Johnstone Mill (Former), 1, High Street, Johnstone

General Details and Location

Name of Building
Johnstone Mill (Former)
Other Name(s)
Paton's Mill (Former)
1, High Street, Johnstone
Planning Authority
Divisional Area
Reference No
Listing Category
OS Grid Ref
NS 42378 63376
Location Type
HS Reference No


Former cotton mill complex founded by Corse, Burns and Co. in 1782. All buildings are in whitewashed rubble with painted ashlar margins and slate roofs. The Old Mill End dates to 1787 and rises to 6 storeys with attic. It is a 10x3 bay Arkwright-type spinning mill. Ground floor windows are now slightly altered, but the east elevation retains its original 16-pane sash and case windows. The interior retains its timber floors and cross beams, supported by cylindrical cast-iron columns. The attic houses a rare cast-iron earth closet and pulley.

The later mill rises to 4 storeys with both basement and attic, and runs to 12 bays along the side elevations. Its eastern flank predates 1856, though the west end is c.1870. The broad end elevations are triple-gabled, that to the south formerly with a bellcote and weather vane to the centre. The 6-stage stair is square-plan and features a hoist and water tower at the balustrade. The M-roof displays single skylights. The interior retains its timber beams supported on cast-iron columns with curved brackets and scrolled bearing pads. The basement wheelpit retains its turbine engine.

The Engine House rises to a single storey and features round-headed keystoned windows. The piended slate roof projects at right angles to the Old Mill End and extends into the north east basement of the wider mill. The engine has now been removed. The chimney dates to c.1880. It is circular in plan and brick-built. The top section has been taken down and rebuilt in yellow brick. Late 18th century/early 19th century 2 storey buildings sit to the east, forming a 16 bay range with a slightly off-centre entrance pend.

Offices and a lodge sit to the south, whilst an M-roofed workshop sits to the north west. A fireproof building sits between the offices and the main mill and features a single door in a chamfered surround, surmounted by an oculus. A water trough sits to the right. The interior displays a very unusual construction of cast-iron columns and beams with a brick vaulted ceiling pierced by an atrium light well.

Johnstone Mill is Scotland's oldest industrial complex to retain an industrial use. Scotland's fifth cotton mill when it opened, it was the first to adopt an Arkwright-type scale of industrial production. It is an extremely important monument to Johnstone's rich industrial past, of which little else remains, and is a well-known landmark in the area. (Historic Scotland)
Building Dates
1787; circa 1880

Category of Risk and Development History

Category of Risk
Exemptions to State of Risk
Field Visits
01/07/2003, 01/03/2007, 07/07/2008, 20/8/2014
Development History
February 2003: Local planners report that the buildings are currently occupied by an American shoelace manufacturer, but that they are due to fall vacant soon. Permissions are being sought for their conversion into flats and the residential development of surrounding land. The outbuildings would be demolished. Renfrewshire Council is resisting the erection of an extension. The buildings will then be marketed with permissions attached. March 2003: Regeneration Through Heritage reports that it is concerned for the future of the complex once it falls vacant in the summer. It would prefer a mixed-use development with a degree of public access. The owners have produced a draft Conservation Plan. 2 April 2003: The Paisley Gazette reports that Johnstone Community Council is against residential conversion, and would instead prefer to see the complex become a museum and tourist attraction. 21 April 2003: The Paisley Daily Express reports that residential development would see the mill converted into 79 flats, with a new-build of 80 houses on surrounding land. The boiler house, warehouses, and landmark chimney would all be demolished. 25 April 2003: Renfrewshire World repeats the story. 26 June 2003: The Herald property supplement reports on the relocation of William Paton Ltd and the vacation of the mill. July 2003: External inspection reveals cosmetic disrepair such as peeling render. However, the site is generally maintained. October 2003: Following advice from Renfrewshire Council on potential flood risks, an amended application is lodged for residential conversion into 72 flats, with 904 sq. m. of commercial floorspace on the ground floor of the main mill. The demolition of outbuildings would include the chimney stalk. SCT objects. January 2004: Agents for the owners confirm that manufacturing has now ceased at the mill, although it continues to be used for storage. Security is being maintained. Dry rot is present in a single localised area. The owners remain committed to finding a sustainable new use for the property. 5 May 2004: The Paisley Gazette reports on the mill's selection as Building on the Month for the Buildings at Risk Register Online. 30 June 2004: The Paisley Gazette reports that Outline Planning Permission has been granted to convert the mill into 72 flats and shops. 15 July 2004: The Paisley Daily Express repeats the story. 27 November 2004: The Paisley Daily Express reports that Renfrewshire Local History Forum has written to Historic Scotland to express concern at the mill remaining vacant. October 2005: The local planners report new ownership details. Feb. 06: Paisley Express reports that despite planning permission being granted for the redevelopment of the site (conversion into flats) no works have yet commenced on site. March 2007: External inspection shows increased levels of dilapidation. The paint is failing and most windows are broken or boarded up. Security is in place and the buildings appear to be wind and weather tight. 1 June 2007: The Renfrewshire World reports a major fire within the mill causing tens of thousands of pounds worth of damage. The local history society are campaigning for the building to be transformed into a top tourist attraction. 13 June 2007: Johnstone, Paisley & Renfrewshire Gazette reports that the fire reported on 1 June was in fact in an unlisted building remote from the main building. The owners plan to develop the site with a significant number of affordable new homes and to convert the mill building into modern apartments. October 2007: Local planners report that lead from the guttering on the main block had been stolen, allowing water penetration through 5 floors. Copper wiring was found to have been stolen along with general vandalism within the property. Repairs to the valley gutter are in progress, the building is to be secured with windows boarded.
July 2008: Local planners report that the owner has undertaken recent repairs to the roof and boarding up of some ground floor windows. The full planning permission granted in 2004 for conversion to flats and commercial floorspace has now expired. Application Nos. 03/0233/PP and 03/0234/LB.
February 2009: Local planners report that 24 hour security cover withdrawn in December 2008 and that a fire destroyed the roof of the southern end of two storey range facing the High Street. The owners of the site are reportedly interested in disposing of the property.
August 2009: The Paisley Daily Express reports on the Urgent Works notice that had been served on the owners in March. Works have been carried out by the council to make the building secure and wind and watertight.
September 2009: Scotland on Sunday reports that the local authority has enlisted the expertise of The Prince‘s Regeneration Trust, who are undertaking a £30,000 feasibility study on the best way forward for conversion of the site. The Paisley Express repeats the story. Renfrewshire World repeats the story.
April 2010: The Prince‘s Regeneration Trust report they have made a site visit with Renfrewshire Council. The most significant damage appears to be to the old mill‘s roof and top floor. The main mill does not appear to be damaged. A structural survey is underway and the Council is assessing works required to prevent further intrusion to the site/ buildings. PRT will be continuing with their planned options appraisal.
June 2010: BBC news website reports on a further, serious fire at the Mill yesterday (31/05). Concerns are raised for the survival of the structure, already damaged by fire in April.
August 2010: Pasiley Daily Express reports that GMW Johnstone Limited, owners of the site, have been served a repairs notice by the local authority to recover costs of partially demolishing the building and making the site secure. The article goes on to note that should the owners not comply with the notice, the council will commence compulsory purchase proceedings. PRT‘s study for the site is to be extended to develop a comprehensive development & financial appraisal for the site, in its current state.
November 2011: A member of the public advises the Mill is being listed for sale at SVA auctions.
5 April 2012: Local planners advise that the site is thought to have been sold to 4th Group prior to entry at auction.
10 July 2012: External inspection finds that as per previous reports much of the building has been lost following the fires. Only the tower remains standing above ground floor level. Security gates prevent access to the site.
8 May 2014: Listed Building Consent for the demolition of east range buildings and outbuildings, mechanic's machine shops, fire proof building, stair tower, mill north gable, dye houses, boiler house, warehouses, long shed and courtyard store and facade retention of east range north is being sought ref: 14/0213/LIB. The application seeks to retain the facade of the east range, mill north gable and the chimney.
20 August 2014: Limited external inspection of the site possible. Little remains of the former mill site. That which could be viewed is in ruinous condition.
19 January 2015: Listed Building Consent for the demolition of east range buildings and outbuildings, mechanic's machine shops, fire proof building, stair tower, dye houses, boiler house, warehouses, long shed and courtyard store and facade retention of east range north was conditionally approved Sept 2014.
November 2016: The site has been found to no longer meet the criteria for a listed building and was de-listed July 2016.
26 October 2017: A member of the public advises further demolition works have been undertaken leaving the gate house as the remaining building on the former mill site.

Guides to Development

Conservation Area
Planning Authority Contact
PAC Telephone Number


Current Availability
Appointed Agents
Occupancy Type
Present/Former Uses
Building Uses Information:
Present Use 1: Warehouse/Store Former Use 1: Mill
Present Use 2: N/A Former Use 2: Factory/Light Industry
Name of Owners
Type of Ownership

Information Services

Additional Contacts/Information Source
Hume (1976-1977), vol. I, p208; Shaw (1984), p332; Industrial Archaeology Review, (1) 1981-1982, pp5-27; Manchester Mercury, 4 November 1800.
Online Resources
Textile Industries
Original Entry Date
Date of Last Edit