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Coats stories

Two families, one town

The lasting legacy of the Coats and Clark families in the town of Paisley

The Coats Memorial Fountain - newly restored and flowing again in Paisley

The Coats Memorial Fountain, Paisley - restored and flowing again

From small beginnings in their home town of Paisley, Scotland in the early 1800’s, the Coats and Clark families oversaw the development of their businesses into multi-national enterprises with factories and staff across the world.

Growth was so rapid during the 1880’s that Paisley was one of the fastest growing towns in the UK – with a population of some 60,000, over 10% were employed by either the Coats or Clark firms. And by the 1890s when both businesses came together, the merged operation was one of the world’s largest.

During this period of unprecedented success and prosperity both families were major benefactors to the town of Paisley - a legacy which survives today. Paisley still has the second highest concentration of listed buildings in Scotland – and many of which are now being actively restored through the work of the local council and community. 

Coats and Clark family donations to the town include:

Coats family: 

Thomas Coats best known gifts to Paisley were the Observatory, the Fountain Gardens and after his death, the Thomas Coats Memorial Church was built by his family in his memory.

Peter Coats also played a large part in the life of Paisley and is probably best remembered for his gift of the free library and museum to the town. With this gift, Paisley became only the third place in Scotland to have a library and museum run by the local council. Peter was later knighted by Queen Victoria for this particular piece of generosity

Coats fountainThe Fountain Gardens
Coats memorial churchCoats Memorial Church 

Clark family: 

John Clark's best known gift was the large sum he donated to the building of the town hall in Paisley, and the £10,000 he left to the Paisley Infirmary. This was from a total donation of £66,500 left to charitable and religious societies in his will. In Largs, the location of his summer residence in Scotland, 'Curling Hall', he paid for the building of the hospital and gave £30,000 to a new United Presbyterian Church.

Paisley InfirmaryThe Paisley Infirmary
Paisley Town HallPaisley Town Hall

Present day – Fountain Gardens restored

In September 2014 the newly restored Grand Fountain began flowing once again in the Fountain Gardens in Paisley. 

The Fountain is one of the world’s finest examples of cast iron sculpture. Its unique design is a Victorian extravaganza that includes walruses, cherubs, dolphins, herons and crocodiles, it which measures 8.5 metres in height, has the same circumference and weighs 42 tonnes – before the water is added! 

The film below by Renfrewshire Council captures the day (opens in new window).

Paisley Fountain opening Sep 14


"Paisley still has the second highest concentration of listed buildings in Scotland"

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