infobox UK place
country = Scotland
official_name= Johnstone
gaelic_name=Baile Eòin
os_grid_reference= NS434628
map_type= Scotland
population= 16,847 [ [ Renfrewshire Community Website - Johnstone ] ]
lieutenancy_scotland= Renfrewshire
post_town= JOHNSTONE
postcode_district = PA5
postcode_area= PA |dial_code= 01505
constituency_westminster= Paisley and Renfrewshire South
constituency_scottish_parliament= West Renfrewshire |constituency_scottish_parliament1= West of Scotland

Johnstone ("Baile Eòin" in Scottish Gaelic) is a town in Renfrewshire and located in the west-central lowlands of Scotland, three miles west of neighbouring Paisley and nine miles west of Glasgow.


Johnstone was built in 1782 to accommodate the thread and Cotton mills of landowner George Houstoun. The town centre was designed on a formal grid pattern with two civic squares, Houstoun Square and Ludovic Square, which have been extensively restored in recent years. Houstoun Square boasts a bandstand.


Planned in the year 1781 by George Houstoun, Laird of Johnstone. It is essentially a product of the first Industrial Revolution. The estate and lands, on which it was built, however, have historical associations that go back for many centuries.

There is no clear record of the origin of the name "Johnstone". It may have developed from John's dwelling or homestead, John having been some feudal lord to whom the land was given by Walter the High Steward of Scotland when he divided out his vast domains in the lands we now call Renfrewshire.

The name Johnstone, appears on one of the earliest maps of Scotland (surveyed by Timothy Pont) which must have been completed about the year 1590. It is written Ihonstoun. In other charts and documents, it is written Johnstown, Johnston, etc. Spelling of place names was not standardised until modern times.

In order to understand the history of the town it must be made clear that the estate and lands of Johnstone lay originally on the left bank of the river Black Cart and are the lands now known as Milliken (in the Parish of Kilbarchan). The estate was a very old one.

Crawford, in his History of Renfrewshire, tells us: "An ancient family of the surname of Wallace did possess these lands for many ages; they descended from the house of Elderslie by Thomas, a younger son of John Wallace of Elderslie, in the reign of Robert III of Scotland. This family obtained the lands of Johnstone by marriage of the heiress, who was of the surname of Nisbet. The family failed in the person of William Wallace of Johnstoun in the reign of Charles I. The lands were then acquired by Ludovic Houstoun of Houston and became the patrimony of George Houstoun his second son." ----

All this is in reference to the estate now called Milliken (reduced in our time to the "White House of Milliken"). On the map already referred to, nothing of Johnstone is shown on the right bank of the river, but a bridge is indicated and this bridge has some significance as we shall see later. Note the many names on the map that are familiar to this day. e.g. Cartsid. Mil of Kart, Quarreltoun. etc. Here we have ample proof that there are few things more abiding in history than place names.

Opposite the House of Johnstone, on the right bank of the river (where the town now stands) lay the lands and Barony of Cochran, owned by the Cochran family (some time Earls of Dundonald) for centuries. The crumbling ruins of their ancient castle were just visible about 1817 and to mark the site, the laird of Johnstone erected a tower in 1896. The tower still stands, in a good state of repair, just off Auchengreoch Road and a little to the west of the new High School at Beith Road. To the east of Cochran Castle lay the lands of Easter Cochran (which included Quarrelton, Greenend, Hag and Nether Cartside). These lands were also possessed by the Cochran family and after passing through several hands, were finally acquired by the Houstoun family.

This transaction made history for Johnstone; indeed it made the history of Johnstone as we know it. In 1733 the Houstouns sold their estate (Johnstone) on the left bank of the river and moved to Easter Cochran. One momentous condition of the sale, however, was that the name Johnstone should be transferred across the river as it were and applied to their new abode, the name Easter Cochran being dropped.

From that date, the name Johnstone was applied to the castle and to the lands on which the town now stands.

The old estate of Johnstone, on the left bank of the river, was sold to a Major Milliken who gave the place his own name of Milliken. There is one other title we must mention, since it has some bearing on our story; that is the name of Napier (there was once a Napier Street in Johnstone which now forms the entrance to the premises of Messrs. Playtex Ltd. (now Strathclyde Chemicals), at the old Johnstone North Station). As previously mentioned Major James Milliken bought the lands of Johnstone from the Houstoun family in 1733. Major Milliken died in 1741 and his eldest daughter (his son having died) married Colonel William Napier of Culreugh in Stirlingshire. This Colonel Napier was a direct descendant of the great John Napier of Merchiston (Edinburgh) the renowned inventor of logarithms, and reckoned to be the greatest mathematician of his age. ----

Colonel Napier was succeeded by his son who had a distinguished military career. He died in 1808 and was succeeded by his only son, William Napier Milliken of Milliken. He afterwards became Lord-Lieutenant of the County of Renfrew.

The names of Wallace, Houstoun, Napier and Milliken representing as they do the feudal lords have left us only their names. Their castles have been swept away. The tower of Johnstone castle still stands (much to the credit of the then, Johnstone Town Council) the last monument of feudalism in our midst. There is some reflected glory, however, in the name of Wallace. Some historians have tended to question the association of Wallace with this neighbourhood. There is ample evidence, however, that the Wallaces were of Elderslie and Johnstone.

Robert Wallace, laird of Ihenstoun, fell at Flodden, and the name Wallace of Johnstone frequently occurs in the Register of the Privy Council (1589-1592). The name occurs also in the records of the Presbytery of Paisley. Sir Peter Houstoun of Houston also fell at Flodden, together with the laird of Barrochan and Lord Semple of Castle Semple, and who knows how many of the lesser, nameless folk, tenants and retainers from the land of Johnstone who followed their lords to that fatal field. ----

Our lands were not in the main stream of Scottish history. Many of the great national events passed us by. They did, however, send ripples into our backwater. After the Reformation, the Church, through its courts exerted a formidable influence in the Scottish way of life. It did not hesitate to interfere in the most intimate affairs of people great and small.

In the year 1605, the Minutes of the Presbytery of Paisley reveal that William Wallace - auld laird of Johnstone - was causing some concern to that watchful and powerful body. He is reported as having: "absented himself from communion in 1605 and again in 1606 he does not frequent the hearing of the word and has doubts regarding ye treuth of God presently presented in Scotland and established by His Majestie's Laws." The Presbytery appointed brethren to confer with him and: "to inform him in ye grounds of true religion."

Many of the older generation were reluctant to abandon the Church of Rome, but the Reformed Church gained complete ascendancy in this district, for we read that in 1670 (during the "Killing Time") "the laird of Johnstone was apprehended and put to great trouble for having his former Minister in his own house and having him preach to his family. He was brought before the Chancellor where it was likely to stand hard with him. With difficulty his family got him liberated, upon his giving a bond of 5,000 merks and to compere when called."

During the abortive rising and defeat of the Covenanters at Rullion Green in 1666, the Presbytery of Paisley were ordered to find and report all rebels within their bounds. Only one name was submitted William Porterfield of Quarrelton, but as William had already made good his escape, it looks as if the Presbytery had turned the Nelson eye on the order.

The Houstouns were rigid Presbyterians; so were the Cochrans. But we read of one black sheep of the former family getting himself into trouble at Glasgow University for making a public oration to the students, which outraged the Principal and the professors and "struck at the very mysteries of our religion and was for the encouragement of vice"; how modern it all sounds. Houstoun was only saved from expulsion by the influence of the Rector, Lord Pollock who declared that his parents were good Presbyterians and brought up their children in the fear of the Lord.

This youth, later Doctor James Houstoun, M.D., was a 'character' and a playboy too. He wrote his autobiography and had it published in London in 1753. He tells us that his father was George Houstoun of Johnstone and that he was the youngest of fifteen children. He was a pupil of Paisley Grammar School about 1695 studied at the Universities of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Leyden and finally Paris. He was appointed Surgeon-General to the Forces in the 1715 rebellion. Later he was employed as Physician and Surgeon-General to the Royal African Company and blithely tells us that he examined negro slaves for the 'export' trade in 1724. His book is a lively commentary on the social life of his time. If it was not a 'best seller' it deserved to be. Unfortunately he tells us too little of his native Johnstone.

Feudal rule was not without its critics. We read in the Judicial Records of Renfrewshire that one "William Wodrow, miller in Johnstone in the year 1720 having shaken off all fear of God and regard for the Law did within the half-year thigg many curses and imprecations upon the family of Houstoun saying God's curse light upon the said family God damn all the generation of them, with many other such like unchristian and unwarrantable expressions." No doubt the miller had some justification for his wrath, but it is not stated. But doubtless if he had encountered Dr. Houstoun, M.D., the latter could have matched him in vituperation.

Records of the past are scanty; imagination must fill the gaps. We are certain of some things and may reasonably speculate on others. Roman soldiers saw Ben Lomond just as we see it today and no doubt cursed the British weather as they marched up to the fort at Bishopton. Did Wallace fish in the Cart as tradition has it? Edward l's men burned Paisley Abbey in 1307. Was the reek from it visible at Johnstone?

Prince Charlie marched through Glasgow in 1745. We are told that farmers hereabout hid their horses in Linwood Moss, at the news of his approach. They had good reason, for Charlie's men we know plundered Blackstone House, not two miles away. The reason being that Captain Napier of Blackstone commanded the local militia that opposed the Prince. Before we leave the feudal past and cross the threshold of modern times let us look at "the land on which we stand" as it must have appeared to our forefathers, before a sod was cut on the site of Johnstone.

Down by the bridge that spanned the dark waters of the Black Cart you would look up a narrow vale of extraordinary natural beauty, a vale of wooded slopes and flowery banks, the curving river tumbling and spreading over shallow falls as it descended from Hag Bank and sweeping gracefully over the flats of Mill of Cart. The banks on the south rise steeply to an undulating plateau of good dry land which is now Houstoun Square. Think away all buildings and you would have a significant view of both Highland and Lowland scenery. To the north: Ben Lomond and the Kilpatrick Hills. To the west: the heights of Renfrewshire rising gently to Misty Law. To the south: the Braes of Gleniffer all around vistas of natural beauty. Of course there was bog and marsh moor and fen, but it was on the plateau of 'good dry land" that the town was built.


Quarrying and mining must have been among the early industries in the district. The original plan of the town shows whin and freestone quarries in existence in 1782. These were located near what is now Quarry Street and the area behind the High Church was once known as Quarry Park.

Coal had been mined in the Quarrelton and Auchenlodment areas for centuries; written records date as far back as 1634. Bv modern standards however the workings were primitive and not very extensive. A report about 1790 mentions 30 pickmen and 12 horses below ground, an annual output of 20,000 tons and the coal raised by a horse gin worked above around. Moreover, there are no great "bings' as we see in milling areas proper, though there is pit spill in several parts of the castle policies. The coal would be used for domestic purposes and for the burning of lime. There was at one time a row of very old houses called the 'old kilns' situated between Thornside Road and Miller Street.

The 'coal road' shown on the original plan of the town seems to wend its way from Quarrelton to the bridge, indicating that much of the coal passed that way.

The accompanying sketch map shows the outcrop of the Quarrelton coal. In the vicinity of Johnstone Castle, the seam is 40 to 50 ft. thick and reaches the astonishing thickness of 100 ft. constituting perhaps the thickest accumulation of coal in Britain. (H.M. Geological Survey.) The last considerable working took place at Benson pit which closed down in 1860 after serious flooding of the workings. Mining operations in these parts were always difficult and dangerous due to flooding, and the liability to spontaneous combustion. Some of the shafts were known as 'in-gone-ees'; that is, inclined opening sloping down to the 'face'. We hear of visitors 'walking' down to inspect the mine.

The coal was of a mediocre quality. Since 1860 several attempts were made to work the coal. The National Coal Board even had a look at the area, but decided, that in spite of the great thickness of the seam, the development would not be a profitable proposition.



Johnstone is served by Glasgow International Airport, which is located to 2 miles northeast of the town.


A dual carriageway, the A737 connects Johnstone to the M8 motorway to provide car transport links to central Scotland.


Johnstone is linked to Glasgow Central, Paisley and the Ayrshire coast by the Johnstone railway station which is located at the east of the town on Thorn Brea. A second unmanned station Milliken Park railway station lies at the west end of the town.


Johnstone is served by strong bus routes, generally travelling from Johnstone town centre to Glasgow city centre and other outlying towns.


In 1950 St. David's Primary School was built along with its sister school Cochrane Castle Primary School. In 2007 the two schools will be joined to form a new primary school just outside Thomas Shanks Public Park. Embedded within Cochrane Castle is the Cochrane Castle Golf Club, where Sam Torrance, a Scottish golfer who was one of the leading players on the European Tour from the mid 1970s to the late 1990s and was the winning non-playing captain of the European Ryder Cup team in 2002, was once a frequent visitor as a small boy.

[ Johnstone High School] opened on its present site in March 1965, the previous building having burnt down in 1960. Where the old school stood in Ludovic Square there is now a modern health centre.

In 1967 [ St. Cuthbert's High School] was built and established. The school closed at the end of the summer term 2006 to join with St. Brendan's High School to form a bigger Catholic school nearer to Linwood, called [ St. Benedict's High School] , after the patron saint of Europe Benedict of Nursia. The old St. Cuthbert's building is currently being used by [ Johnstone High School] while their own premises are being refurbished.

Notable sites and events

The original building i.e. fortalice dates back to 16th/17th century. This came about sometime after the Battle of Flodden 1513 when Scotland was defeated. King James IV of Scotland, together with many nobles and subjects were slaughtered. This meant that many homes in Scotland became derelict for some time. Later in the reign of James VI, which was during the Reformation, it was decided to distribute the land among more people, as large territories owned by one family, or by the Church, could prove a threat to the monarchy. A condition of distribution was that a 'fortalice' be erected by the owners as a safeguard against feuds etc.

Passing down in time Sir Ludovic Houstoun moved from his home in Houstoun to land known as Johnstone, which previously belonged to William Wallace, at the same time acquiring Easter Cochrane. This took place around 1645. That part known as Easter Cochrane was later acquired by George Houstoun, grandson of Sir Ludovic Houstoun, with the understanding that it would now be known as Johnstone. This is where Johnstone Castle stands today.

In 1771 and 1812 George Houstoun, the fourth laird of Johnstone Castle, had it extended in castellated design. James Gillespie Graham, born 1776, was the architect involved with the second part of this building alteration. This laird was most enterprising. He was responsible for feuing off land, developing coal mining in the area and making Johnstone a prosperous community to belong to. Johnstone, in fact, became a Burgh in 1857.

Johnstone Castle appears to have been at its best in the 19th century. Frederick Chopin, the famous composer, was a guest of the Houstoun family in September 1848, at this time having been in concert in Glasgow. He was known to the family having tutored the wife of the then fifth laird, Ludovic Houstoun, in Paris. There was a rumoured romance between Chopin and Jane Stirling sister-in-law of Ludovic, and he had apparently dedicated some compositions to her. Sadly, Chopin did not enjoy good health and died in Paris a few months after his visit to Johnstone. He obviously meant much to Jane Stirling as she and her sister Katherine Erskine helped defray the funeral expenses incurred. The castle impressed the composer who described it as one of his favourite places in Scotland.

The last laird to stay in Johnstone Castle was George Ludovic Houstoun who retired to Cyprus, where he died on 3 September 1931. Lady May, widow of Sir Edward May, was the last private owner of the castle, which she rented out, one of her tenants being the Watson family of the Paper Mill in Linwood. During the 2nd World War the castle was taken over by the War Office and a prisoner-of-war camp was set up in the grounds.

During the war years there were Polish servicemen billeted in Johnstone. One of these servicemen died and was buried in the Rannoch Woods close by the castle, but because of overgrown bushes and vegetation the grave is no longer visible.

There is a ghostly tale of the Polish composer's music being heard in September moonlit evenings, drifting from the castle to the nearby Rannoch woods, where the Polish serviceman lies in the now secret grave.

After the Second World War, Lady May sold the castle and land to the Johnstone Town Council. They acquired it for the building of houses to help with the Glasgow overspill. The castle by this time was in a derelict state, declared unsafe and demolition was started. Thanks to the intervention of Major David Somervell, first cousin to the last laird, what remains of the castle was saved from the hammer.Major Somervell now lives in the Montrose region.

The Cochrane family bought Johnstone’s other castle, originally a manor house called Lyncliff Castle, and around 1592 they added a tower to it. Subsequently it became Cochrane Castle. One famous member of the family was Sir John Cochrane, the Covenanters’ leader.

Cochrane Castle was demolished in the late 18th century but the last laird of Johnstone, George Ludovic Houston, erected Cochrane Tower where it once stood. Cochrane Castle has given its name to a local primary school (see above), another housing scheme and a golf course.

The stately home of the Weavers cottage can also be found in Kilbarchan, Johnstone.

Johnstone lies on the Black Cart Water a tributary of the River Clyde. Industry in the town was once based on three ‘M’s: Mining, Mills and Machine tools. The first Laird of Johnstone, George Houstoun brought James Watt to the town to test an air pump which was used to pump the combustible gases from the Quarrelton coal mine.

The Benston mine disaster of 1860 marked the beginning of the end of mining in Johnstone. However some attribute the early flowering of daffodils in the area to the heat of still-smouldering underground fires! There are still several mine shaft openings throughout the wooded area behind Johnstone and Howwood that remain uncovered, which is the basis of the nickname "the ghosties" for the small forest.

Famous inhabitants

* James Braidwood - Engineer and industrialist; namesake of Braidwood, Illinois in the United States.
* Sir George Reid - former Prime Minister of Australia, Premier of New South Wales, Australian High Commissioner to the UK and Unionist Member of Parliament in the UK.
* Gordon Ramsay - world-famous chef and television personality, was born in Johnstone but raised in Stratford-upon-Avon from age 10.


Location grid

External links

* [ Johnstone Town (Community Website)]

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