Kilbarchan - history and heritage

Kilbarchan location map

Kilbarchan is located approximately 6 miles west of Paisley.

Church Street 1910

Early history

People have lived in the Kilbarchan area from earliest times. Evidence exists of early settlements from the stone and bronze ages, and traces of a Roman fort have also been found.

The huge and ancient Clochoderick Stone which sits in a field south west of Kilbarchan is even older, and is believed by some to have been used in religious ceremonies by Druids, while others believe it may have been the burial place of an early king of Strathclyde.

Clochoderick Stone

Kilbarchan village grew up round the church of St Catherine. The church was rebuilt in 1725, and the Steeple Building was built in 1755. The small population expanded rapidly in the 18th century with the growth of the weaving industry.

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Weaving History

Weaving was the dominant industry in Kilbarchan for about 200 years. In 1695 there were thirty or forty weavers, but the industry grew to include hundreds of weavers. They worked on hand-looms in their own homes or in sheds behind their houses producing fine materials such as gauze, muslin and lawn. By the middle of the 19th century there were about 900 hand-looms in Kilbarchan.

Hand Loom Weaving c1920

The development of power-looms reduced the production costs of materials previously hand-woven. The Kilbarchan weavers looked for alternatives, and turned to the production of tartans. In spite of their efforts, they struggled to compete with the factory based power-looms in nearby towns and by 1900 only 200 looms remained in Kilbarchan. Gradually all hand-loom weaving ceased.

An original Kilbarchan weaver's cottage from the 18th century has been preserved as a museum. It is furnished in period style, complete with weaving looms. For more information, including opening times, visit the website

 The National Trust for Scotland

 Weaver's cottage

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Habbie Simpson 

Habbie Simpson was the town piper in Kilbarchan at the end of the 16th century. He was a well-known character and stories about him have been told throughout the years. In 1822 a wooden statue of him was placed in
a niche of the Steeple Building in Kilbarchan; this was replaced with a bronze statue in 1932. This statue is a local landmark, and to this day Kilbarchan people are still called 'Habbies'.

Habbie Statue

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Lilias Day

Lilias Day is a Kilbarchan festival said to be named after Lilias Cuninghame, daughter of an 18th century laird. In the past, Lilias Day was celebrated with a cattle market and races, and then with a procession of men from different trades banging drums and waving flags. The Lilias Day tradition died out at the end of the 19th century, but has been restored in recent years. Nowadays there is a fancy dress parade which includes a Festival Queen and her maids.

Lilias Day 1970

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Contact us

  • e-mail:
  • phone: 0300 300 1188
  • fax: 0141 618 5351
  • write to: Paisley Central Library, Heritage Centre, 68 High Street, Paisley, PA1 2BB



Monday, November 24, 2014