Clarks Mills The Mills actually started next to the Hammils which consists of a band of hard volcanic rock running across the river bed and forming a waterfall. The force of water flowing over the Hammils powered two mills, one at each side of the river.
They were established by the Clark Brothers in 1812. These two brothers had discovered that selling cotton thread for domestic sewing could be a profitable business, and had thereby laid the foundations for much of Paisley’s fame and prosperity in the late nineteenth century.
The small thread production business established by the Clark Brothers at Seedhill expanded steadily throughout the nineteenth century. Thread was given a great boost in the middle of the century by the refinement of the sewing machine.
Its increasing use both in clothing factories and in the domestic environment, led to a tremendous demand for cotton thread which was the only type smooth enough to run through the mechanism. By the end of the century, the Clarks had built a great complex of spinning and twisting mills stretching many hundreds of yards from the original site by the Hammils.
Ferguslie Mills copyright RCAHMS
Coats Mill James Coats made money in the early years of the nineteenth century by making crepe shawls and running his wife’s tambouring (embroidery) business. In 1826, following the example of the Clark brothers at the other end of the town, he set up a small thread twisting factory behind his home at Ferguslie.
Video Courtesy of the Paisley People’s Archive
Four years later he decided to retire and left the business to his sons James and Peter (hence J. & P. Coats). James died early and his place was taken by a younger brother, Thomas. Between them Peter and Thomas built up one of the biggest nineteenth-century industrial concerns in Scotland.
They were big enough to take over the Clarks’ firm in 1896, and today Coats is still one of the largest of multinational companies, though their Paisley operations have shrunk considerably.