A brief history of the medieval estate to the 20th Century
Ferguslie today is seen as a large housing scheme – totally unrecognisable from its medieval origins. The name Ferguslie is most likely derived from “the meadow of Fergus” but who was this Fergus? We will probably never know.
The lands that comprise Ferguslie were given to Paisley Abbey, possibly around 1220 when Walter, The Steward granted the lands of the Forrest of Paisley to the Abbey. The grant included the forest that lay between the Black Cart & White Cart.
The link below shows the area as it was in the mid 18th Century in General Roy’s Map of Scoland.
The earliest recorded name with Ferguslie comes from the Abbey Rental book in 1460 when a widow, Matilde de Craig pays the Abbey £3 along with Cart Service on lands worth £6. (As a widow she would have been given a discount). It is highly possible that area Craigielea takes its name from her family.
The next named tenant is a Ninian Wallace paying rent in 1522 and 1523. In 1544 the Registrum de Monasterii de Paslet records John Hamilton obtaining the grant of the lands from John Hamilton, Abbot of Paisley – possibly a relation. The John Hamilton who obtained the lands was a descendant of the Hamiltons of Orbieston. The Register of the Great Seal of Scotland records John renting the lands in 1547 and becoming the owner of the lands in 1551. John Hamilton, Laird of Ferguslie died in 1557.
On Johns death his granddaughter, Margaret Wallace, inherited the estate. Margaret was married to a John Wallace of Elderslie – son of William Wallace of Elderslie who was Chamberlain to James, Earl of Abercorn. A condition of the inheritance was that Margaret was to change her surname to Hamilton which she duly did in 1609. She became better known as ‘Margaret Hamilton, The Guidewife of Ferguslie‘
By 1710 the estate had been sold to William Cochran, son of Colonel Hugh Cochrane, a younger brother of the Earl of Dundonald. The last Cochrane to live in the Castle or house of Ferguslie was Mrs Grizel Cochrane, sister of the 6th Earl of Dundonald. Grizel died on the 12th September 1753 at Cardonald, but on the 6th July 1748 her brother-in-law, put the Ferguslie Estate up for auction in Edinburgh. John Hare and Robert Fulton bought the estate on behalf of the Town Council of Paisley for £33,000 Scots or £2,700 Sterling. The town council held the estate until around 1800 when they sold the estate along with that of Carriagehill for the grand sum of £12,000, giving a nice cash boost to the town.
Until this time the Castle or House of Ferguslie lay to the north of the estate, close to the site of the much later Ferguslie Park House (known later as the Glen-Coats Hospital) of which only the gatehouse still survives.
The new owner of the Estate was Thomas Bisland, a wealthy Paisley Merchant, and son of the Town Treasurer. Thomas constructed a new manor house to the extreme south of the estate, naming it Ferguslie House. In 1811 Thomas became bankrupt and the estate was divided into two, along the route of the later railway. The northern portion of the estate with the old castle or house was purchased by John Campbell of Edinburgh. The southern portion centered on Ferguslie House was purchased by Miss John Maxwell of Williamwood, who in 1818 sold it on to Lorrain Wilson another Paisley Merchant. Lorrain Wilson upgraded the house and it passed to his son and then grandson in sequence. James Wilson, the grandson, sold it in 1845 to Thomas Coats.
The northern portion of the estate was passed to John Campbell’s widow – Elizabeth Barr in 1853 and when she died the property was sold to Thomas Coats on the 16th Feb 1872. The purchase by Thomas reunited the northern and southern estates of Ferguslie under one owner, but the northern estate was renamed Ferguslie Park, and in 1890 a new mansion was constructed for Thomas’ son, Sir Thomas Glen-Coats.
Ferguslie Park House often hosted large parties. In 1926 when Lord Asquith stood as the Liberal candidate in a Paisley parliamentary election the house hosted a large party where Lord & Lady Asquith, David Lloyd George and his daughter Megan along with Lady Bonham Carter.
Sir Thomas Glen-Coats died in 1922 to be succeeded by his son Sir Thomas Coats Glen Glen-Coats.
In 1931 Woodside House, the neighbouring estate to Ferguslie House, also in possession the Coats family was given to Paisley as a home for mothers and children. This was through the will of W H Coats, another of the Coats brothers. W H Coats died in 1928 and his will stated the house should be transferred to the town council on the death of his wife.
The donation of Woodside in 1931 led to an article in the Paisley and Renfrewshire Gazette on the 23rd May 1931 calling on Ferguslie Park House to be given to Paisley as a replacement for the Barshaw Nursing Home (Maternity). It wasn’t until 1933 when Major A Harold Glen-Coats died that Ferguslie Park House was offered to the trustees of the Royal Alexandria Infirmary in memory of his parents, Sir Thomas & Lady Glen-Coats and Major Harold.
In 1934 the trustees of the Royal Alexandria Infirmary decided to convert the house into a 14 bed hospital with provision made for the number of beds to be increased or decreased as funds permitted. The Glen-Coats Auxiliary Hospital opened on the 19th July 1934 with 25 beds, due to a donation of £5,000 from Sir Thomas Glen Glen-Coats, his sister Mrs E H T Parsons and Major Harold’s widow. The hospital operated until 1973, and was demolished in 1982 after 9 years of dereliction and vandalism. Today the gatehouse and part of the garden survive.
Also during the 1930s the Ferguslie Houe Estate was given to the Town of Paisley by Miss Margaret & Miss Lily Coats, two of Thomas Coats’ daughters. The house was demolished and the estate was turned into the park we know today.
© 2021 Stephen Clancy