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Chapter VII

Chapter VI: The Priory 1164—1248

Thus the early years of the Convent passed away under the government of its priors. Probably no part of the church buildings of that time remains unless it be the Norman doorway, at the south east of the nave, and the three adjacent windows. The first erections were probably of wood and twigs, and the masons' work followed in the course of years. We know more certainly the state of the surrounding country. Vast forests of oak or beech clothed it on every side, stretching away towards Ayrshire on the one hand, and the newly-formed burgh of Renfrew on the other, unbroken except by the clearings of some Norman lord or his follower, like Croc at Crocston, De Nes on Leveran side, or Grymketel on the ridge of Arkilston. In the lower reaches of the forest, herds of cattle and swine were tended. Among the upper glades of Fereneze, and where now stands the busy town of Barrhead, herds of deer wandered at will.[32] On the verge of the hunting grounds, at Blackhall, was the lodge of the Stewart. There the forest broke into brushwood till it reached, near what was called the Linn, the Mill of Paisley. On the other side of the river were two carucates of cleared ground, where stood the church of St. Mirin, and some adjoining land held by a man called Scerlo; but this was “cut out of the wood,” which rose darkly on every side, and in the glades of which the monks were for many a day to ply their axes.

Walter, the generous founder of Paisley, died in 1178. In his old age he became a monk of Melrose, a convent which had shared his benefactions. He died there, but was buried at Paisley.
[33] He had been a princely benefactor to the church, and the monkish chronicler who records his death, not unnaturally adds, “anima beata vixit in Gloria”—his blessed soul lives in glory.

[32] The ruins of the Tower of Rais (Roes) can still be seen.
[33] Chronicon de Mailros.