Renfrewshire’s Council Leader has vowed Paisley’s iconic Thomas Coats Memorial Church will stay at the heart of the local community – as a deal to transfer the landmark building to new owners took a step closer.
The A-listed building has dominated the town’s skyline for more than a century – but the building’s trustees have revealed they will relinquish ownership at some point in the future, due to financial pressures and declining congregation.
However Renfrewshire Council has been working with the trustees in recent months to broker a deal to find new owners for the stunning building – known as the Baptist Cathedral of Europe.
And the Princes Regeneration Trust – a charity which preserves and finds new uses for important historical sites throughout the UK – has now signed an agreement to provide mentoring and fundraising support to the trustees.
The PRT and their partners will now work on a business plan to find a suitable use for the building. Currently it houses a range of local groups, and hosts weddings, as well as University of the West of Scotland’s graduation ceremonies.
It will take some time for the transfer of ownership to be fully complete, during which time council staff will provide support to the trustees to help them maintain the building in good condition.
And council leader Mark Macmillan said: “The Thomas Coats Memorial Church is one of the jewels in the crown of Paisley’s unique urban heritage.
“The trustees first approached us for help some time ago and we are pleased to have helped them find a route through which the church can be kept open.
“It has been clear from the reaction over the past week just how much the building means to local residents – and I want to reassure them we are confident it will stay where it belongs at the heart of the community.
“The church is a direct link to Paisley’s days at the heart of the global textile industry – and that industrial legacy will feature strongly in the town’s bid for UK City of Culture 2021, now gathering pace.”
Bob McIntyre, chairman of the Thomas Coats Memorial Church Trust, said: “I want to record our appreciation of the unstinting support offered to the trustees by staff at Renfrewshire Council.
“Like many churches our future is uncertain due largely to financial pressures and a declining congregation. The trustees are endeavouring to find a secure future for this magnificent building beyond its present purpose as a place of public worship.
“The discussions we are presently involved in owe much to the initiatives of Renfrewshire Council staff as we seek to maintain the building as a living place for the years ahead within Paisley’s wider cultural and industrial heritage.”
The Thomas Coats Memorial Church was opened in 1894 to commemorate a member of the famous J&P Coats family, who had helped fund other buildings in the town including the Coats Observatory and Grand Fountain.
Ros Kerslake OBE, Chief Executive of The Prince’s Regeneration Trust, said: “We are so pleased to be involved in the plans to save this wonderful place, which is crucial to understanding Paisley’s rich history and the part played in it by benevolent industrialists.
“All across the UK some of our most important buildings, which have the most pertinent links to our local and social history, are our churches.
“The Thomas Coats Memorial Church is a great example of this – a place with real potent value in maintaining the identity and sense of continuity for Paisley.
“We look forward to working with the trustees and the local community to ensure they can use it to its fullest potential.”