About Us

The Urban Historian promotes the amazing history of the town of Paisley and the Old County of  Renfrew.   With a documented history going back to the arrival of Walter Fitz Alan in Renfrewshire and the establishment of the Priory of Paisley in 1163, Paisley and the County can lay claim to playing a large part in the creation of Scotland as we know it today.  Walter Fitz Alans descendants married into the Bruce family, with the son of Marjory Bruce and Walter founding the Stewart Dynasty, and the Abbey of Paisley becoming one of the richest churches in Scotland, only lying behind Arbroath Abbey and St Andrews Cathedral.   The Fitz Alans, and later Stewarts and other major families in Paisley and Renfrewshire played pivotal parts in the growth of Scotland.

Johnstone Heritage Walk 2017
Johnstone Heritage Walk 2017 Image: Mariusz Matuszewski

The Urban Historian runs Heritage Walks around Renfrewshire and Paisley on a regular basis, and also holds short courses on the local history and archaeology of the old county of Renfrew. In addition we also re-publish antiquarian histories of the county.

If you are unable to make any of our scheduled walks we can offer bespoke tours.  Please contact us for details.

About The Urban Historian

The Urban Historian, has been delivering short courses and Heritage Walks in Paisley for several years.  Our tutor, and walk leader, Stephen graduated from the University of Glasgow with a degree in History, and went on to complete a Masters in Multimedia  from the then University of Paisley.    Stephen has worked as an archaeologist on many archaeological digs in Paisley, Renfrewshire and beyond, and has taught local history, archaeology and family history at the University of the West of Scotland and the University of Dundee.

Stephen is a former chair of Paisley Thread Mill Museum and ex-member of the Renfrewshire Local History Forum. In addition to this the Urban Historian has also advised the Renfrewshire Tapestry Group on historical aspects of the old County of Renfrew along with other historical projects for Renfrewshire Council.

Stephen’s personal research interests include the arrival of Christianity in Scotland, and the history and archaeology of Paisley Abbey. Current research projects include the management of the Burgh of Paisley, before and after the Reformation in 1560’s & the links of the Hamilton Family to the Abbey. The use of modern communication technologies such as social media and interactive displays within the heritage sector is also of interest.  Also of interest is the rise of linen and cotton thread manufacturing in Renfrewshire and Paisley and the history of the rise of thread manufacturing in Renfrewshire along with the history of the  Anchor and Ferguslie Thread Mills in Paisley and their national & international domination.

Recent Guest Blog for Paisley2021 as part of Paisley Thread Mill Museum

Stephen recently recorded a short video and blog for Paisley2021.  The full blog can be found at


Paisley’s rich heritage goes much wider than the weaving and textile industries that we all know about.   The internationally known Paisley Shawls, Coats & Anchor Threads and Tapestry Wool, are only a small part of what is to be found in Paisley.  From the magnificent early medieval Abbey & the High Stewards Hunting Lodge to the 19th and 20th Century industries that supported the weaving and thread industries such as heavy engineering and the ship yards that once sat on the banks of the River Cart all the way into the town centre.

Being on the Board at Paisley Thread Mill Museum, helps bring to life the conditions people worked in the Paisley thread mills, but also the social aspects to life, be it in the sports clubs in Paisley or in the recreation facilities that Coats provided anywhere in the world that they had a mill.

Vist www.paiseythreadmill.co.uk to see what we do and when we are open.  We are also on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram.

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