact on the world and has been endlessly reinterpreted and reinvented. The most interesting will be considered for display alongside a piece from my 2020 couture show, where I created the Paisley Poodle print incorporating my life-long love of the iconic Paisley design. As a child I was fascinated with the museum’s collection and can't wait for its expansion.”

Dr Pam Hogg
Paisley-born designer and Patron of Paisley Museum

Do you have any cool and quirky Paisley pattern objects that you’d like to share? If you do then the Paisley Museum team want to hear from you.

Fashion designer Pam Hogg is leading a call-out for Paisley-patterned items you might have at home – from clothing to cookware – to mark the 150th anniversary of Paisley Museum.

The #ShowUsYourPaisley call-out will encourage the public to share any objects they have incorporating the famous pattern, with the museum considering the most intriguing and unusual submissions for inclusion in a new display being created as part of the museum’s £42million redevelopment. Items can be historic or contemporary, high-fashion or functional, but all need to feature the iconic teardrop motif.

Paisley’s Free Public Library and Museum opened on 11 April 1871, aiming to provide local people with the means of self-improvement inspired by the ideals of the Scottish enlightenment. In 1905, the museum held its first exhibition of Paisley shawls in recognition of the impact the textiles had had on the town’s fortunes. Many gifted these shawls to the museum permanently when the exhibition concluded, and over 115 years later the museum are asking the public to continue this tradition.

Kashmir shawls began to arrive in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries, brought back by travellers and via trade routes, including with the East India Company and the Mughal Empire. Many featured the ‘boteh’, a motif in the shape of a curved droplet. By the 1800s they had become extremely fashionable and European textile centres began producing ‘imitation Indian’ shawls. Manufacturers in Paisley quickly adopted new weaving techniques and technologies including jacquard looms, allowing them to mass produce these items and become the market leaders by the 1830s. This sparked the start of the trend for referring to these shawls as ‘Paisleys’.

Although the fashion for the shawls that made the town’s fortune dwindled by the 1870s, the ‘Paisley pattern’ continued to appear in garments and in the 1960s had a dramatic revival with the likes of rock legends The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix wearing the designs. The pattern has continued to be a source of inspiration for leading fashion designers, including the Italian fashion house ETRO.

The public has until Sunday 30 May 2021 to submit their Paisley pattern item suggestions for consideration. They should be emailed to paisleymuseum@renfrewshire.gov.uk, or shared on social media using #ShowUsYourPaisley and tagging @paisleymuseum and include a photograph, description and story behind the object.

 

 

 

“The Paisley pattern has had a lasting impact on the world and has been endlessly reinterpreted and reinvented. The most interesting will be considered for display alongside a piece from my 2020 couture show, where I created the Paisley Poodle print incorporating my life-long love of the iconic Paisley design. As a child I was fascinated with the museum’s collection and can't wait for its expansion.”

Dr Pam Hogg
Paisley-born designer and Patron of Paisley Museum

The Burns Caup, presented to the Paisley Burns Club in 1814, is one of several ‘relics’ to remain in Paisley Museum’s store this year as the Club moves its traditional celebrations online.

The caup or cup, was originally presented to the Club by James Armour brother-in-law to Robert Burns and was frequently used by the poet for celebratory toasts. It is on permanent loan by the Paisley Burns Club to the museum, on the understanding that each year the caup, the original gavel used to call the proceedings, and the Club’s snuff box can be used at their annual dinner, and then returned to the museum for safekeeping and display.

Unfortunately COVID-19 restrictions have limited access to the museum’s collections this year, and in a break with tradition, the Club’s ‘relics’ will remain in the museum’s Secret Collection and will not be used.

Gavel, held by Renfrewshire Leisure on behalf of Paisley Burns Club. Image copyright of Renfrewshire Leisure

Gavel, held by Renfrewshire Leisure on behalf of Paisley Burns Club. Image copyright of Renfrewshire Leisure

As well as local enthusiasm for his poems and songs, Burns is tied to Paisley through his wife Jean Armour who lived there for two months in 1786. She had been removed to the town by her father to avoid scandal as she was pregnant with Burns’ child and the couple only had an informal marriage agreement in place. Her brother James was admitted as an honorary member of the Paisley Burns Club in 1818 in ‘respect of his kindness’ in gifting the caup.

Paisley Burns Club was originally founded on 29 January 1805 at the behest of weaver-poet Robert Tannahill and is reputed to be the oldest club in the world. Having lapsed in members after 1836, it wasn’t until 1874 that it was fully revived. When the Club met again in 1875, almost 40 years later, it wasn’t weavers and friends of Tannahill who ran the proceedings, it was eminent townsmen including thread manufacturer Sir Peter Coats, historian David Semple, and artist James Elder Christie who was passionate about Burns and often attended as a guest.

Paisley Museum holds the largest collection of works by artist and Burns’ enthusiast James Elder Christie (1847-1914) in the world. He attended the meeting of the Paisley Burns Club when it was revived in 1875, and was a central figure in Burns’ celebrations in London in the 1870s. Christie was originally born in Fife and went to art school in Paisley. He was gregarious and moved in elite art circles, a founding member of Chelsea Arts Club and a member of the New English Art Club. He also founded the Paisley-Renfrewshire Society in London which was a celebration of all things Paisley (and by extension, of Scottish national heroes). Christie was by all accounts hugely passionate about the work of Robert Burns, and the immense power he showed in recitals of Tam O’Shanter and the Address to a Haggis awarded him the title of ‘brilliant interpreter’ and illustrator of Burns’ work.

Tam O'Shanter, James Elder Christie (1847–1914), Paisley Art Institute Collection held by Paisley Museum, Renfrewshire Leisure

Tam O’Shanter, James Elder Christie (1847–1914), Paisley Art Institute Collection held by Paisley Museum, Renfrewshire Leisure

Paisley Museum is part of the town’s radical regeneration plan, and the redesign of the campus is led by an international team including architects AL_A and exhibition designers Opera Amsterdam. When it reopens it is expected to attract over 125,000 visits each year and provide a £79 million economic boost to the area over the next 30 years.

Paisley Museum Reimagined is supported by Renfrewshire Council, the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Scottish Government’s Regeneration Capital Grant Fund. The museum’s final phase of fundraising is now under way, with the museum website reimagined.paisleymuseum.org showcasing the project’s ambitious vision.

Christie’s passion for Burns is well documented and during his time in Paisley he attended many meetings of the Club where he would recite the works of Burns with immense enthusiasm. His artworks depicting scenes from Burns’ poems are held in our collections today and show the depth to which he understood and admired the poet.

Dr Victoria Irvine
Curator of Art at Renfrewshire Leisure

On 29 December 1745, exactly 275 years ago to the day, the Jacobites led by Bonnie Prince Charlie issued a summons to the then Paisley Town Council to meet and account for raising a local militia against them.

This summons, along with a receipt from the Prince’s Secretary for a £500 fine paid just five days later by the people of Paisley, will go on display when Paisley Museum reopens following its £42m redevelopment.

Unlike other towns, that were also fined by the Jacobites but later reimbursed, Paisley’s money has never been returned. Glasgow received £10,000 for its loss in 1749, and in 1750 Dumfries was indemnified with £2,800, however every application Paisley made was refused.

Archie Henderson, Social History Research Assistant for Paisley Museum said: “The history of the Jacobites is full of fascinating tales and having the opportunity to reinterpret the museum’s collection, tell new stories and retell old stories in a more engaging way is all part of the museum’s redevelopment. On 30th December this year Bonnie Prince Charlie will celebrate his 300th birthday, so what better time for us to remind people of this part of our town’s history.”

Jacobite Propaganda Medal

Jacobite Propaganda Medal

Originally, Bonnie Prince Charlie fined Paisley £1,000 and took Bailie Matthew Kyle and former Bailie William Park hostage to ensure the fine was paid. However, this fine was later reduced to £500 providing it was paid in full by the following evening. When the time came, the town only managed to pay £300, and the payment window was extended by 12 hours. At the final hour the remaining payment was made to the Jacobites and a receipt from the Prince’s Secretary John Murray of Broughton was issued.

Henderson goes on to explain: “After the Jacobites were defeated at Culloden, and money started to be repaid to other towns, Paisley Council was advised that they should take John Murray to court, which they did in 1753 and the case dragged on for seven years without success. In 1760 an appeal was launched but again there is no record of any response or positive outcome, so the debt has remained outstanding.”

It is believed that £500 in today’s money would be worth more than £100,000.

The redevelopment of the museum will enable the number of objects on display to be increased by 100%. Significant items from the Jacobite collection that will go on display alongside the summons (dated 29 Dec 1745) and the receipt (dated 3 Jan 1746) include a Culloden sword passed down from the Carlile family; a Jacobite silver medal commissioned by Bonnie Prince Charlie; a painting by David Wilkie (1819) of The Veteran Highlander; and a headstone originally from the grounds of Paisley Abbey commemorating John Orr, one of eight Paisley volunteers killed at the Battle of Falkirk in 1746.

Culloden sword

Culloden sword

Paisley Museum is part of the town’s radical regeneration plan, and the redesign of the campus is led by an international team including architects AL_A and exhibition designers Opera Amsterdam. When it reopens it is expected to attract over 125,000 visits each year and provide a £79 million economic boost to the area over the next 30 years.

Councillor Lisa-Marie Hughes, Chair of Renfrewshire Leisure, said: “Paisley’s collections are culturally significant and the museum’s refurbishment is a wonderful opportunity for the town to reinterpret our objects for public display in a way that is engaging and meaningful to visitors. It is also a real tribute to our curatorial teams past and present, that our objects are still in such good condition, and are able to illustrate the area’s rich culture and the people’s story.”

Paisley Museum Reimagined is supported by Renfrewshire Council, the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Scottish Government’s Regeneration Capital Grant Fund. The museum’s final phase of fundraising is now under way, with the museum website reimagined.paisleymuseum.org showcasing the project’s ambitious vision.

A team of experts spent the summer of 2019 excavating at Paisley’s Abbey Drain – but what did they find?

We already knew Scotland’s finest and best-preserved medieval tunnel lies buried beneath Paisley town centre – but the centuries-old mystery of where it ended had never been solved…until now.

The team uncovered a well-preserved 14th-century stone archway marking the exact point the drain and its contents once flowed into the River Cart.

The tunnel – believed to be around 100m long – ends around 3m from the banks of the present-day river, which would have been wider and shallower at the time the drain was built.

And while the find is now being covered up again, the discovery could help lead to a more permanent visitor attraction opening up access to the drain in the future.

The eight-week Abbey Drain Big Dig was co-ordinated by Renfrewshire Council and led by Guard Archaeology Ltd, funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund, Historic Environment Scotland and Renfrewshire Local History Forum.

More than 6,500 people visited the dig over the eight weeks, which also saw a strong community element, with volunteers from the local history forum taking part, and a series of events and seminars for residents and visitors.

Dig leader Bob Will of Guard Archaeology has described the condition of what the team found as ‘incredible’.

Bob said: “We found more than I was expecting and it is really exciting.

“We found the end of the drain and what was the boundary wall of the monastery. The river was wider and shallower in those days – much more than in the last couple of hundred years, as the walls now surrounding it are artificial.

“The main parts of the drain date back to the mid-14th-century and are incredibly well preserved. It goes as least as far as the road in front of Renfrewshire House.

“Often these types of drains are in rural areas not urban ones where there will have been pressure on the land above it – but considering the amount of buildings on that site over the centuries, the condition of the drain is quite incredible.”

The Abbey Drain has lain hidden for centuries until it was unexpectedly rediscovered in the 19th century, and in recent years, it has been periodically opened up for visitors.

There will be an opportunity for the public to put their names forward for a ballot to go inside it during this year’s Doors Open Day in September.

And Bob believes the finds of the past few weeks could help the development of a more permanent attraction opening up a greater degree of public access to the drain.

Bob said: “What we have uncovered has helped us see what could be done with any future excavation. We now know much more about the medieval ground levels and have a good idea where some of the monastery buildings were.

“Ideally there would be more permanent access to the drain at some point in the future and what we’ve uncovered here makes that much more feasible.”

Over the course of the Big Dig, the following community benefits were delivered:

  • 120 Primary school children from across Renfrewshire visited the Big Dig to learn about their local heritage and archaeology;
  • 1,200 hours of volunteer time, and 18 new members for Renfrewshire Local History Forum
  • 12 archaeology students gained vocational training as part of their degree, and four Masters students from UWS produced video content.

The biggest-ever exploration of Paisley’s Abbey Drain is now underway – and hopes to unveil some centuries-old secrets.

An archaeological dig has started at the complex underground structure which links the town’s 850-year-old Abbey to the River Cart.

The Big Dig hopes to uncover more about the passageway and to reveal more about life in Paisley hundreds of years ago.

Initial excavations of the site unearthed the earliest polyphonic musical notation and the largest collection of medieval pottery ever found in the west of Scotland – and it is hoped that this two-month long project will uncover many more secrets.

The dig is managed by Renfrewshire Council, run by Guard Archaeology with help from Renfrewshire Local History Forum volunteers, and supported by funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Historic Environment Scotland.

Here’s what council leader Iain Nicolson had to say:

“Paisley has such a rich history and heritage, full of stories and mysteries, and the tale of the Abbey Drain has really captured the attention of the public.

“This is a project that’s of both local and national significance. It has really struck a chord with people who live here who have a genuine interest in Renfrewshire’s social and economic history and will provide us with information on a complex underground system which was operating hundreds of years ago.

“This could be the first step towards opening up the Drain as a permanent visitor attraction in the future – which would fit perfectly with the ongoing work to use Paisley’s unique heritage to make it one of Scotland’s key destinations for visitors and events.”

Bob Will of Guard Archaeology is leading the team working on the dig:

“This is such an exciting project for us and for the community, and we’re pleased to be progressing with the next stage.

“Most of the work on the drain so far has been carried out from the inside and has told us a lot about the drain itself.

“What’s going on underneath the surface can also tell us about what once stood on the site, so by excavating the drain, we can find out about the drainage system which served what would have once been a bustling community.

“We’re looking forward to continuing the excavations and to finding out what else the Abbey Drain can tell us about life in Paisley hundreds of years ago.”

How can I get involved?

The Big Dig also includes an extensive programme of activity to involve the local community. Students at the University of the West of Scotland will create a series of short films and a documentary on the drain, and there will also be school visits, volunteering opportunities, and free talks and workshops for the public.

Members of the public will not have access to the drain during the Big Dig – but there will be a chance for residents and visitors to go inside it, as in previous years, during the Doors Open Days weekend on 7 and 8 September.

Paisley Town Hall is being transformed into a landmark entertainment venue for the West of Scotland.

The work to revamp the interior of Paisley Town Hall is one of the biggest projects in Renfrewshire Council’s ongoing investment in Paisley town centre.

When it reopens, the interior will have been transformed to create one of the West of Scotland’s landmark entertainment venues.

Here, we take an in-depth look at 10 things you can expect when that happens…

1) It brings the town hall into the 21st century

The town hall has been an architectural gem at the heart of life in the area since 1884… but as with all old buildings, it needs careful maintenance and upgrades to move with the times. While the outside of the building was upgraded in 2012, the interior hasn’t had major work in decades – and for the building to stay viable that now needs to happen. The work currently being done will create a 21st-century facility for Paisley, now and for the years ahead.

2) New life and footfall for the town centre

Paisley can use what sets it apart to drive new footfall to local traders, day and night. In the town’s case, that is a great location, beautiful buildings, thriving cultural scene, and unique heritage. The revamped town hall will be the hub of that activity – hosting events that will attract visitors to the area and use Paisley as base to discover everything Renfrewshire has to offer.

3) Your heritage preserved for the future

Paisley Town Hall is one of the town’s most-loved buildings and a symbol of Paisley’s proud thread-making past. It occupies a special place in the heart of Buddies – whether you made your first appearance on a stage there, got married in it, or watched St Mirren parade a trophy. So the work being done is about more than a building – it’s about allowing the town hall to mean as much to the generations still to come as it has to you and others in the past 150 years.

4) A bigger and better range of shows

The revamp will see the main auditorium capacity increased to 1,200 for a standing gig and we are upgrading the performance facilities. That will allow the town to attract bigger-name performers for music, dance, theatre and more. Not only will that bring in the crowds, it means people who live here won’t need to go to Glasgow to see big-name acts. Chats are already happening with promoters about who could add Paisley Town Hall to their tour schedule from 2022.

5) Same building… some totally new rooms!

When it reopens in 2022, there will be several brand-new rooms within the current building. The north minor room will become a multi-use venue-within-a-venue, for small performances and occasional screenings, accessible from Gauze St. Above it on the first floor will be a state-of-the-art dance studio, where empty space is now. On the south side will be a new bar and terrace, overlooking the river for your pre-and-post show meet-ups. Plus a revamped reception and box office area where people can sit and watch the world go by.

6) All-new electrical and mechanical systems

One of the key reasons for the work is the building’s electrical and mechanical systems (which date back decades) are reaching the end of their lives and need replaced. That essential work alone would have cost £12m and required a long-term closure of the building but wouldn’t have delivered any new facilities. The £22m scheme being delivered will deliver all the necessary maintenance AND so much more, creating one of the best entertainment venues in the West of Scotland.

7) A better experience for you

Not only will shows be bigger and better but the audience experience will be redesigned and improved with you in mind. As with many Victorian-era town halls, the current stage is too high, so we are lowering it for better sightlines. The acoustics will be improved. New retractable seating will be added to the ground floor, and the balcony rebuilt with seats angled towards the stage (rather than across the hall). Getting around the building will be easier. Extra toilets are being added. And there will be spaces for pop-up bars, so less time waiting in queues!

8) More uses… and multiple events

As much as we love the town hall, the current set-up doesn’t make the best use of the space. So – shaped by feedback from building users – the hall is being changed to allow a wider range of events AND to host multiple ones at the same time. As well as the new rooms already mentioned, there will be upgrades to the existing Alexander Wilson Suite and Loggia, improved sound-proofing, and all-new catering facilities and dressing rooms, allowing for more weddings and conferences. Space is being created for all the above by bringing the town hall basement back into use for storage.

9) A building accessible to everyone

Victorian architects created some stunning buildings but sadly they didn’t design them with wheelchairs or prams in mind. The town hall revamp will change that and work has been done with disability access groups to design a building everyone can get around seamlessly. Currently there are 12 sets of steps to go from top to bottom of the building. Once completed, you’ll be able to access the first floor with none – thanks to two new 21-person lifts, and new ramps for access to the Loggia and balcony.

10) It’s part of a much bigger plan

The work in the town hall is just one part of a much bigger investment in Paisley town centre over the years aimed at using our outstanding culture and heritage to bring people here. That includes a transformation of Paisley Museum which will almost quadruple current visitor numbers when it reopens in 2022, a new modern home for library services at the heart of the High St, and investment in key outdoor spaces including Abbey Close and County Square to expand their event capacity and create spaces where people will spend more time and money.

In a town that sees creeping influences of Mackintosh and Thomson amongst others, it very much extends the structural beauty of Glasgow to its neighbour in the west.

Neil Robertson
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Travels With A Kilt

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