Construction work on a £5.2million modernisation of Renfrew Town Hall has revealed a 139 year old time capsule.
The time capsule is in the form of a large glass jar which was found in the clock tower of the town hall.
Renfrewshire’s Provost Celia Lawson joined museum and community representatives at the opening of the time capsule in the Renfrew Community Museum in the town’s Brown Institute.
Preliminary work by museum curators has found that the capsule contains documents signed by the then Provost along with a photograph of Renfrew Town Hall, coins, newspapers and a trades directory.
Among the newspapers included are copies of the Edinburgh Scotsman, Glasgow Herald, Glasgow Daily Mail, Paisley and Renfrew Gazette and Renfrewshire Independent.
Along with the insights it gives into Renfrew’s and Scotland’s history, the time capsule has a special history of its own.
From its base in the clock tower of Renfrew Town Hall, it survived a major fire in 1877 which led to much of the current town hall being rebuilt.
Now the time capsule has been rediscovered during construction work on the £5.2million refurbishment of Renfrew Town Hall which has been supported by Renfrewshire Council, the Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic Scotland.
Renfrewshire’s Provost Celia Lawson said “This is an amazing discovery. It’s a very special moment for me as Provost to be part of this unique civic experience begun by a provost almost 140 years ago.
“It’s particularly pleasing that the time capsule has been rediscovered through the programme to restore the iconic Renfrew Town Hall to its rightful role at the heart of our community.
“Preserving Renfrew’s history and traditions have been at the heart of that programme and the town hall will have an adjoining new Renfrew Community Museum.
“In the lead up to the town hall and community museum opening in December this year, Renfrewshire Council’s arts and museums service has been working with young people and local history groups on how Renfrew’s history can be told.
“There will be particular interest in this new discovery from our school pupils working on the ‘Renfrew: Past, Present and Future’ project which will result in a time capsule being buried in the town hall for future generations to discover”.
Renfrewshire Council Leader Brian Lawson said “Renfrew has a proud history from its origins as a royal burgh to its shipbuilding heritage and the fact that it had Scotland’s first municipal airport.
“Throughout the development of the programme to redevelop Renfrew Town Hall we’ve had strong backing and commitment from the local community.
“As we move towards the final stages of that investment, it’s a great boost to be able to find and display such a distinctive part of Renfrew’s heritage”.
Craig Elliott, Marketing and Access Co-ordinator for the council’s arts and museums service
Said: “The initial assessment of the objects in the time capsule is that they appear to be extremely well preserved.
“However, most of the objects are paper which can present significant issues concerning conservation and redisplay. We will be working with freelance conservator Ann Evans who will provide advice on handling and displaying the objects.
“All being well we anticipate the objects becoming a focal point of the displays in the new Renfrew Community Museum due to open in December”.
Nationally, 1872 saw the widespread introduction of free education through the Education Act, the first international football match – a 0-0 draw between Scotland and England – and the introduction of the secret ballot by Prime Minister Gladstone on voting for Westminster MPs.
Locally, the newspapers contained in the Renfrew time capsule tell of the parade of tradesmen which accompanied the laying of the memorial stone for Renfrew Town Hall.
There’s also the story of the theft of £190 from a Renfrew cattle dealer while in a “house of ill fame in Paisley.”