Paisley Snapshots , White Cart Waters

White Cart Waters

Several contemporary antiquarians remarked upon the prettiness of the White Cart. Originating in the moors between Eaglesham and East Kilbride, the White Cart eventually flowed around the then boundary of Paisley, before entering the town from the eastern side and winding gently to Seedhill, where it formed ‘a beautiful and picturesque waterfall above the Seedhill bridge’. From there, it bent northwards to meet the Black Cart at Inchinnan bridge (the Black Cart having already been joined by the River Gryff at Barnsford Bridge), where both Cart rivers joined and flowed on to the River Clyde, approximately 3 miles from old Paisley town. Perch, trout, flounders, and braises (or gilt-heads) swam in the White Cart, and historians claimed that fine large pearls had once been found there, though the oysters had long disappeared. This was supported by Principal Dunlop’s late 17th century Description of Renfrewshire, in which he mentioned:

The most noted peculiar rarity this shire affords is that of pearls, found in the water of White Cart, about Paisley, and above it for three miles. Though it be not that considerable, that the proprietor of the water and land adjacent claims an interest in them, but every person hath liberty to search for them, yet only frequently have found, but of such a fineness and magnitude, as may be compared with any, except what the Indies afford; and they are transported to other countries in good parcels, so that Tavernier, the great French jeweller, in his travels to the East Indies, taketh notice of them. They are found in the bottom of the water, in a fishes shell, larger than that of a muscle. The fishing is most on the summer time.

The pearls had largely disappeared by the late 1700s and the river provided a more certain income to those working in Paisley’s water-dependent industries. Nonetheless, parts of the White Cart remained aesthetically pleasing to onlookers: ‘Below the town, this river exhibits little beauty, but above it, much; its banks being frequently elevated, and clothed with a rich drapery of wood.’ The town also had several spring wells; Candrene Well was strongly recommended as an aperient and corrective, whilst the slightly mineralised water from the Seedhill Well was occasionally drunk as a tonic.

Beauty and health benefits aside, the river became a vital transport link to the Clyde during the 1700s when a short canal was dug to avoid the shallows at Inchinnan Bridge; together with the implementation of other improvements, the Cart became navigable and thereby facilitated further growth in manufacturing and commerce and also the emergence of shipbuilding yards in Paisley.


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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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