Tue April 11
We started at the Paisley Abbey which dominates the center of town. Evelyn guided our group through the Abbey.
St. Murrin founded a church on this site in the 6th century. In 1180, thirteen monks from the monastic order from Cluny, France, arrived to start the monestary. The weaving trade in Paisley developed to provide fabric for the monestary. The 12th century abbey has a medieval nave from the time of the founders.
After the Reformation in the 1500's, the monestary disbanded in 1560. The central tower of the abbey collapsed in the same century. Restoration started in the 19th century and continues into the 21st century with the recent refurbishing of the organ.
The abbey also houses a 10th century stone carved Barochen cross which used to stand in a field near the town, carvings of 16 different monks faces tucked into various niches in the Abbey and stunning stained glass windows. Two queens and one king are buried in the church including the Royal Tombs of Marjory Bruce, the daughter of Robert the Bruce, and King James III. The Abbey is known as the “Cradle of the Stewart Kings” of which the current queen of England can trace her lineage. www.paisleyabbey.org.uk/
Originally the shawls coming from Kashmir were made of pashmina goat fiber that was collected from bushes where the goats would rub it off. These shawls were woven on simple wooden looms and took months to weave. The limited source of the fiber and the time it took to weave these shawls in Kashmir made them very expensive. Josephine, Napoleon's wife, had 200 shawls in her wardrobe. By the late 1700's the shawls were being produced in Edinburgh, Norwich, France, Russia and Paisley on draw looms. Paisley had highly skilled weavers who had previously woven linen.
The town of Paisley in the height of popularity of the Paisley shawls between 1830-1840, had thousands of weavers making these wonderful cloths, then on the Jacquard loom. An elaborate paisley design could take 484,000 pattern cards to produce it. But the weavers had to be accurate in their weaving, so that by the time they had woven an entire shawl pattern, they were within 1/4" of the required length.
The paisley pattern changed throughout the 100 years the shawls were in fashion The designs became more elongated in the Victorian era. The size of the shawls also changed as women's fashion changed. In the 1850's, the shawls were woven 5' 6" x 11' so they could be folded and used like a coat to fit over crinoline skirts. Here is a "kirking" shawl that women would wear to church the first Sunday after the birth of a child.When the bustle came into fashion 1865-1870, this was the death of the paisley shawl as the shawls didn't work with the protruding bustle shape. Some Paisley weavers found work into the early 20th centuries when “fur shawls” enjoyed a period of fashion popularity. www.paisley.org.uk/attractions/museum.php
Dan Coughlin, the head weaver and shawl curator at the museum was on holiday. We were grateful to Douglas for showing us around the weaving loft.
|Douglas, Paisley Museum technician|
|Cathy admiring a paisley shawl|
|Mart, Judy, and Lynn inspecting a shawl|
Sma Shot Cottages are just down the road. The name Sma Shot comes from the binding weft thread that was thrown every 7th pick to hold the rest of weft threads in place in the paisley fabric. A society has resurrected and preserved one of the weavers cottages from the era when linen was woven Paisley, (1700's) and then other rooms depicting life in later years.The cottages sit on Shuttle Street.
|Brown & Polson was another famous Paisley company known for their corn flour. Their starch was used as sizing for the linen cloth woven in Paisley.|
|A group of volunteers of the Old Paisley Society in the courtyard garden at Sma Shot.|
|Clothes drying pulley, found in homes old and new in Scotland|
The Thread Mill Museum tells the story of the huge thread industry in Paisley that shut the last door in 1992. The Coats and Clark Company which was a combination of the Anchor Thread Mill and the Ferguslie Thread Mill, at one time produced 90% of all the thread made in the world.
When one of the last of the functioning mills was closed, the mill was stripped of equipment for scrap. A few of the machines were salvaged and are on display in the museum
|Barb inspecting a historical document at the museum|
|Travellers and Thread Mill Museum volunteers in front of a drawing of the Ferguslie Mill, the last mill which operated in Paisley.|