Stow’s relationship with Paisley

After the bankruptcy of Fenwick Stow  William Fenwick Stow, Stow’s father, the family moved to Scotland. He was baptised on 7th October 1753 in Berwick-upon-Tweed.  When he was 16 he was apprenticed to Mark Patterson on 27th September, 1770. The ‘Book of Enrolments’[footnote]Berwick-upon-Tweed Book of Enrolments, op cit.[/footnote]records that he was the son of ‘ffenwick Stow’.  He is mentioned in the Guild Rolls of Berwick-upon-Tweed, 1774-1775, where he is described as a merchant, as the eldest son of Fenwick Stow. However, by the time he became a Freeman of the Burgh, on 28th June, 1779 at the age of 25, he is described as a ‘Merchant in Paisley’. This is one year after Melkington was sold (1768) when the bankruptcy order was finally concluded. By that time William is recorded as the eldest son and had to leave England for legal reasons.

Paisley seems an odd choice for an Englishman, despite the eulogies of those such as William Fraser, Stow’s first biographer, who lived there. In 1868, a reviewer in the Paisley and Renfrewshire Gazette (based on the biography of Stow by William Fraser) describes Paisley at the time of William’s move:

‘From the middle till the close of last century Paisley was unrivalled among Scottish towns in taste, in thoughtfulness, and in the consistent observances of Christian life. Beautifully trimmed gardens, spreading closely over the healthful space which then lay behind almost every street, had long been the uncovered evening homes of the working population, in which was sustained a graceful rivalry in the culture of plants and flowers. The river, which divides the town, was not then polluted by the refuse of public works, nor the atmosphere by their smoke; and amid the quiet competitions of commerce, the intellectual, social, and moral life of the community was vigorous and comparatively untainted. In every home, through every street, might be heard, morning and evening, the voice of praise and prayer. An impressive Sabbath stillness marked the commencement and the close of each day; and so deep was the religious repose of the place, that Rowland Hill delighted to describe it as the “Paradise of Scotland”’.

The manufacturers of Paisley, during the greater part of the eighteenth century held a high place in the commercial world. In silk gauze, lawn, linen gauze, shawls and thread, their markets were, for many years, pre-eminently attractive. The workmen were held in high repute for sobriety, intelligence and taste. English capitalists opened branch establishments in the town, and appointed partners or sons for their management.’[footnote]Renfrewshire and Paisley Gazette, 1868.[/footnote]

William ordered machinery from McConnel & Kennedy, and McConnel & Co., Manchester. James McConnel and John Kennedy were ‘two Scots who travelled south in the 1780’s to become apprentices in the Lancashire cotton industry where they made their fortunes. Maybe William hoped to do likewise. However, the Monumental Inscriptions of Paisley High Kirkyard record the plot and death of a Thomas Grieve and children, 19th February, 1813.[footnote]Mitchell, J.F. and S., Eds., Renfrewshire Monumental Inscriptions pre-1855, Vol. 2. (Paisley Public Library)[/footnote]

Since the Grieve family was eminent in Berwick-upon-Tweed, William may simply have moved to Paisley to be near an old friend.

Date Manufacturing
1731 Linen gauze
1760 Silk weaving introduced
1778 3,600 looms in silk manufacture
1,360 looms in the manufacture of cambrics. Lawns and other linen goods
1802 Making of the Paisley shawl commenced
1818 Depression from foreign competition and the growth of the cotton industry

The population of Paisley grew dramatically through the 1700s. During the century muslin and silk gauze manufacturing grew in importance, and by its end cotton was replacing flax. In the early 1800s cotton thread manufacture became the biggest game in town, though not before Paisley’s ability to use patterns originating in India to produce fine shawls made Paisley better known worldwide as a type of patterned cloth than as the place in which it was produced.

The family home

The ‘New Chart of the Streets of Paisley, 1810, shows the quarters of the town as divided by the River Cart and by the line of streets from East to West Toll Bars. The South West Division runs from South Side of High Street to Canal Street. Stow Place is shown as running from South Side Canal Street to Stow Street. This means that both Stow Place and Stow Street existed long before the William Stow moved there in 1827. Almost certainly, therefore, the streets were named after Stow the Councillor rather than Stow the owner.

Date Business address Home address Other residents:
1783 (earliest Glasgow/Paisley) Not mentioned
1810 William Stow, Cotton yarn merchant, Causeyside

William Stow, Thread manufacturers, Causeyside

1812-1813 William Stow, Thread manufacturer: Causeyside Street and lodging the same
1820-21 Stow, William, Cotton yarn warehouse, 175 Causeyside Thread warehouse and house, 125, Causeyside
1823 William Stow and Co. Cotton yarn merchants, 165 Causeyside Street 125 Causeyside Street
1827 William Stow Stow Place Stow Place:
Mrs Bell
John Campbell
William Hill
William Blair
Thomas Cook
William Morton

Stow Street
Thomas Gilmore
James Lawson
James Hamilton

1828 William Stow Stow Place
1829-30 William Stow Stow Place
1831-32 William Stow Stow Place

William followed in the family footsteps and became a member of Paisley Town Council, being elected a Baillie by the Council on six occasions between 1793 and 1807. In both 1806 and 1807 he was elected first or chief Baillie, then the leading office on the Council, the office of Provost not being established in Paisley until 1812.  He served on the ‘Allocation of Statute labour Committee (1810).[footnote]Paisley and Renfrew Advertiser 10th September 1831.[/footnote]The Stow family were closely associated with the Paisley Sabbath and Weekday Evening School Society. William Stow was President of the Society in 1803 and 1817.

 John Stow (Stow’s eldest brother) was born/baptised 7th May 1786 in Paisley. He became a Freeman of the Burgh of Berwick on August 5th 1817, where he is described as the eldest son of William. He, too, was a manufacturer and merchant. The Paisley and District Trade Directories give:

Date Business address Home address Other residents
1810 John Stow and Co. Thread manufacturers, Causeyside
1812-1813 Stow, John and Co, Manufacturers, foot of Causeyside Street
1820-1821 John Stow and Co, Manufacturers175, Causeyside (no street)
1823 Stow, John and Co, Manufacturers, 165 Causeyside Street
1827 Stow, John and Co. Manufacturers, 175 Causeyside Street
1828 John Stow and Co. Manufacturers

175, Causeyside

1829-30 John Stow, 175 Causeyside Street
1831-32 John Stow and Co. Manufacturer, 175 Causeyside Street
1832-33 John Stow and Co. manufacturers, 175 Causeyside Street Stow Place Stow Place
Alex. Law
John Roberton

Stow Street
James Hamilton

1834-5 John Stow, Manufacturer, 5, Stow Place


Stow Place
Rev James Begg
John Crawfurd
John Lawson
Robert Leslie
Miss Barbara Sproul

Stow Street
William Hattrick
Peter Halls

John was a Sabbath School leader in Brown’s Lane School which had a roll of 60 and met at 4.00pm.[footnote]McKechin, William J. (2000) Schools in Paisley before 1872. Paisley, University of Paisley.[/footnote] He was also the Treasurer of the Paisley Sabbath and Weekday Evening School Society. This Society managed 36 Sabbath Schools, two of which were Gaelic schools, with 1,745 children enrolled, and three week-day schools with a total of 136 children, 120 young men and 365 young women.[footnote]Paisley Trades Directory, 1820-21.[/footnote]In 1828 he was Treasurer of the Paisley Infant School Society, Instituted June 16th, 1828.[footnote]Paisley Trades Directory, 1828.[/footnote]

The progress of this school is recorded in the First Report of the Glasgow Infant School Society:[footnote]GISS first report, page 26.[/footnote]

“The Committee have received the following account of the School at Paisley, by the kindness of the Rev Mr McNair, of the Abbey Church, Secretary of the Infant School Society.

The Paisley Infant School was opened on 7 July last, with upwards of 100 scholars. Since that time the number has varied. During part of the winter season, not more than 60 attended. At present there are about one hundred and ten scholars. When the school was opened, each pupil brought with him a penny a week, which was paid on the Mondays. The fee has, however, since October, been two-pence per week, without any diminution in the number of the scholars. The Teacher is Mr Wright, who, since his appointment, has given great satisfaction to see Committee of Managers. The success which has attended the Institution hitherto has been very encouraging; and, it is hoped, that the liberality of the public will be such as will enable the Committee to continue their exertions, still the school be in a condition to support itself.”

 The GISS report continues with ‘Extracts from the Report of the Paisley Infant School Society’:

 “The Committee cannot help stating their happiness in perceiving, from the recorded opinion of visitors, a diminution of those prejudices which at first existed against the system of Infant School instruction. Even Teachers have, in many instances, recorded their high approbation of it. They probably at one time thought it might tend to diminish the numbers attending schools the general education. But they now seem to find it has rather a contrary effect. While pupils are admitted from the time they are capable of running about till five years of age, and to leave the school at six, they have generally, by that time, got so much knowledge as excites in their parents a desire immediately to continue their education, lest they lose what they have bought; and even the little children themselves, accustomed to school, and become fond of it, sometimes give no rest to their parents till they are induced to send them some seminary for farther instruction. At all events, it is most gratifying to the Committee to find Teachers coming forward and bearing honourable testimony in favour of the utility of this institution; and expressing their wish, that all their pupils had passed through the hands of your Teacher, — they find those from the Infant School so much better behaved, and so much more tractable, than others. — the following, among many, is the testimony of a Teacher — “I this  day visited the Infant School, and I heartily confess that I was gratified beyond my expectations, prior to my witnessing the different performances which the children exhibited. And I approve of the mode in which they are taught.”[footnote]GISS first report, page 26.[/footnote]

The Infant Schools, however, did not survive the initial burst of enthusiasm. In 1845 Stow wrote: ‘We may state that in the neighbouring town of Paisley, containing five training schools — one Initiatory and four Juvenile, they shared the same fate, and from similar causes.’[footnote]Stow. (1845) The Training System, op cit, 6th ed. pps. 403 -405.[/footnote]

By 1810 John was an elected Manager of the Dispensary and House of Recovery at 10 Bridge Street. Lorrain Wilson of Ferguslie House, his father-in-law, was a subscribing manager. John was also a Director of the Town Hospital (or Workhouse)[footnote]Paisley and District Trades Directory, 1820-21.[/footnote]and the President of the Paisley Society against Frauds.[footnote]Op cit.[/footnote]He was the Secretary of the Paisley Society for the Reformation of Manners, instituted on 26th December, 1757. The object of the Society was ‘to provide the observance of good morals and to counteract the progression of immorality. Its funds are employed, when necessary, in restraining and prosecuting the vicious and especially in bringing to justice the occupiers of irregular houses, thieves, resetters etc. The sum of £500 was lately given by this Society towards the erection of a Bridewell. The payment of seven shillings and sixpence, at entry, constitutes a member of the Society’.[footnote]Op cit.[/footnote]He was on the Committee of Directors of the Paisley and Renfrewshire Bible Society. John was elected a Councillor in Paisley on 11th October 1828; and a Baillie two years later on 9th October 1830.[footnote]Index to the Paisley and Renfrew Advertiser 1824-50.[/footnote]He died on the 17th December 1837, at the age of 51, leaving a will. Among the bequests are:
£100 to the ‘House of Recovery”
£100 to the Youth Church
£100 to the Parochial Sabbath School Society, addressed thus ‘to the heirs of John Stow’

There is currently no record of John marrying or of any children and the wording of the bequest to the Sabbath school Society suggests that he regarded the Sabbath School pupils as ‘his’ children.

Elizabeth Stow (William’s fourth child) was born 24th March 1791. It was Elizabeth Stow who gifted the school in Stow Street which is mentioned on the plaque which marks the site of Stow’s birth. She appears to have lived all her adult life at 5, Stow Place along with Mary, Margaret and Margery. They owned the house they lived in together and the house next door which was rented out furnished.[[footnote]Margaret Stow’s will dated 1842.[/footnote]Their successive wills ensured that the remaining sisters had the life-rent of the properties. Margaret left £19.19.00 to each of the following:
Paisley Female Benevolent Society
Paisley Tract Society
Scottish Missionary Society
Paisley Educational Society
The General Assembly Church Extension Fund