Anyone visiting Paisley recently will have noticed ongoing works in the area to the east of Paisley Abbey, associated with the demolition of the north building of the Renfrewshire Council headquarters. This building, erected in the 1960s and intended to become the civiv hub of the town, is being removed in advance of a residential development. Due to the position of the building, adjacent to the Abbey and in an area of increased archaeological sensitivity associated with the possible core of the early settlement, West of Scotland Archaeology Service advised the planning department to attach a condition to consent, requiring an archaeological monitoring presence during the course of these works.
This monitoring is being conducted by staff from CFA Archaeology Ltd, who conducted an initial desk-based assessment of the area proposed for development. While it was apparent that the creation of the substantial 1960s Council building was likely to have had the effect of removing any earlier material that may have been present within its footprint, areas of possible survival were identified around the edges of the building, where ground disturbance had been less intensive. These included a small strip of ground to the north of the Council building, fronting onto Gauze Street, an area to the west fronting onto Cotton Street where an artifical bund may serve to protect earlier material, and an area of landscaped ground to the east of the building fronting onto Mill Street.
To date, only the last of these has been investigated, the area of ground fronting onto Mill Street, but this has revealed a surviving section of wall, representing an element of the United Presbyterian Church shown as occupying the site on the Ordnance Survey Town Plan of Paisley (1867-68). The section visible in the photograph above represents the internal face of the rear wall of the former church, interior of the church and the other walls having apparently been completely removed. This elevation may continue to the right of the photo, but this would extend outside the area that will be affected by the proposed development. It may also extend out to the left, but this area has not been cleared yet. The identification of this section of wall illustrates that archaeological deposits can survive even within areas that have undergone substantial amounts of ground disturbance associated with modern development, and raises hopes that deposits relating to medieval Paisley may yet be identified during later phases of fieldwork.