A proposal to construct a new visitor centre at Paisley Abbey required Addyman Archaeology to complete a desk-based assessment of the Abbey’s history and development. The new Simpson & Brown-designed visitor centre would be built on the site of the former west range of the monastic cloister, bridging the gap between the Abbey itself and the south range of the Place of Paisley.
Research showed the medieval west range was only demolished in early 1874. Evidence for the former appearance of the superstructure include its surviving silhouette against the south side of the abbey church, the representation of its first floor arrangements on the Ordnance Survey Town Plan of 1858, a number of early engraved views, a series of exterior photographic views taken in 1873-4 for the 3rd Marquess of Bute (who objected to the demolition), and a detailed written account by the antiquarian David Semple made during the dismantling of the structure, with associated photographs taken during the process. The former appearance, precise dimensions and much of its structural history could therefore be determined.
The comprehensive historical research for the desk-based assessment allowed targeted archaeological evaluation trenches to be put in place on the footprint of the building and allowed our architectural colleagues to incorporate the archaeological survival within the design process for the new visitor centre.
Paisley Abbey website.