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Mediaeval Roads: Evidence from Charters
The maps below are based on the 1925 OS one-inch map for Glasgow. With thanks to Ordnance Survey

Paisley Abbey was founded by Walter, son of Alan the Steward in the 1160's and settled by Cluniac monks from Shropshire. It received many generous gifts of land, mostly in present day Renfrewshire but also some in Dunbartonshire, Ayrshire and the Highlands. These are all recorded in its Chartulary.

Several of the charters in the Chartulary refer to roads in Renfrewshire. These are in Neilston, Paisley itself, Lochwinnoch, Kilbarchan and Mearns parishes. Although these are specific references to highways and bridges, it is clear from the Chartulary and the Rental Book that there would have been numerous tracks all over the district as many of the possessions were rented to individuals who had the duty of delivering produce to the abbey or to the abbey's granges.


Neilston/Paisley parishes
In a charter of 1294, James, the fifth Steward, confirmed the gifts made by his ancestors and added some of his own. The abbey was given extensive rights to quarry building stone and limestone for burning at Blackhall and elsewhere in the barony of Renfrew, to dig coal, to prepare charcoal, and to cut green wood and gather dead wood as fuel except in his parks and preserved forest. They were allowed to transport these through the forest by wains, wagons, oxen or horse but not through his manors, orchards, gardens, cornfields or preserved forest - this last was a hunting reserve.

The boundaries of this preserved forest are given in the charter: "as the Ruttanburn falls into the Laverne, and ascending by the water of Laverne to the Blackburn, and by the Blackburn ascending to a certain ditch between Lochleboside and the Cockplays, and by that ditch going up to the loch of Lochlebo, and by the said loch westward to the marches of Caldwell, and by the marches of Caldwell northward, ascending by a certain ditch on the west of Carmelcolme between the Langesawe and Dungelsmore, and from that ditch across the moss to the head of the Altpatrick, and descending that stream to the march of Stanely, descending between Stanely and Cokplyss to the Ruttanburn, and so on by the Ruttanburn descending to Laverne." (translation from OPS)

To ensure that the preserved forest was as little disturbed as possible, routes by which the monks and their men had to pass were specified. These were: "the roads of Arlaw, Conwarran, the Rass, Stokbryg, and the customary tracks of the husbandmen." They were allowed to have swords and bows, as well as dogs but had to unstring the bows and have the dogs on leash when they passed through the forest.

They could hunt and hawk on their own lands and fish in the forest streams and in Kert-Paisley and Kert-Lochwinnoch below the yare (weir) of Achendonnan but the Steward retained the rights of birds of game.

Registrum de Passelet, pages 92-96
A History of Paisley, 600-1908 (1909), William Musham Metcalfe page 42
The Abbey of Paisley from its Foundation to Its Dissolution, J Cameron Lees, Paisley 1878, page 79
Origines Parochiales Scotiae, Vol I, page 71

Click for larger mapAt first glance this charter seems very promising. However, on closer reading it will be seen that although the abbey had the right to move freely throughout part of the forest (a term used to denote an area set aside for hunting rather than a "forested area), the routes are not specified.

Nor is it easy to identify the named roads of Arlaw, Conwarren, the Rass and Stokbryg. The Dictionary of the Scots Language gives the meaning of warren as a place reserved for the hunting of game or rabbits and con as a squirrel but this does not help identify the place. Stokbryg implies a crude wooden bridge of stakes or poles (DSL) but again is of little help. The Rass, however, was the hunting lodge of the Stewarts and situated in present-day Barrhead (NMRS record). Although the tower was built in the mid-1400's we would have to assume that a hunting lodge in some form existed here at the time of the charter. Arlaw does not appear on early maps although there is a Harelaw about a mile north of Barrhead on the Paisley road. Blackhall is south-east of Paisley about one mile from the abbey.

Based on this rather poor evidence one could surmise that the approaches to the preserved forest skirted the base of the Ferenze Hills and were in the general area of Barrhead.

In a charter of 1490 (relating to the foundation of the burgh of Paisley) reference is made to "Beginning at the end of the Bridge of Paisley, upon the water of Kert, and extending by the King's highway towards the west to the vennel opposite to the Welmedow, and from thence equally ascending towards the north by the dyke of the lands of Oxschawside to the wood of Oxschawe, betwixt the said wood, as also the passage to the common of the said burgh, and the broom dyke which extends by the lands of Snawdon, from the common of the said burgh to the water of Kert on the north, and the said water of Kert............Further, we give and grant to the said provost, bailies, burgesses, and community of the said burgh, a common passage of the breadth of twelve ells on the north side of Saint Ninian's Cross, extending from the said part of the foresaid common lands even to the other part thereof...."

Registrum de Passelet, page 265
The Abbey of Paisley from its Foundation to Its Dissolution, J Cameron Lees, Paisley 1878, page 155 ff
A History of Paisley, 600-1908 (1909), William Musham Metcalfe, page 100 ff
The History of Paisley from the Roman Period Down to 1884 (1886), Robert Brown - contains a map of Paisley at the time of the charter.

All these places can be seen on the map included in Brown's History of Paisley. All are in central Paisley and the King's highway is now the High Street. A road from Glasgow is shown on Blaeu in 1654 but not on Pont's manuscript map of the 1590's although the road of the charter could have been that coming from Glasgow.

The bridge at Brigend (in Lochwinnoch) over the Calder is said to have been mentioned in the Rental Book in 1525 (NMRS record), although at the present day it is much altered.

Despite its early existence (it is also shown on Pont's manuscript map of the 1590's) it is not clear who built it and for what purpose. It is certainly tempting to assume it was built by the Abbey as they had the lands between the Maich and the Calder but more definite evidence would be needed. Pont shows another bridge downstream, nearer to Lochwinnoch. An interesting question is if Bridgend Bridge was connected with the route that must have passed through here to Maich, one of the toll points designated in the charter for Ayr.

In 1177, a Henry of St Martin gave some land in what is now Kilbarchan parish to Paisley Abbey. In the charter there is mention of a road to a place called Penuld. MacKenzie ( Kilbarchan: A Parish History, page 32) gives a translation which reads: "Beginning at the Water of Grif and following the stream which is called Lochoc as far as the rill which falls into that stream, and along the said rill southwards between two hills as far as the main road which goes to Penuld, and from that main road in a straight line along the side of the great rising ground called Bar-penald, towards the site of a certain ancient chapel, as far as the adjacent burn, and along it until it falls into the Kert, and along the water of Kert until it meets the water of Grif, and along the water of Grif as far as the aforesaid river called Lochoc."

" Incipiendo scilicet ab aqua de Grif et ascendendo per rivulum qui vocatur Lochoc usque ad parvum torrentem qui cadit in rivulum eundem, et sic per dictum torrentem versus austrum inter duos colles usque ad magnam viam per quam itur apud Penuld, et ab illa magna via in longum, per latus illius magni collis qui vocatur Barpennald, prope situm cujusdam antique capelle, usque ad torrentem propinquiorem qui cadit in aquam Kert, et per aquam de Kert usque in aquam de Grif, et per aquam de Grif usque ad predicte rivulum de Lochoc."

Registrum de Passelet, page 48,49; see also Kilbarchan: A Parish History, Robert Dunbar MacKenzie

The Lochar can be seen leaving the Gryfe near to Knowes as can the rill running southwards just east of West Fulton. This is where the two hills are and MacKenzie has the interesting observation that the placename here of "Tween the Hills" (also Tween Two Hills) may be a direct reference to the "inter duos colles" of the charter (MacKenzie, page 250). Bar-penuld can only be Barr Hill just east of Kilbarchan - the burn referred to can be seen south of Barr Hill where it joins the Cart.

Penuld was about one mile north of present day Kilbarchan near the Lochar water. The context in which the road is mentioned indicates that it must have had much the line (if not the same) as the present day road running through Kilbarchan towards Bridge of Weir.

Strictly speaking the charter reference is only to a couple of miles of road from just south-east of Kilbarchan to Penult (present-day Penwold) but it is certainly possible that on the south-east stretch it crossed the Cart and went towards Paisley. In the other direction Penult, where there was an early castle, may have been the destination especially as the charter refers to it as the road to Penult and not beyond into Strathgryfe.

A charter dating from c.1273 which mentions two roads will be dealt with at a later date.

Registrum de Passelet, page 102
Origines Parochiales Scotiae. Vol I, Mearns, page 97

Outwith Renfrewshire
As said, the Abbey had numerous possessions in what is now Renfrewshire (see Rental Book in J Cameron Lee's history of the abbey) and many tenants were required to cart produce to the abbey. There were granges at Blackstone, two miles north-west of the abbey, at Kilpatrick and at Monkton. Hall notes a grange at Auchengrange near Beith (Derek Hall, Scottish Monastic Landscapes, page 134). Other lands included:


This was a fishery on the River Leven at Bonhill. The charter refers to a via regia coming from Dumbarton - see Dunbartonshire

About this time (1321) Abbot Roger bought a tenement in Glasgow in "the street which is called the Rattonrow, between the land of Sir Maurice Starine, chaplain, on the west, and the King's highway which is called le Weynde on the east."
The Abbey of Paisley from its Foundation to Its Dissolution, J Cameron Lees, Paisley 1878, page 94
Registrum de Passelet, pps 385, 387

Faifley etc
There were holdings in Faifley, Duntocher, Cochno, Edinbarnet etc north of the River Clyde which would have entailed numerous journeys to and from the abbey, including having to cross the Clyde.

There were also holdings in Ayrshire in Monkton and Prestwick and Dalmilling, prior to those lands being passed to Crossraguel Abbey.