A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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Johnstone, a town, quoad sacra parish, and registration district in the extreme W of the Abbey parish of Paisley, and near the centre of the county of Renfrew. The parish was not erected till 1834, when there was a population of over 5000; but as early as 1792 a church had been built, and in 1794 (when the population was only about 1500) the building was ready for use, and bounds were perambulated and assigned, within which the minister of the Johnstone church had ecclesiastical charge. The town, which is a police burgh, and has now slightly outgrown the limits of the original parish, stands on the E bank of the Black Cart, and a short distance W of the road from Glasgow to Ayr by Paisley. It is by rail 3½ miles W by S of Paisley, 10¼ W by S of Glasgow, 14 SE by E of Greenock, and 25½ N by E of Ayr. It has a station on the Glasgow and Ayr section of the Glasgow and South-Western railway system, close to the point where the branch turns off north-westward to Greenock, and here was also formerly the western terminus of the Glasgow, Paisley, and Ardrossan Canal, which is now, however, in process of conversion into a railway. The town was founded in 1781, the site at the E end of a bridge over the Cart, known as ' the Brig o' Johnstone, ' having been previously occupied by a small hamlet of only ten houses. The first houses afforded accommodation to the hands employed at a large cotton-mill, erected close by, and since then the place has, in virtue of its position in the middle of a large mining district, become a considerable industrial centre. The mill was built, and the plan of the town laid out by the proprietor of the estate of Johnstone, who was also superior of the ground on which it stands, and it is to his influence that the place owes its first start in prosperity and its rapid rise, for in the first ten years of its existence the population increased from about 50 to about 1500. The plan was a regular one, the main street (High Street) running almost E and W, and being crossed at right angles by numerous minor streets, while there are two squares-one Houston Square near the centre of the town, and another, Ludovic Square, to the S. The houses are substantial stone buildings, and viewed from a distance the place has a remarkably airy appearance, due in part to the spaciousness of the streets, and in part to the number of pieces of open garden-ground attached to the houses; but on closer inspection a good deal of the dinginess always associated with manufactures becomes at once apparent. It includes the village suburbs of Thorn and Overton to the E. The principal industries in the burgh are extensive foundries and machine works, a paper mill, and linen thread works, while round it are scattered a large number of cotton mills, giving employment to from 3000 to 4000 hands. The police act has been adopted, and the affairs of the burgh are managed by a senior magistrate, 2 junior magistrates, and 8 police commissioners. The police force consists of 6 men, and a police court is held on the first Monday of every month. The commissioners have also had, since 1881, the charge of the gas supply, as in that year the property and plant of the Gas Company were acquired by them at a cost of £22,000. The works are at the N side of the burgh. The parish church on the S side at the S end of Church Street was built, as already noticed, between 1792 and 1794 as a chapel of ease at a cost of about £1400. It contains 995 sittings. The spire was added in 1823, and extensive repairs were made in 1877. The Free church in William Street was built soon after the Disruption. There are two United Presbyterian churches, the one built in 1791 at a cost of about £900 and containing 616 sittings, and the other in 1829 at a cost of about £1500 and containing 810 sittings. The Episcopal church, dedicated to St John the Evangelist, is a cruciform building with transepts and chancel. It was erected in 1874 and enlarged in 1878, and contains 400 sittings. The Roman Catholic church, dedicated to St Margaret, was originally erected in 1852, but previous to 1882 underwent great alteration and reconstruction after designs by Messrs Pugin & Pugin. It has now a fine ceiling, handsome transept piers, a magnificent chancel arch, and good stained glass windows. It was reopened on 6 Nov. 1882, and has now 800 sittings. Educational affairs are managed by a committee of the Abbey Parish School Board, and the schools are Johnstone, Ludovic Square, Nethercraigs, M'Dowall Street, Inkermann, and Cardonald Street public schools, with accommodation respectively for 600, 250, 140, 182, 210, and 135 scholars. A school is also carried on in connection with St Margaret's Roman Catholic church. Johnstone has a post office, with money order, savings' bank, and telegraph departments, branches of the National, Royal, and Union Banks, a National Security Savings' Bank, and agencies of 28 insurance offices. The Royal Bank occupies a handsome three-story block erected in 1873-74. There are 3 inns. The newspapers are the Johnstone Gleaner, the observer, and the Johnstone Herald, all three published on Saturday. There is a Public Hall and Working Men's Institute, with a newsroom and a hall, with accommodation for 1000, and containing a fine organ presented by Mr Bousfield. There are also Assembly Rooms, a temperance hall, a Mechanics Institute, a friendly society, a branch of the Bible society, a missionary society, a Young Men's Christian Association, a volunteer corps (9th coy. 2d battalion Renfrewshire), and an Agricultural Society which holds a cattle show annually on the Friday of Glasgow Fair week (see Glasgow). A horse fair is held on the first Friday of January, and a general fair on the Thursday after the second Monday of July. The fast days fall on the Fridays before the first Saturday in April and in October. Johnstone Castle, an elegant modern mansion, stands within a large well-wooded park, 1 mile S by E of the town. Its owner, George Ludovic Houstoun, Esq. (b. 1846; suc. 1862), holds 1841 acres in the shire, valued at £2898 per annum. Milliken House, a building in the Grecian style, is 1¼ mile to the W. The parish is in the presbytery of Paisley and the synod of Glasgow and Ayr; its minister's stipend is £400. The municipal constituency numbered 2000 in 1883, when the annual value of real property within the burgh was £27,150, whilst the revenue, including assessments, amounted to £1633 in 1882. Pop. of town (1811) 3647, (1831) 5617, (1861) 6404, (1871) 7538, (1881) 9267, of whom 4846 were females; of parish (1871) 8588, (1881) 9201. Houses in town (1881) 1872 inhabited, 121 vacant, 25 building.—Ord. Sur., sh. 30, 1866.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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