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A History of the County of Renfrew from the Earliest Times
Chapter XIV.—Ecclesiastical, Educational, and Religious

The ecclesiastical centre of the County continued to be the Monastery of Paisley. After the wars, during which, in the year 1307, the Monastery was burnt to the ground by the English, the Abbot and Convent set themselves to restore the fallen fortunes of their house and to renew their abbatial buildings in more than their ancient glory. In their endeavours they were favoured with much sympathy and support.

Among the first to come to their help was the Bishop of Argyll, or “ Brother Andrew ” as he called himself, who, commiserating the common table of the monks, “ which was not sufficient,” he declared, “ for their maintenance and to enable them to respond to the calls of hospitality and the onerous duties incumbent upon them as the law of charity demands,” gave them, with the consent of his chapter, the rectorial tithes and dues of the churches of Kilkeran, Kilfinan and Kilcolmanel, situated in his own diocese. John Lindsay, Bishop of Glasgow, also came to their aid. “ In consideration,” as his charter bears, “ of the great damage the Monastery of Paisley had sustained during the dreadful war, so long waged between the Kingdoms of England and Scotland, and for the rebuilding of the fabric of the Church which had been burned during the said war,” he relieved them from all burdens in connection with the church at Largs, with the exception of his own fees, and gave and confirmed to them the church with its chapel of Cumbrae, and all their dues, both great and small, and allowed them to hold the benefice without presenting a vicar, provided they served it by priests removable at pleasure and responsible to him for the discharge of their duties. Many and valuable rights and privileges were also conferred upon them, as we have seen, by the Earl of Lennox and King Robert II. and his successors. The monks did not receive many endowments in the shape of lands or houses; the time for the bestowal of these was passing away ; but they received a few, chief among them the ten merk land of Thornley in the barony of Renfrew and parish of Paisley, which with the remains of their ancient revenues appear to have been sufficient to enable them to carry on their work.

Fortunately, the Monastery was presided over by a series of able and for the most part conscientious men, who devoted themselves with zeal to the husbanding of the revenues of their house and to the restoration of its buildings. The work of these Abbots was not easy, nor was it altogether without distractions. They had their customary conflicts with the Bishops of Glasgow on the question of jurisdiction; they had to defend their rights and property in Argyllshire against “ Lord Martin,” the successor of Brother Andrew, as also against Lamont of Lamont. Sir William More violently forced his way into their precincts, broke some of their windows, wounded one of their servants, and demanded payment of the pension due for Dalmulin which he had bought from the Head of the Gilbertines, and which the monks had undertaken but failed to pay in exchange for the convent and property of Dalmulin.2 They had other troubles to contend with ; but they were assisted by the Crown and by the Pope, and their work went on surely if slowly.

The first of these Abbots was John de Lithgow, who, after presiding over the Monastery for fifty years, died, January 20, 1433. His name occurs in an inscription in the north porch of the Abbey Church, which bears that he had selected the porch as the place of his interment. On account of this the suggestion has been made that the north side of the church was his part of the restoration. The suggestion is plausible, but unsupported by evidence, and may or may not be correct. While young, Lithgow appears to have ruled the convent with vigour and wisdom ; but in his later years he allowed the place to go out of “ all good rule.” He had two coadjutors—Chisholm and Morwe—and shares with the former of these the discredit of trying to reduce the miserable payments which the convent was in the habit of making to its vicars in its parish churches.

Thomas Tervas, who succeeded Richard de Bod well, the successor of Morwe, though he had paid five hundred and ninety florins into the Papal Treasury for the appointment, proved himself an excellent Abbot. He paid off the debt into which the Monastery had fallen, reduced the monks to order and discipline, and won the approval of his sovereign for the many admirable reforms he brought about. A great reformer, he was also a great builder. He carried up the walls of the church, and built the remarkable, if somewhat heavy triforium, and the clerestory. He put on the roof, “ rigged ” it with stone, and “ theekit it with sclait.” He built also a part of the steeple and “ ane staitlie yethouse.” On May 20, 1453, he set out for Italy and Rome,, and returning shortly afterwards, brought with him, for the adornment of the church, “ mony gud jowellis and claithis of gold, silver and silk, and mony gud bukis.” He also made “staitlie stalls and glassynnit mekle of all the Kirk.” He brought home, too, “ the staitliest tabernakle that was in all Scotland and the maist costlie.” “ And schortlie,” as the old Chronicler,, whose words I have been using, continues, “ he brocht all the place to fredome and fra nocht till ane michty place, and left it out of all kynd of det and at all fredome to dispone as thaim lykit; and left ane of the best myteris [mitresj that was in Scotland and chandillaris of silver and ane lettren of brass, with mony uther gud jowellis.”

Henry Crichton and George Shaw were worthy successors of Tervas. Crichton had serious difficulties to face. Pope Pius II. seized the revenues of the Abbey, and directed him to pay three hundred florins yearly to Pietro Barlo, Cardinal of St. Mark’s, Venice, and to account for the rest to himself. Crichton refused and was deposed, but on February 27, 1469, Pope Paul II. reponed him, and at the same time rescinded the Bulls that had been issued against him. Building operations were going on at the Monastery under both Crichton and George and Robert Shaw. George Shaw enclosed the Monastery and its gardens and deer park with a magnificent wall of hewn stone, surmounted at regular intervals by stone statues. In short, by the end of the fifteenth century, the Abbey of Paisley, which had already become one of the four chief places of pilgrimages in Scotland, was regarded as one of the most splendid ecclesiastical structures in the country, while the town of Paisley had spread from the Seudhill to the opposite side of the Cart, and was surrounding the Monastery on almost every side.

With four exceptions, the whole of the parochial churches in the county belonged to the Monastery of Paisley. The exceptions were Inchinnan, Renfrew, Erskine, and Eaglesham.

Prior to the arrival of Walter Fitz Alan in Scotland the Church of Inchinnan had been given by David I. to the Knights Templars, and when he bestowed the churches of Strathgryfe upon his Steward, it was especially exempted from the gift. On the suppression of the Knights Templars in 1312, the church passed into the hands of the Knights of St. John. The Tectorial tithes were administered by the house of Torphichen, and the cure appears to have been served by a vicar down to the time of the Reformation. 'The ancient church, which was situated where the present one stands, near the confluence of the Gryfe and the White Cart, is supposed to have been built in 1100. It was fifty feet long by eighteen broad. When it was taken down in 1828, the floor, on being dug up, was found to be literally paved with human skulls. Belonging to the church are three sculptured stones, called by the •country people “ the Templars’ graves.” Within the church was an endowed altar, dedicated to the Virgin. Part of the endowment of this altar was an acre, called the Lady’s Acre, the superiority of which is still enjoyed by the incumbent. The parsonage or rectorial tithes were let to the laird of Crook-ston, at a yearly rental of 20. The Libellus Tax. Reg. Scotie values it at 26 13s. 4d. At the Reformation the rental of the vicarage pertaining to Sir Bernard Peblis, with all its profits and dues, was given up for the assumption of the thirds of benefices at three score pounds. Within recent years the church built in 1828 has been taken down, and a sumptuous Gothic structure erected in its place by Lord Blythswood.

The Church of Renfrew, or Arrenthrew, as the parish is popularly called, was in existence in the beginning of the twelfth century, when it was given by David I. to John, Bishop of Glasgow, who erected it into a prebend of his cathedral, probably soon after 1136. Some thirty years later Walter Fitz Alan, having conferred the Church of Paisley upon his new monastery, the monks there claimed the Church of Renfrew as being within the parish of Paisley, but on an appeal to Rome, it was confirmed as a separate parish to Glasgow by Pope Urban III., 1185-1187, and in the following century the monks renounced all claim to it. The cure was at first served by a chaplain, but afterwards the duty was discharged by a vicar. The original church appears to have occupied the site of the present, and was probably dedicated to S. James. It had three endowed chaplainries—one dedicated to S. Thomas the Apostle, another to S. Thomas the Martyr, and the third to S. Christopher. The last was in the Lord Ross’s aisle, commonly known as “ the Lord’s aisle,” on the south side of the church. Mention is also made of the chapel and chaplainry of SS. Andrew, Conval, and Ninian, founded by James Finlaii (or Moderwel), vicar of Eastwood, on the north side of the church. A chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary is described as “ built 011 the walls of the Parish Church.” In Baiamond’s Roll and in the Libellus Tax. Reg. Scot., the rectory is taxed according to a value of 106 13s. 4d. In the taxation of the sixteenth century its stated value is 90 7s. 6d. In 1561 it was given up for the assumption of the thirds of benefices at 19 chalders of victual, let for 240 merks. The prebendary of Renfrew paid twelve merks for a choral vicar in the cathedral, and three pounds for the ornaments of the service; and the benefice was restricted to a yearly payment of six and a half merks to the hospital of Glasgow. In 1561 the vicarage was let for twelve merks, after the Pasque offerings and other dues had been discharged by Act of Parliament.’ The present church was built in 1862.

The Church of Erskine was one of the churches of Strath gryfe given by Walter Fitz Alan to the Monastery of Paisley. It was confirmed to it by name by Florence, bishop-elect of Glasgow, between 1202 and 1207. In 1227 a composition was made between Paisley and Glasgow as to the procurations payable to the Bishop by the Abbey Churches, when the arbiters taxed all the churches of Strathgryfe at only two receptions (hospicia), and, to make up for some loss sustained, decreed that the Church of Erskine, which then belonged to the Monastery, should go to the Bishop. The parsonage was afterwards erected into a prebend of the cathedral, but at what time is unknown. It was taxed among the prebends of Glasgow in 1401. The cure was served by a vicar. The old church stood in the middle of the present churchyard. The stoup which was attached to its principal entrance still stands there. In Baiamond the prebendal rectory is taxed at 80 ; in the taxation of the sixteenth century it is valued at 68. In 1561 it was let for 200 merks. The vicarage is valued in Baiamond at 26 13s. 4d., and in the taxation of the sixteenth century at 34. In 1561 it was valued at 40. The vicar’s glebe with the manse seems to have covered about 11 acres. William, parson of Erskine, witnessed an agreement, in 1223, between the see of Glasgow and the canons of Gyseburn. In 1505 the vicar was Mr. Archibald Craufurd.

The Church of Eaglesham was a free parsonage, the patronage of which belonged to the lords of the barony until about 1430, when Sir Alexander Montgomery Lord of Eaglesham, the patron, consented to its being erected into a prebend for a canon of Glasgow, reserving the right of patronage. Roger Garland was rector of the parish in 1368-70, Thomas de Arthurly in 1388/ George Montgomery in 1483, and Alexander Crawfurde in 1551. After the erection of the church into a prebend, a vicar was appointed with a salary of 20 merks. About a mile distant from the church, which stands in the village, is the old castle of Pulnoon, upon the banks of a small stream which joins the Cart. The old church, which stood in the centre of the present churchyard, and is described as “ a very diminutive place,” was in use till about 1788, when the present church was built. In Baiamond the rectory is valued at 106 13s. 4d., and in the taxation of the sixteenth century at 90 7s. 6d. It paid 3 for the ornaments of the cathedral, and nine merks for a choral vicar. At the time of the Reformation the rectorial tithes produced 14 chalders 13 bolls of meal, let for 186 13s. 4d. The parish was co-extensive with the ancient manor of Eaglesham, a 100 merk land of old extent, bestowed upon the Montgomeries by the first Steward. The old Eaglesham manse stood in the Drygate of Glasgow.

The rest of the parish churches in the county belonged to the Monastery, and were as follows :—Paisley, Cathcart, Eastwood, Killallan, Houston, Kilbarchan, Kilmacolm, Inverkip, Lochwinnoch, Neilston, Mearns.

The Parish Church of Paisley was the ancient Church of S. Mirin, or another erected in its place, situated in the Seedhill, the original site of the town of Paisley. It was conveyed by Walter Fitz Alan, along with its pertinents, to the monks of the Monastery which he built beside it.10 It had a parochial territory attached to it as early as the time when David I. was founding the royal burgh of Renfrew and restoring the cathedral of Glasgow. Among its pertinents was the chapel of Lochwinnoch, and for some time the monks of Paisley claimed for it the Parish Church of Renfrew. What other pertinents it had in the shape of chapels and lands is unknown. After the erection of the Abbey, the Church of the Abbey appears to have been used as the church for the landward part of the parish, and the Church of S. Mirin as the parish church of the town. It was served by a priest, called the chaplain of Paisley.

The Church of Cathcart was bestowed upon the Monastery by Walter Fitz Alan between 1165 and 1172. It was confirmed to the monks in proprios v,sus by Bishop Jocelin, and continued in their possession till the Reformation. The church was dedicated to S. Oswald, probably the Northumbrian King, who lived in the sixth century and was commemorated by the Church on August 5. Jonetta Spreull, lady of Cathcart, who died there, October 22, 1550, directed her body to be buried in the choir of S. Oswald in Cathcart. Before the Reformation the rectorial tithes of Cathcart were let by the Abbey for 40. By the settlement of 1227 the vicarage was fixed at the produce of the altar dues, with three chalders of meal. In Baiamond it is taxed as of the value of 16 13s. 4d. The third of the vicarage in 1561 was 16.

The parish of Eastwood included the two ancient manors of Nether Pollok and Eastwood, each of which had originally its own church and formed a separate parish. Before the end of the twelfth century, Peter, the son of Fulbert, gave the church of Pollok to the monks of Paisley, and the gift was confirmed to them by Bishop Jocelin, who died in 1199.6 In 1227, at the general settlement of the allowances to the vicars of the Abbey churches, the vicar of Pollok was appointed to have the altar dues and two chalders of meal and five acres of land near the church, the rest of the church land remaining with the monks. The church of Eastwood came into the possession of the monastery somewhat later than that of Pollok. Its donor is unknown. It may have been founded by the monks themselves upon their own manor. It was certainly the property of the Abbey in 1265, when Pope Clement IV. confirmed the churches of Eastwood and of Pollok to the monks, with their other possessions. After that, Pollok disappears as a separate parish, the extent of which is not exactly known. The ancient church of the parish, which, as already stated, was dedicated to S. Convallus, probably stood beside the castle on the bank of the Cart, and may have continued to exist as a chapel. Since the thirteenth century the parish of Eastwood has comprehended the lands both of Nether Pollok and of Eastwood. Whether it ever included those of Upper Pollok, now a part of the parish of Mearns, is not known. The ancient church of Eastwood stood about a mile to the west of the present church, near the junction of the Eastwood and Shaw burns, and near to Auldhous, which in 1265 belonged to the Abbey of Paisley. In the rental of Paisley, 1561, the parsonage of Eastwood is stated at one chalder, seven bolls, three firlots of meal, and one chalder, three bolls, two firlots of barley. The vicarage is taxed in Baiamond according to a value of 26 13s. 4d. In 1561 the third of the vicarage was 17 15s. 6d.

Killallan was one of the churches of Strathgryfe given to the Monastery of Paisley by Walter Fitz Allan, and confirmed to it by name by Florence, bishop-elect before 1207, and by Pope Clement IV. in 1265. In 1227, the vicar serving the cure was appointed to have all the altar dues and offerings and one chalder of meal. The old church, which now stands in ruins about a mile west of the old house of Barrochan, was dedicated to S. Fillan. At a little distance from it is a large stone, with a hollow in the middle, called S. Fillan’s Chair, and under a rock a little beyond, shaded by overhanging bushes, is S. Fillan’s Well, to which until recently the country people used to bring their sickly children. The rectory is valued at 13 6s. 8d. in the Libellus Tax. Reg. Scot., and in the rental of Paisley. 1561, it is given up as set for one chalder of meal, eight bolls of bere, and 19 6s. 4d. in money. The vicarage is valued in the taxation of the sixteenth century at 34 ; it was given up at the Reformation for 40 for the assumption of thirds of benefices. A few score yards south of the mill of Barrochan, and close to the public road, formerly stood an ancient cross, now removed to the site of the old castle of Barrochan, about 12 feet high, 20 inches broad, and 9 inches in thickness. On each front are two rows of small figures, and much wreathed carving is on all its sides, but no letters are apparent. It is a good deal weather worn. In the upper compartment of the east face are four men bearing spears or battle-axes in their hands. In the corresponding compartment on the west face is a combat between two horsemen and a person on foot, and below it are three figures, the centre one of diminutive stature ; the figure on the right hand is interposing a shield to save him from the uplifted weapon of the other. The costume of the groups seems to be of different kinds. In its old situation this monument, known as Barrochan Cross, was set on a pedestal of undressed stone.

The Church of Houston is not one of the churches of Strathgryfe confirmed to the Monks of Paisley by Bishop Florence in the beginning of the thirteenth century. At that time the territory, and probably the church, were the property of others. The Stewards acquired the superiority of the land soon afterwards, and with it probably possession of the church. At any rate it had become the property of the monks before 1220-32, when it is mentioned by name among the churches confirmed to them by Bishop Walter. The cure was served by a vicar, who, by the settlement of 1227, was to draw the altar dues and offerings, with three chalders of meal. The old church, around which the village of Houston grew up, was in existence in 1791, and contained several old monuments of the Houston family. It was dedicated to S. Peter. Near to it, on the north-west, is S. Peter’s Well, “ covered with a wall of cut free-stone, arched in the roof.” A stream hard by is called S. Peter’s Burn, and a fair that used to be held in the month of July was called S. Peter’s Day. In the Lihellus Tax. Reg. Scot., the rectory of Houston is valued at 20. It was given up in 1561 as yielding  ch. 2 b. 1 f. meal, and 7 b. If. bere. In the Libellus Taxationum the vicarage is valued at 6 13s. 4d. A handsome new church for the united parishes has been built near the site of the old church of Houston.

Kilbarchan has already been referred to as said to have been founded by S. Berchan or by one of his admirers in the sixth century. It was among the churches of Strathgryfe conferred by Walter the High Steward upon Paisley and confirmed to the use' and support of the monks there by Bishop Jocelin, before the end of the twelfth century. The ancient church stood probably on the site of the church built in 1724, which was superseded in 1904 by the present handsome and commodious structure. The cure was served by a vicar. In the general assumption of the thirds of benefices in 1561 the rectory of Kilbarchan was given up among the churches of Paisley as let for money, at 65 13s. 4d. The vicarage was then let to William Wallace of Johnston for forty merks. In Baiamond the vicarage is valued at 40, and in the taxation of the sixteenth century at 34. At Blackstone on the Cart was one of the Abbey granges, said to have been built as a summer residence by Abbot George Shaw in the reign of James IV. It was here that the aged Abbot resided after he had laid aside the mitre and become the “ Pensioner of the Abbey.”

The Church of Kilmacolm, said to have been dedicated to King Malcolm III., but more likely to S. Columba, was among the churches granted by the High Steward to the monks of Paisley, and confirmed to them by name by Florence, bishop-elect of Glasgow, between 1202 and 1207. In 1227 the cure was served by a vicar pensioner, who had 100 shillings yearly from the altarage. Hugh de Parcliner, perpetual vicar of Kilmacolm, was witness to a charter granted by Donald Makgilcriste lord of Tarbard,3 after the middle of the thirteenth century, bestowing upon the monks of Paisley the right to cut wood within all his territory for the building and use of the Monastery; and on Monday next after the feast of the Purification in 1303, Sir Hugh de Sprakelyn, vicar of Kilmacolm, lent his seal to authenticate a deed granted at Paisley by Roger, son of Lawrence, clerk of Stewardton, whose seal was not sufficiently known. In the Libellus Tax. Reg. Scot., the rectory of Kilmacolm is valued at 40. At the time of the Reformation it was let for 200 merks. In Baiamond the vicarage is taxed according to a value of 53 6s. 8d. It was let at the time of the Reformation for 50 merks. The parish stands among the heights which separate the county from Ayrshire, and were known to the monks as “ the moors.”

The Church of Inverkip beyoud the moors, with the pennyland between the rivulets Kyp and Daff, where the church is built, and the church dues of its whole parish, was granted about the year 1170 by Baldwin de Bigres, Sheriff of Lanark, to the monks of Paisley as freely as they held the churches of Strathgryfe by the gift of Walter Fitz Alan, the Steward. The gift reserved the tenure of Robert, chaplain of Renfrew, as long as he lived, or until such time as he became a monk. The nature of the tenure is unknown. Baldwin de Bigres’ charter was granted and sealed in the presence of a number of known retainers of the first Steward. The vicar serving the cure in 1227 had a pension of 100 shillings from the altar dues. In Baiamond the vicarage is valued at 40, and in the taxation of the sixteenth century at 34. At the Reformation it was let for 100 merks. In the Libellus Tax. Reg. Scot. the parsonage is valued at 40. It was let along with Largs and Lochwinnoch at the time of the Reformation for 460. To the pennyland lying between the Kyp and the Daff, which was granted to the monks by Baldwin de Bigres, were added in 1246 certain acres in exchange for land belonging to the monks on the west of the Espedair, which Alexander, son of Walter, had enclosed in his park. The parish of Inverkip included the parish of Greenock, which was not separated from it till the year 1589, when John Shaw of Greenock had a Crown Charter, confirmed in 1594, for erecting “his proper lands and heritage of Grenok, Fynnartie and Spangok, with their pertinents, extending in all to 28 13s. 0d. worth of land of auld extent, lyand within the parochin of Innerkipe,” into a separate parish. In 1591 the erection was sanctioned by the ecclesiastical courts. In 1592 licence to bury within the churchyard was granted by the Synod of Glasgow, and in 1600 it was ordered by the Presbytery of Glasgow that “ Over and Nether Greenock should meet in one congregation.”

Lochwinnoch was originally a dependant chapel of Paisley, and was conveyed to the Abbey there, by Walter Fitz Alan when he granted the monks the parish church of Paisley “ with all its pertinents.” Before 1207, Florence, bishop-elect of Glasgow, confirmed to the Abbey the chapel of Lochwinnoch. It is mentioned afterwards as a chapel in connection with the Place and Monastery of Paisley. At what time Lochwinnoch became a separate parish and its chapel a parish church is not known ; but in 1504 the lands of Moniabrok were described as situated in the parish of Lochwynok. The cure was probably served by chaplains or monks from the Abbey. At the period of the Reformation the rectorial tithes had been let, along with those of Largs and Inverkip, for 460, and the vicarage tithes, along with those of the parish of Paisley, for 100. In the Libellus Tax. Reg. Scot. they are valued together at 40. The office of parish clerk was in the gift of the Lords Semple. In the parish of Lochwinnoch the monks of Paisley had considerable property. They owned the lands of Moniabrok, which were granted to them about the year 1202, by Alan, son of Walter the High Steward, who also granted to them half of the fishing at the issue of the Black Cart from Lochwinnoch and the right of fishing in the lake, as often as he himself or his successors fished there. About the end of the same century James the Steward granted to the monks free passage of the water of Kert Lochwinnoch between the yare of Auchindunan at the issue of the river and the monks’ yare of Lynclef, so that there might be no impediment between them to the injury of the monks’ fishing. About the middle of that century Alexander Fitz Alan, the Steward, gave them six acres of land adjoining their chapel of Lochwinnoch in exchange for property which they had resigned to him at Innerwick. They had also the lands of Glen and Bar between the Maich and the Calder and the pasture lands of Peti Auchingowin, the last of which had formerly belonged to the house of Dalmulin. When the possessions of the Monastery were erected by James II. into a regality, those in Lochwinnoch comprised the lordship of Glen, which, in the rental of 1525, is stated as yielding 32 styrks, 24 boles of grain, 34 4s. 4d. in money, and 285 hens.

The Church of Neilston was the property of the Abbey early in the thirteenth century, and was probably given to the monks by their patrons, the Stewards. William de Hertford, who was perhaps the rector, gave them the rectory in farm for his life in exchange for half of the great tithes of Thornton, and in 1227 the monks were allowed by the Papal Commissioners to hold it for their own use exempt from procurations, on condition of presenting a qualified chaplain. About the middle of the century Robert Croc, who had claimed some right in the church, resigned it in favour of the monks and in presence of Walter the High Steward.3 The rectory and the vicarage are estimated in the Libellus Tax. Reg. Scot. at 33 6s. 8d. They were let in 1561 for 66 13s. 4d. The church lands of Neilston were of 13s. 4d. old extent.

The Church of Mearns was granted in 1188, with all its pertinents, to the Abbey of Paisley by Helias, the son of Fulbert and brother of Robert and Peter de Pollok, all followers of the Steward, and himself a clerk, for the souls of Walter Fitz Alan and Alan his son, the patron (advocatus) of the granter, and Herbert, Bishop of Glasgow.4 The charter was confirmed by Peter de Pollok and by King William the Lion.5 Bishop Joceline allowed the monks to hold the church for their own use and support.6 The cure was served by a perpetual vicar. The vicar’s pension was fixed in 1227 at 100 shillings, or the altar dues, with two oxgangs of land beside the church. In the Libellus Tax. Reg. Scot. the rectory is valued at 50. In 1561 it yielded the Abbey of Paisley 104 in money and 6 ch. 10 b. 3 f. of meal. In Baiamond the vicarage is rated at 40, and in the taxation of the sixteenth century at 34. The vicar’s lands were 13s. 4d. of old extent. In the end of the thirteenth century the church was situated near the south-eastern extremity of the parish, between the Kirk Burn and the Brown Burn, on the other side of which were the old village and the castle of Mearns. In or about the year 1300 Herbert de Maxwell, knight, endowed a chapel in the parish church with six merks payable from his mills of Mearns.8 The monks of Paisley owned 8^ acres and 28 perches of land in the Newton of Mearns, which the knight just named gave them before 1316 in exchange for a like quantity of the land of Aldton.

The twelve, or, counting Pollok and Greenock, the fourteen parish churches now enumerated as belonging to the Abbey of Paisley, were all within the county of Renfrew. Scattered through other counties the monks had many more. The transumpt of Clement IV., which is dated as far back as the year 1265, enumerates no fewer than thirty parish churches as belonging to the monks, all of which they retained down to the time of the Reformation, with the single exception of the church of Carmunnock, which in 1552 was united by John Hamilton, Archbishop of St. Andrews, to the collegiate church of Hamilton.

Besides the parish churches, there was a considerable number of other churches or places of worship in the county.

Chief among these was the Collegiate Church of Lochwinnoch or Semple. It was founded by John Lord Semple in 1504, within his own park of Lochwinnoch, by the authority of the Bishop. Provision was made in the foundation for a provost, six chaplains, a sacrist and two singing boys. The provost had part of the rectory of Glasfurd, amounting to 45 yearly. The first and second chaplains had part of the tithes of Glasfurd, amounting to 18 merks yearly ; the third was endowed with the parish clerkship of Lochwinnoch, valued at eighteen merks; the fourth chaplain had the lands of Upper Pennal with a mansion, gardens and orchard, and a pension of forty shillings from the lands of East and West Brintschells in the parish of Kilbarchan, extending to eighteen merks; the fifth chaplain had the whole lands of Nether Pennal with the mill, extending to twenty-six merks yearly. He was to be organist, to teach a singing school within the precinct of the church, to give lessons daily to boys in the Gregorian chant and prick-song, and to maintain the two singing boys for the service of the church, for whose support he had the emoluments of the parish clerkship of Kilbarchan, valued at ten merks yearly, deducting the necessary expenses for a person filling the office. The sixth chaplain had the lands of Auchinmond with its mill, mill lands and pertinents, extending to twenty-two merks yearly ; he was to be learned in grammar and skilled in the Gregorian chant, both plain and pointed, and was to teach, at least, the first and second parts of grammar to the two singing boys gratuitously. The sacristan was to be of respectable appearance, and had for his support the emoluments of the parish clerkship of Glasfurd, valued at six merks yearly, after deducting the necessary expenses for filling the office. He had also land beside the collegiate church for a house and garden. His duties were to take charge of the church, the ornaments and the vestments, to regulate the clock, ring the bell at matins, vespers, compline, at Sunday mass, at curfew, and for prayers. On fast days, as the custom was, he was to double the ringing. He had also to sweep the church, to deck it with herbs and flowers, to collect the oblations for the Sunday light and the offerings in lesser procurations, passing through the church at the times proper and customary. The provost and chaplains had ten roods of land within the park of Lochwinnoch and near to the church, for erecting dwelling houses and forming gardens and orchards. Provision was made for supplying the church with bread, wine, and wax. The dresses of the provost and chaplains are all minutely described. The provost and chaplains were bound to continual residence and to perform certain services.

A number of the chapels or churches now referred to were in and around Paisley. In the village of Fereneze, lying to the south of the burgh, was the church of S. Conval, already mentioned as belonging to the Semples and bestowed by them upon their collegiate church in the parish of Lochwinnoch.

The Stewards had a chapel at their manor place of Blackhall. The chapel may have stood on what is now called Chapel Hill. It was served by a chaplain, known as the chaplain of Blackhall.

In 1180 Robert Croc of Crookston and Henry de Nes, retainers of the Stewards, obtained permission from the Prior of Paisley to build chapels in their courts, for the convenience of their families and guests. Robert Croc also obtained permission to build a chapel for a hospital he had erected for sick brethren, probably on the west side of the Levern, between old Crookston and Neilston. Two other chapels are said to have existed in this parish—one at a place near Arthurley, called Chapel, and another at a sequestered spot called “ ’Boon the Brae.” At each of these places there is a fine spring.

Not far from the parish church of S. Mirin in Paisley, and giving its name to the Lady Burn which flows to the Cart on the east, was a Lady Church. Another Lady Church probably gave its name to what is now known as Lady Lane. On the south side of the School Wynd stood a church dedicated to S. Nicholas. After the Reformation its site was occupied by the original Grammar School of Paisley, the charter for which was granted by James VI. in 1577.5 On the south side of Wellmeadow stood the Church of S. Roque, or Roche, or Rollock, the stones of which were afterwards used for building an hospital in the burgh for six aged and infirm men, while its seven roods of land, together with certain other ecclesiastical revenues, were directed by the charter of James VI. to be funded for the maintenance of the Grammar School. Lastly, attached to the south transept of the Abbey Church was the beautiful chapel of SS. Mirin and Columba, built and endowed by James Crawford and Elizabeth Galbraith, his wife, out of the savings of their industry, in 1499.

In the royal burgh of Renfrew, near the mill which belonged to the monks of Paisley, was a chapel dedicated to the Virgin.3 In the same town, on an island formed by an arm of the Clyde, was a church dedicated to SS. Mary and James. It was here that the thirteen monks whom the “ Holy Humbald ” brought from Wenlock in Shropshire, to start the House at Paisley, had their first and temporary lodging.

In the parish of Kilbarchan there appear to have been three chapels. In 1401 Thomas Crawford of Auchinames built a chapel in the churchyard of the parish church in honour of S. Catherine, and endowed it, together with an altar to the Virgin in the parish church, with the lands of Lynnernocht, two merks from the lands of Glentayne, three merks of the annual rental of the lands of Calzachant, Colbar and Auchinames. The chapel was independent of the parish church and under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of the diocese. At Ranfurly, on a farm called Prieston in the same parish, a little to the east of the castle of Ranfurly, was a chapel dedicated to the Virgin, founded by the Knoxes. The foundations were visible in 1795, and, until recently, what is said to have been the priest’s house, was inhabited. In the south-west corner of the parish, in the village of Kenmure—a village which has now entirely disappeared—was a chapel dedicated to S. Bride, which had lands bestowed upon it by the Semples. In 1504, John Lord Semple transferred these to his new collegiate church of Lochwinnoch and gave other property in the parish of Kilbarchan to the same church. No vestige of the chapel now remains, but the burn is still known as Saint Bride’s Burn, and the mill there as Saint Bride’s Mill.

Near Westside, and not far from the old castle of Duchal in the parish of Kilmacolm, was a chapel which seems to have been endowed by the family of Lyle, the lords of the manor. Among the witnesses to a deed in 1555 was Master David Stonyer, hermit of the chapel of Syde. In 1635 the lands of Auchinquhoill, Easter and Wester Syde, with the chapel and chapel lands of the same, were the property of the Earl of Glencairn.2 A chapel and endowed chaplainry stood in the barony of Finlayston-Maxwell, or Newark, afterwards included in the parish of Port-Glasgow. The names of other places in the same barony, as Priestsyd, Kylbride, and the 20 shilling land of Ladymuir, perhaps mark endowments belonging to that chapel or to some other, or it may be to altars in the parish church.

The chapel of Christwell in the parish of Inverkip was founded at least as early as the reign of Robert III. In 1556, Sir Lawrence Galt, who is styled prebendar of the prebend or chapel of Christwell, granted the whole chapel lands to Sir James Lindsay, a chaplain, and his heirs in feu ferm. In 1675, James Stewart was served heir of Robert Stewart of Chrystwall in the forty penny land of old extent of the prebend or chaplainry of Chrystwall and the chapel lands of the said chapel. A chapel, dedicated to S. Lawrence, is said to have stood on the site of the present town of Greenock, from which the bay of S. Lawrence took its name.

Besides the collegiate church of Semple, there was in the parish of Lochwinnoch in addition to the parish church, a church or chapel dedicated to S. Winnoc, whose festival is held on November 9. It was situated along with its kirk-town on the west side of the loch to which it gave its name. There appears also to have been another chapel in the parish, endowed by the Semple family before the erection of the collegiate church, the lands of which were merged in that foundation. A place still called Chapeltown near their park and castle probably marks its site.

Were these chapels and churches, which were not parochial churches, intended as protests against the way in which the vicars of the Abbey were discharging their duties.? Some of them certainly were not. The chapels built by Robert Croc and Henry de Nes, were built by permission of the Prior and Convent. The chapel of Syde was evidently a private chapel of the Lyles. The chapel at Blackhall would be a private chapel of the Stewards, being close to their hunting lodge at Blackhall. All the chapels in Paisley would undoubtedly be in close connection with the Abbey. The chapel of S. Catherine’s in Kilbarchan was in a curious position. It was situated in the graveyard of the parish, but was under the immediate charge of the Bishop of Glasgow. But what of the collegiate church of Lochwinnoch? Was the founding of it a pure act of devotion on the part of the Semples or did it originate in a desire to see the ministries of religion more carefully attended to than they were by the monks and their substitutes?

The Templars, and after them the Hospitallers, owned the church of Inchinnan, and probably had a church or chapel at Capelrig in the parish of Mearns, and another in the ancient parish of Killallan. Scattered throughout the county they had certain properties. In Inchinnan they are said to have received “ considerable grants of lands.” These were acquired from the first Lord Torphichen by Sir James Semple of Beltrees, who was seized “in the temple lands and tenement within the barony of Renfrew, united into the tenandry of Greenend.” In the parish of Erskine they had Frieland, a two and a half merkland of old extent. In the lordship of Barrochan, within the parish of Killallan, they had a half merkland, and a place still known as Chapeltown, on the west side of Barrochan Burn, may perhaps mark the site of their settlement. The lands of Capelrig were of 6s. 8d. old extent.

Of the provision made in the county for the education of the young, little is known. Schools or places of education are known to have existed in the country from the remotest times. S. Ninian kept school at Whithorn, S. Serf taught at Culross, and S. Columba at Iona ; and it is not unlikely that the Irish monks who settled in Renfrewshire from the fifth to the seventh century or later, made the teaching of the young a part of their labour as well as the preaching of the Gospel. Of the existence of schools at a later period there is abundant evidence. The schools in connection with the church of St. Andrews were of note as early as the year 1120. About the same time there were schools at Roxburgh, Perth, Stirling, Lanark, Linlithgow and Aberdeen. In 1411 the University of St. Andrews was founded; in 1450 the University of Glasgow ; and in 1494 the University of Aberdeen. Two years later, in 1496, a memorable Act of Parliament was passed, which may be regarded as the first attempt at anything like compulsory education.4 It ordained that all barons and freeholders of substance should send their eldest sons and heirs to school “fra thai be aucht or nyne yeiris of age” and that they should keep them there “quhill thai be competentlie foundit and have perfite Latyne.” The statute further provided that the sons should be kept at schools of arts and law three years longer. The purpose the Act was to serve was a high one, namely, that “justice may reign universally throughout the realm, and that those who are sheriffs or judges may have knowledge to do justice, so that the poor people should have no need to see our Sovereign Lord’s principal Auditors for every little injury.” The penalty for neglect was twenty pounds. Whether the Act was enforced or not, it evidently runs upon the assumption that there was no lack of schools in the country.

There was a school at Renfrew before the Reformation, but at what time it was founded is not known. One of its pupils was Ninian Winzet, schoolmaster at Linlithgow about 1551, and afterwards Abbot of Ratisbon. That there was a school in Paisley at the same period is evident from the fact that Sir John Robeson, a priest, who gave evidence against John Hamilton, Archbishop of St. Andrews, is designated “ the schoolmaster of Paisley.” But here again there is nothing to show how long the school had been in existence. In the monastery of Paisley a school had existed from the time of its foundation. The ordinary pupils were the noviciates, and the probability is that a number of the sons of the landowners in the district were educated along with them. Among these was probably at one time, as has already been remarked, Sir William Wallace. It is not unlikely that the school in the burgh was under the direction of the monks of the Abbey. Mention has already been made of the duty imposed upon the sixth chaplain of the collegiate church of Semple to teach the two singing boys there the first and second parts of grammar, and of the fifth chaplain being required to give them daily lessons in the Gregorian chant and prick-song. Here also it may be assumed that other boys were taught as well as the two singing boys. Whether there were schools in connection with the parish churches is uncertain. Such schools were common in other parts of the country; but Renfrewshire was somewhat peculiarly circumstanced. Almost all the parish churches in the county, as we have seen, were in the hands of the monks and were served by vicars, whose stipends the monks took care, especially under Lithgow and Chisholm, to reduce to the lowest possible sum. The best men fought shy of the Abbey’s vicarages, and the men who took them may have done as little for their parishes as they could. On the other hand, they may have set up both schools and song schools, in the latter of which music or singing alone was taught, in order to eke out their stipends. But in the absence of information about them, nothing definite can be said.

If information is scarce respecting the condition of education in the county prior to the Reformation, it is still scarcer in respect to its religious condition. Apparently there was an abundance of places of worship. The furnishings in the Abbey Church at Paisley were sumptuous, and it may be assumed, I suppose, that in the parochial and other churches throughout the county the decorations and furnishings were not neglected and that the services of public worship were performed there too with becoming decency, though with less splendour of ceremonial than in the church at the Abbey.

As to the conduct of the clergy, both regular and secular, it may be held that the stringency of some of the provisions in the foundation charters, both of the collegiate church at Lochwinnoch  and of the chapel of SS. Mirin and Columba in Paisley suggests that in the opinion of the founders there was, generally speaking, much laxity prevailing and much to be desired in the way of reform. Particular attention may also be drawn to the fact that the Abbey at Paisley was among the monasteries to which James I., in 1424, addressed a remarkable letter, in which he exhorted them, “ in the bowels of the Lord Jesus Christ to shake off'their torpor and sloth and to set to work to restore their fallen discipline and to rekindle their decaying fervour, so that they might save their decaying houses from the ruin which menaced them,” as well as to the fact that by one at least of the ancient chroniclers the place was condemned as “out of all gude rewle.”4 On these grounds it maybe argued that the condition of religion in the shire was much the same as in any other of the Lowland counties. Possibly it was.

But other things require to be taken into consideration before coming to any conclusion on the subject. The provisions referred to in the foundation charters may have been inserted from purely prudential motives, and may have no reference whatever to what was then actually happening in the shire. King James’s letter and the condemnation of the Auchinleck chronicler both refer to one and the same period in the history of the Abbey—the time when Lithgow and Chisholm were its rulers—and never at any other time is there the slightest hint of any irregularities among the monks at Paisley. As late as 1492 Abbot George Shaw was making provision for the augmentation of the pittance and comfort of his monks, which would seem to show that even then, some sixty-eight years before the Reformation, they were living according to the rule of their order and observing it in all its strictness. In 1499, six years before Knox was born, James Crawford and Elizabeth Galbraith, his wife, devoted a great part of the savings of their industry to the erection of the chapel of SS. Mirin and Columba in Paisley, and to the endowment of a chaplain for it.1 Crawford was in constant touch with the Abbot George Shaw and could scarcely fail to be acquainted with the religious condition of the county, and if things were as bad there as they are said to have been elsewhere, it is scarcely possible that he and his wife would have devoted their hard won savings to any such purpose. At the beginning of the Reformation, the people of Renfrewshire appear to have taken no active part in the movement. Knox was at Finlaystone Castle in 1555, where he preached and administered the Sacrament, but did not appear in the county publicly. Not until twelve years after the Reformation was regarded as an accomplished fact, was a Protestant minister appointed to Paisley, which even then continued to be spoken of as a “ nest of Papistry,” and, as we shall see further on, the Presbytery, though backed up by the secular arm, had much trouble in getting its way with the people both high and low. If the Catechism which goes under Archbishop Hamilton’s name, had been written by him, we might have supposed that in many passages in that excellent but unfortunate volume, in which the irreverence and irreligion of the people are dwelt upon, he was describing what had come under his own eyes in Renfrewshire; but, as is known, it was not written by him, but in all likelihood by writers who were better acquainted with other parts of the country than they were with the county of Renfrew. Altogether, in the absence of precise information, it is impossible to give a description of the religious condition of the county of the accuracy of which one can be sure.

At the same time we are not without indications of what its moral condition was. The feuds, slaughters, and fire-raisings which were continually going on, show that in respect to morality Renfrewshire was no better than any other part of the country. For a couple of centuries or more the feuds were perpetual, and often attended with much cruelty. The barons fought for revenge, and their retainers fought alongside of them because they were their lords ; probably also they had scores of their own to settle. Sunday was not religiously or carefully observed; nor does it seem to have been so observed in Scotland, until many years after the Reformation. The leaders of the Reformation were themselves not particularly careful in their observance of it. The Reformed Commendators of Holyrood and Coldingham, both Lords of the Congregation, rode at the ring on a Sunday, dressed in women’s clothes. The reformed municipality of Edinburgh gave a grand banquet to the King’s French kinsfolk on a Sunday. John Knox wrote letters on a Sunday, travelled on a Sunday, and had the Duke of Chatelherault and the English Ambassador to sup with him on a Sunday. Before the Reformation the day was regarded rather as a holiday, and was for the most part given up to amusement. The shops and taverns were kept open, and often men were made to work in the fields on Sunday. In summer, the Sunday afternoons and evenings were often spent in piping and dancing on the green. The proof that this was the case in Renfrewshire will appear by and by. There is no record of clerical or ecclesiastical oppression in the shire, but if Archbishop Hamilton’s Catechism may be taken as applicable to the county in which his abbey was situated, there can be little doubt that there was much crass ignorance among the clergy and much irreverence among the laity. The Catechism, which is in reality a series of homilies, was prepared for the use of the clergy. They were directed to read it to their congregations on Sundays, and in order that they might not excite ridicule by stammering or stumbling in their reading, they were enjoined to prepare themselves during the week by frequent and daily repetition of the portion that fell to be read on the following Sunday. As to the moral and spiritual condition of the laity, the following, which is taken from the chapter on the Third Commandment, may possibly, though not certainly, afford some hints :—“ And above all this, all men and wemen with diligens, nocht only suld forbeir vice and syn on the Sunday and all other dayis, bot specially on the Sunday, suld eschew all ydilnes, vaine talking, bakbyting, sclandering, blasphematioun of the name of God, and contentioun, and also all occasionis of syn, as dansyng, unnecessarie drinking, wantones, lecherous sangis and twech-ing, hurdome, carting and dysing, and specially carreling and wanton synging in the kirk, and all uthir vice quhilk commonly hes bein maist usit on the Sunday.” The advice is sound and may have been as much needed in the west as in the east where the Catechism was drawn up. After the Reformation the moral and religious condition of the shire was bad enough, but by that time things had changed, and probably not altogether for the better.

See also...

Notes on the Ecclesiastical Antiquities of the Parish by the Rev. George Campbell, Minister of the Parish (1902) (pdf)

Return to Book Index Page


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