Index for Chapters XXI-XXIX

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Chapter XXIX: Concluding Notices

“I will now say,
Peace be within thee.”
               Psalm CXXII

THOUGH our story of the religious associations of the Abbey is now told, there is something still to be said regarding the building itself. During the occupation by the Dundonalds of the Paisley property, the church was suffered to fall into great disrepair, but its surroundings remained the same as they were at the Reformation. 'The fair garden of the Monastery and a park with fallow deer figure in any sketches of the old buildings that have come down to us. [1] They stand with a background of hills, and enbosomed in wood; and the “Place of Paisley” was reputed one of the most beautiful residences in Scotland.. Even in the present altered state of the mansion house, the remains of a great and stately dwelling, in every way worthy of a nobleman, can be traced. In 1757 all this was changed. The Lord Dundonald of the time, pressed for money, began to feu the Abbey grounds to the burgesses of Paisley and others. An advertisement from a Glasgow paper tells us that upon the “22nd day of January,” in the same year, “there will be sold or feued, by public roup, at the Abbey of Paisley, various parcels of the Abbey gardens of Paisley, belonging to the Earl of Dundonald. The ground proposed to be feued consists of about four acres, very advantageously situated upon the River Cart, a little above the Old Bridge of Paisley. It is subdivided, and planned out for the steading of house and bleaching greens, now stacked off conform to a regular plan, whereby the situation of the houses is such that there will be a most commodious bleaching green from each house towards the river. Excellent materials for building will be supplied from the houses and garden walls of Paisley, where there is a vast quantity of hewn stones, which Lord Dundonald is to become bound to sell to the purchasers at a reasonable rate, to be specified in the articles of roup.” This was the beginning of demolition. Any remains of the conventual buildings still standing were pulled down, the wall of Abbot Shaw destroyed, and Lord Dundonald was about to level the transept and the choir of' the church when he was stopped by the heritors, who claimed them as church property.

Lord Dundonald sold the property of Paisley in 1764 to James, Eighth Earl of Abercorn, who came to live at Paisley, and who was buried in 1787 in the vault beneath St. Mirin's Chapel. Previous to his death he feued out any of the Abbey grounds that then remained unoccupied, and the New Town of Paisley was built on them. This was in 1781. The mansion house was at the same time dismantled, and let out to small tenants of the class who still inhabit it.

The church was in a dreadful condition. The roof was full of holes, through which the birds obtained free access, “distracting the attention of the worshippers in time of sermon.”
[2] They built their nests and reared their young under the arches of the cleristory. A few of the gentry had “lofts,” or galleries, but the bulk of the worshippers brought their seats to church with them, the poorest sitting upon stones on the earthen floor. Contests occasionally arose for the best place, and the Session Records frequently notice “brawls and flyting in the kirk.” In 1722 a case of this kind was brought before the Sheriff. The melee as described must have been of a very lively kind.

“Agnes Young being in the Kirk of Paisley after the Sacrament, ordering or setting in ane chair or stool where for several years byegone she used to sit, the said defender, coming upon her when she was sitting upon the said seat, bade her begone, therewith violently dragging the seat from under her, occasioning thereby a violent fall to her ; and, not satisfied therewith, when the complainer getting up and getting hold of ane post, he did then rugg and ryve her, driving her head and other pairts violently against the said post, whereby she hath been so indisposed and bruised that she is not capable for any exercise, and thereby not able to earn her daily bread, which her circumstances doth not allow her but labouring with her own hands.” [3]

[1] See Slezer's Theatrum Scotiae, 1693,—also Blaeus' Atlas, 1654.
[2] A lamentable description of the state of the church is given in Douglas's “Description of the East Coast,” published in 1782.
[3] “Judicial Records of Renfrewshire,” a very interesting local history, by William Hector.