Stained glass and stars

On Saturday 10th September it was time for another Doors Open Day, this time weekend 2 was Renfrewshire, so we chose to re-visit Paisley and its many buildings of interest.  For this travel trip, Arriva buses were the day ticket of choice as it meant other Renfrewshire towns and villages were all in reach for the bargainous price of £2.60.

Started the day at the Abbey, that most famous of Paisley landmarks.  I have been here before to go up the tower (I can highly recommend this viewpoint, you can see for a long way over Renfrewshire, back to Glasgow and beyond.  The weather on this particular day was not really in our favour, so chose to stay indoors).  In sitting down to draw the stained glass windows in the East I became utterly fascinated by the shapes within shapes found within the window.  The window was designed by Douglas Strachan in 1931 and encompasses imagery from various biblical tales. A helpful guide noticed my gazing and offered me a guidebook to look at which explains all of the windows within the Abbey.  I became engrossed in the history and evolution of the various windows, from a William Morris example of 1864 up to more recent additions.  There is even one window which has a beautiful rainbow.  The guide told me that when the sun shines through the glass it makes beautiful shades of colour on the Abbey flagstones.  being quite a visual person, I can imagine this quite vividly and formed a “to be” artwork in my head, inspired by the various shapes and colours of the windows.

Abbey stained glass

Light through yonder window..

At the Town Hall there was a very informative and interesting film of the Abbey drain excavations.  Why does the drain not just go in a straight line?  Glasgow University archaeology department are researching the area and also working with local schools to carry out excavations and recording work.  I always think it is great when local communities can get involved in historical research and archaeology.  It’s one of the things which inspired my interest when I was wee.  I’ve always wandered about from a fairly early age with a bit of a sore neck from looking up at interesting buildings, or from having my nose in a sketchbook or guidebook.  I notice I-spy books have recently been re-released, I reckon architecture and archaeology would be a great subject for one of those.  Maybe I should write and suggest it?!?  In Glasgow Tourist Information centre they are presently giving away “I-Spy Scottish Nature” books, written with Visit Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage, promoting Scotland’s National Nature Reserves.  5 points for a blackface sheep, 10 points for a crag.  How many are crenellations worth, do you think?

The Town Hall has beautiful columns and is a great venue which holds events all year round.  I wonder how many people look up at the ceiling and its chandeliers, or take in the corinthian columns?  It is connected to the Clark family, like many of the buildings open this weekend, and their crest appears on the gates and railings.

doors open

Doors Open on the gates

A hoof up the hill to Oakshaw reveals an architectural delight, this is part of the conservation area and has stunning views back towards Glasgow and rather idyllic cobble set paved alleyways with housing and The Observatory and Neilson Institute both have large distinctive domes.  I have always wanted to have a nosy at the Neilson buillding as the first time I went to Oakshaw I actually thought it was the Observatory due to its dome!  Inside, this former educational facility (set up by a rather wealthy grocer, what a generous legacy) is now converted into flats.  The central atrium is a huge light space, beautifully decorated and quite awesome.  By day it serves as the communal entrance space for the flats.  By “Doors Open Day” it serves as a rather nice place to stop and stare, and imagine what it would be like to own one of the beautiful properties.  One of them was advertising for sale, a mere £155,000, but not having this spare change, we continued our wander around and admired the exterior.  There was an intrepid cat perched on one of the windows in one of the flats, windows open day?

cat in a window

Cat chooses to celebrate "Windows Open Day"

The weather was improving so we headed down the hill hoping to take a wander up the Thomas Coats memorial baptist church tower; sadly the crown steeple was closed but we still had an amazing tour of this gothic marvel.  The knowledgeable volunteers told us the story of the restoration of the beautiful stencilled plasterwork (the Lord’s prayer is written around the walls, accompanied by delicate nature inspired patterns). In the corridors surrounding this room, the original plasterwork and stencilling can be seen.  I have never seen a church with this sort of stencilling before.  Does anyone else know of any others?  Another guide pointed out some of the strange faces and creatures which are built into the woodwork screens whose intricate carvings are spectacular, hours and hours of work.  The whole building took over nine years to complete, what workmanship!

Coats plaster

Next stop was Paisley Museum and Art Gallery, another Coats family gift to the town.  There is so much to see in this building and we really only had time to explore the temporary “Glasgow boys” exhibition.  I was unaware that they had such a large collection of work, it was great to be able to see a selection of work in place (Kelvingrove in Glasgow also has a good selection).  The colours in the paintings are fantastic.

The Observatory was offering tours, and there is a courtyard garden link from the Museum.  The Coats Observatory has beautiful stained glass, including images of Galileo, stars, astrological constellations, an owl and a spider and also houses a working ororary. The view from the top of the observatory is also very impressive, you can see all the way to the top of Barshaw park hill  A group of very knowledgable people were on our tour, they all knew the answers to the guides questions about planets and the solar system. Clearly, in my brian, this former school science knowledge has been misplaced by random architectural facts as I learnt a lot both from our guides and the tour attendees!  I am definitely going to revisit the Observatory for one of their evening tours to observe the stars through the telescope. Our guide told us it is one of the few publicly open observatories in the UK.. where are the others?

observatory glass

Observatory glass

The library is next door to the museum and observatory, again a Coats building, they had a very entertaining exhibition on Scots words.  I thought of a fellow Twitterer (@geminica) who had been visiting Scotland recently and learnt some Scots words.    Humstrung and Nyaff, anyone?

The Threadmill Museum at Mile End Mill was next on our list (following a thoroughly reviving beverage at the well named Cardosi’s espresso bar).  Renfrewshire Doors Open Day had kindly provided a small printed childrens passport for the weekend, I amused one of the museum staff by asking for a stamp in my sketchbook.  Many many years ago I had the equivalent for National Trust and National Trust for Scotland properties.. you collected a printed stamp when you visited a property and kept them in a booklet.  My inner philatelist was clearly eeking its way out and I discovered that the stamp people collected was a beautiful image of the European logo for Doors Open Day.

One of the albums on display in the museum had photographs of the mill in various stages of redevelopment (and dereliction), the original scale of the whole complex was clear to see when walking from Mile End Mill to Anchor Mill, where original buildings stand side by side with new developments. In Anchor Mill there are several display boards which show the conversion of the buildings into residential use.  We watched the dramatic sky through the rooflight, and looked at local artist Marie Hay’s  Paisley paintings and prints.  Bought a beautiful limited edition black and white print of the Abbey, a nice way to remember the day!  The bridge outside this building used to be used by the mill workers and has been fairly recently restored.  It offers good views of Anchor Mill, I felt drawn to the reflections.

Took a quick peek in the fire station on the way to another building, many community stalls and music (and doors open on a fire engine!).  There was a hive of activity at the Wasps studios; drawing in graphite with eyes closed but faces to picture and also thumb pots and clay stamps. Great fun. I like it when shops are used for creative purposes.  Wasps are a fantastic organisation, providing space for artists in rather interesting buildings.  They are open for Doors Open Day Glasgow too… , the Briggait is amazing and Hanson Studios in Dennistoun has a fantastic cafe, and is well worth a look (on their website it lists artist open days when studios are open for viewing)

The Masonic Temple was open, this also used to be part of the mill buildings and had a canteen area for the mill workers.  Quite a grand setting with amazing painted glass.  Heading back into town, had a sneaky peek in the John Bull which is indeed an unusual art nouveau style pub, but it was standing room only as everyone else was also rather busy admiring the architecture… or similar, it was so busy that we went across the road to Castelvecchi.  Not in the brochure, but a great chippy with cool decor, 50’s formica I believe.  Wandering around another part of the town we went to the Arts Centre (someone was belting out an Oasis tribute in the top floor bar).  This is a converted church with cafe, bar and performance space.   A good place to pick up leaflets in the daytime too (note to self, must try not to pick up own weight in “things to do” leaflets…).

So many buildings, not enough time!  It was well past Doors Open Time but we still felt like more wandering so we went to the pretty village of Kilbarchan. Have day ticket will travel!  A few weeks ago we had done a long walk around the countryside of this area, Renfrewshire Council have two splendid “walks around..” and “cycle tours around…” books which you can pick up in local Tourist Information Centres.  The walk around Kilwinning takes you up to Dampton pad which has great views, one would not imagine one was so close to urban connurbations when out in the rural surroundings.  There are beautiful churches and spectacular terraces of houses in Kilbarchan, and the Weavers Cottage (run by the National Trust for Scotland).. Doors Closed as it was well past 4pm but nice to admire outside anyway.  To finish our day we were treated to a spectacular full moon, a picturesque end to a lovely day out.

Bus moon

Bus moon



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