Paisley Abbey Archaeological Project


Over two 10-day excavations at Paisley Abbey young people from Glasgow Young Archaeologists Club, Linwood Secondary School and the Kibble Centre became involved in a project run by Renfrewshire Local History Forum (RLHF) and Glasgow University Archaeological Research Division (GUARD) with grants from the Scottish Community Foundation and Renfrewshire Council.

The focus of this excavation was the medieval 14th century monastery drain and the surrounding monastic precinct. Founded in 1163 as a Cluniac Monastery, Paisley Abbey retains its medieval nave with transepts and choir restored in 19th and 20th Centuries. It has Royal Tombs, fine woodcarving and beautiful 19th and 20th century Stained Glass Windows.

The young people had the opportunity to learn from RLHF members and GUARD archaeologists about the history of the abbey and the artefacts and to help with the dig. This allowed them to experience something happening in the real world to which they would normally have no access.

Archaeology, unearthing ancient and interesting artefacts and digging, are things that naturally capture the imagination, as they provide a tangible link with history and are more appealing than book learning. Members and archaeologists were able to share their knowledge, not only on arranged visits, but also with the families who came along on Doors Open Day. Most RLHF members are older adults with little opportunity prior to this project to share their enthusiasm for archaeology and local history with younger people, with the possibility of attracting them to join the group.

Success factors

  • Professional support from GUARD paid for by small grants from the Scottish Community Foundation and Renfrewshire Council.
  • Publicity and the willingness of teachers, carers and workers at Kibble, Linwood School and Glasgow Young Archaeologists to arrange for young people to attend the dig during a busy academic term.
  • Dedication by RLHF members to undertake the excavation and engage with groups and visitors
  • Renfrewshire Council who handled health, safety and legal requirements on council property.

Future archaeological work

During term time it was challenging to arrange agreement with teachers and carers. The team will be more on top of this at the next dig.

“There has been a great deal of partnership working, backing from business and volunteer efforts to take this important archaeological project forward. Some innovative and exciting work has been carried out. Our hope is that one day the drain itself, with its high quality of construction, can become an accessible feature of Renfrewshire’s heritage in its own right.” Renfrewshire’s Provost Celia Lawson