NS4863 : Old well beside Paisley Abbey

taken 6 years ago, near to Paisley, Renfrewshire, Great Britain

Old well beside Paisley Abbey
Old well beside Paisley Abbey
The first end-note describes the well and the stairs that can be seen directly behind it. The building to which the staircase is attached is NS4863 : Place of Paisley, which is itself attached to NS4863 : Paisley Abbey. That last picture is a view from the other side of Cotton Street, and the well can be seen on the left.
Old well beside Paisley Abbey
The Rev A R Howell, in his 1929 work "Paisley Abbey: Its History, Architecture, & Art", mentions the rediscovery of the well in his day; he identifies it as the old Balgonie Well: "on the south side of the Abbey, east of the Place of Paisley and quite close to Abbey Street, an old well has recently been discovered. It is remembered as 'the Balgonie Well', said to have been sunk in or about 1579 by William Erskine of Balgonie, parson of Campsie, who was at that date for a short time Commendator of the Abbey. In more modern times, the water was famed for making tea. An anonymous donor has liberally made provision for the protection of this interesting relic of the past by erecting a wall around it, with cope and grid". The nearby stairs in the angle of a wall were rebuilt at around the same time; these were likewise the gift of an anonymous donor.

Howell's description draws, in part, on Robert Brown's 1886 "History of Paisley", which supplies more information about William Erskine of Balgonie. In the same work, a footnote adds, about Erskine, that "while at the Abbey he caused a well to be sunk in it there, which is known at this day by the name of the 'Balgonie Well'. Upwards of half-a-century ago, the water in this well was considered best for making tea of any in Paisley, and was therefore greatly used for that purpose in all parts of the town".

Beside the well is Place of Paisley; though no longer using water from this well, it now houses, amongst other things, the abbey's cafe and tea-room. The site of the well is marked as a blue dot on large-scale OS mapping. In its present-day appearance, it is similar to one that can be seen at the Gallowgreen, not far from here: LinkExternal link
Paisley Abbey
The abbey's website – LinkExternal link – provides a summary of its history, and other information.

It is thought that an early religious community was established at Paisley by St Mirin. In the twelfth century, Walter FitzAlan, High Steward of Scotland, had a priory established on his lands in Paisley, to be founded by monks of the Cluniac order; one of Walter's charters confirms certain lands "to God and Saint Mary, and the church of St James, and St Mirin, and St Myldburge de Passelet [Paisley], and to the priors and monks serving God there according to the order of Clugny".

In its design, the original priory was modelled on the Abbey of Cérise in France. The religious establishment at Paisley was elevated to the status of an abbey in 1245, after lengthy negotiations.

The abbey suffered grievous damage during the Wars of Independence: according to an annal entry (here translated from the original Latin), "in this year, 1307, the English burnt the Monastery of Paisley"; nothing remained but blackened walls. Some repair work was started in 1317, but little progress was made for several decades: however, by 1389-90, we have notice of glass being purchased for the abbey's windows, showing that repairs were then well under way.

A great deal of rebuilding was carried out during the time of Abbot Thomas Tervas (mid-fifteenth century), and, a little later, by Abbot George Shaw. The buildings appear to have been damaged by fire towards the end of the same century. It also seems that, at some point in the abbey's history, its central tower collapsed, damaging adjacent structures.

At the time of the Reformation (1560), the damage done to the abbey was limited, perhaps partly because the building was already in poor condition.

Subsequent developments will not be described here in detail, but it is worth noting several restorations of the abbey that were carried out in recent centuries: (1) 1788-89, under the supervision of Dr Robert Boog, minister of the First Charge at the Abbey (Boog was also responsible for piecing together what is now called the Tomb of Marjorie Bruce); (2) 1859-62, under ministers Andrew Wilson and J Cameron Lees; (3) 1898-1907, under the ministers Thomas Gentles and J B Dalgety; and (4) 1912-28 (but interrupted in 1918 by the War), under A M Maclean and W Fulton. See Howell, cited below, for details.

In the 1990s, the Great Drain below the abbey was rediscovered (see Malden, cited below); it has subsequently yielded many interesting artefacts, some of which are now displayed in the Sacristy Museum, within the abbey.

Selected references:

▪ "Historical Description of the Abbey and Town of Paisley", Charles Mackie (1835).
▪ "The Abbey of Paisley", J Cameron Lees (1878).
▪ "Paisley Abbey: Its History, Architecture, & Art", Rev A R Howell (1929).
▪ "The Monastery and Abbey of Paisley" (various contributors), edited by John Malden (2000).
Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved]   © Copyright Lairich Rig and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
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NS4863, 920 images   (more nearby )
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Date Taken
Monday, 4 November, 2013   (more nearby)
Thursday, 14 November, 2013
Geographical Context
Historic sites and artefacts  Derelict, Disused  Water resources 
Former (from Tags)
Primary Subject of Photo
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 4856 6391 [10m precision]
WGS84: 55:50.6734N 4:25.2146W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 4856 6390
View Direction
North-northwest (about 337 degrees)
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