Ancestry UK

Abbey, Paisley, Renfrewshire

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In 1849-50, the Parish of Abbey, at the southern side of Paisley, erected a poorhouse at the south side of what is now Craw Road. The buildings, constructed in stone in an Elizabethan style, comprised an entrance block fronting onto the road at the north, behind which stood the main building which had a double-courtyard plan. The location and layout of the poorhouse are shown on the 1897 map below.

Abbey workhouse site, 1897.

In 1879, Mr M'Neil, a Visiting Officer from the Board of Supervision, reported that:

In the poorhouse and parish of Abbey also an example — perhaps the most striking in Scotland — may be found of an adequate test reasonably employed: in the poorhouse no male inmate is idle if he be fit for any class of labour; he either scrubs his own floor, is engaged in the fire-lighter factory, makes mats, teases a task of oakum, or breaks a fixed quantity of road metal; he is not allowed to smoke during the working hours, and he is limited to the prescribed diet. The result is very apparent and must be satisfactory to the parochial Board for, while pauperism of the adjacent Parish (Paisley) has steadily increased during the past winter notwithstanding a free use of indoor relief, that of Abbey has declined...

From 1895, the Abbey poorhouse took on the role of poorhouse for the whole of Paisley and became known as the Paisley poorhouse.

A 110-bed hospital was added at the east of the site in 1890, and an infirm section in 1912.

Abbey poorhouse from the north-west.
© unknown.

During the First World War, the site was used as a War Hospital.

In 1921, the poorhouse could accommodate 650 inmates.

In the 1930s and 1940s, the establishment continued to operate as a Poor Law Institution providing care for the chronic sick. After 1948, it became an annexe to the Royal Alexandra Infirmary.

The former Abbey poorhouse buildings no longer exist and the site is now occupied by a housing development.

Demolition of former Abbey poorhouse from the north-west.
© unknown.

Demolition of former Abbey poorhouse from the north-east.
© unknown.

In 1857, a Parochial Lunatic Asylum was erected on an adjacent site to the west of the poorhouse.




Note: many repositories impose a closure period of up to 100 years for records identifying individuals. Before travelling a long distance, always check that the records you want to consult will be available.

  • Heritage Centre, Paisley Central Library, High Street, Paisley PA1 2BA. Most poor law records are surname indexed.


  • Government and Social Conditions in Scotland 1845-1919 by Ian Levitt (1988, Scottish History Society)


  • None.

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