Paisley Snapshots , Weaving


Paisley Peoples Archive Bobbins

Writing at the end of that 18th century, Reverend Dr Snodgrass declared that the Paisley’s chief industry was the manufacture and trade of woven materials, which could ‘be traced from very small beginnings, but their progress in some periods has been rapid and astonishing’. He claimed this to be largely the result of the Treaty of Union, when free trade was opened up with England, thus:

The spirit of manufacture began to show itself there, and the fabrics which were produced were made upon just and economical principals, and with so much taste and judgement, that they found a ready market not only at home, but likewise in the neighbouring kingdom.

Snodgrass credited pedlars and travelling merchants with chiefly encouraging that trade and spreading its reputation far and wide. Such was its burgeoning prominence that Alexander Smith’s fictitious weaving town of Greysley was, in fact, based on Paisley. In the story of Alfred Hagart's Household (1866), Smith described the town:

Greysley had no variety of occupation. It was to all intents and purposes a weaving town. During the entire day, in the old-fashioned, crooked side-streets, the monotonous click of the loom and the sharp whir of the shuttle were continually heard. While trade was brisk, Greysley stuck to its work all lived well; when depressed, it stood in groups about the market-place and the corners of the streets, and in the evenings read and argued over the fiercest of political newspapers. Thirty years ago trade was good; and in the spring and summer evenings the weaver, having comfortably dined, bird-nested- or botanised, and later still discussed European and local politics in coxy taverns, went to bed with the idea that he was the most intelligent of human beings, and that Greysley generally was the axis on which the world revolved.

Paisley buddies may still agree…


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Strathclyde Oral History Centre

Working with heritage professionals from the Scottish Oral History Centre, University of Strathclyde, the Paisley People’s Archive is creating an accessible and user-friendly oral history archive of Paisley's rich industrial past.
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