Industry in Barrhead

Barrhead is essentially a creation of the industrial age, which began to gather force about the middle of the 18th century. An old map of the district, published in 1654 gives a few names of the oldest of our place names – Arthurlie, Chappell, Raiss, Dubs, Fernun (for Fereneze) etc. There is no mention of Barrhead itself. It was not until about 1750 that the first house called ‘Barrhead’ was erected, but by that time one or two small villages – Dealstone, Dovecothall, etc were already in existence. 

Apart from those who were employed on the land most of the inhabitants were weavers; and Semple, the historian of Renfrewshire, writing about 1780 says that ‘in Newton Ralston, Barrhead, Dovecothall and Grahamston, there are about 70 houses containing near 130 weavers’ looms, all the four places lying contiguous to one another and having the rivulet Levarn running through between them.’ With the discovery that the Levern was singularly free from moss and peaty matter, and was therefore excellently suited to the then new process of bleaching, Barrhead and its neighbour villages got rid of the handlooms and found work in the bleachworks which were speedily established at every vantage point on the Levern. 

Cotton Spinning and weaving, calico printing, etc followed and in a short time the small villiage of Barrhead became a thriving town; and Dealstone, Dovecothall, Newton Ralston and Grahamston ceased to be separate entities and were merged in the life of the central member of the group. The carrier’s cart and the mail coach continued for long to be the connecting links with the town’s larger neighbours – Glasgow, Paisley, Kilmarnock, etc – but about 1854 a new service was opened by the laying down of the Glasgow, Barrhead and Kilmarnock Joint Railway now merged in the nation wide service of the L.M.S.

The advance of what is called ‘rationalization’ in industry, and the discovery of other and more rapid mechanical methods, gradually deprived Barrhead of its original industries, but others followed and filled up the gap – Engineering, Sanitary Pottery, Sanitary Engineering, Coppersmith Works, Copper and Brass Tube Works, Skin and Hides and Fell-mongering, Hosiery, Laundries, etc.

This variety of industry of the town’s contiguity to the shipbuilding area of Glasgow and to the Lanarkshire coalfields has undoubtedly strengthened its position as a business centre. The same influences tend to give it a residential character, many of those whose business interests are in the city finding it convenient to have their homes in the pleasant surroundings of Barrhead, which are at the same time so accessible for their business activities.

Taken from ‘Burgh of Barrhead Official Guide’ c1938.