History in Structure

Sir James Clark Building, Seedhill Road, Paisley

A Category C Listed Building in Paisley, Renfrewshire

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Latitude: 55.8424 / 55°50'32"N

Longitude: -4.4152 / 4°24'54"W

OS Eastings: 248867

OS Northings: 663663

OS Grid: NS488636

Mapcode National: GBR 3K.4Z9Y

Mapcode Global: WH3P6.4DSY

Plus Code: 9C7QRHRM+XW

Entry Name: Sir James Clark Building, Seedhill Road, Paisley

Listing Name: Sir James Clark Building (former Gassing Mill), Old Seedhill Road, Paisley

Listing Date: 14 September 2016

Category: C

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 406333

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB52402

Building Class: Cultural

ID on this website: 200406333

Location: Paisley

County: Renfrewshire

Town: Paisley

Electoral Ward: Paisley East and Central

Traditional County: Renfrewshire

Tagged with: Architectural structure

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This is a 3-storey, 9-bay former gassing mill, built in 1922 and designed by William James Morley & Son for J & P Coats as part of their Anchor Mill complex. It is currently a business centre (2016). The building is a steel-framed, painted brick building with a projecting cornice and blocking course. The majority of the windows are large, aluminium multi-pane windows which have raised cills and are set in recessed panels. There are some bronze multi-frame windows to the east elevation. The entrance doors to the principal (south) elevation are non-traditional replacements. There is a carved stone depiction of the face of Sir James Clark above an entrance to the northwest. There are rooflights within the flat roof.

The interior was seen in 2016. Each floor has maple timber floorboards and has been divided by partitions to provide modern office accommodation with an open corridor to the north. Some steel structural columns with flat lacing bars are exposed. A shallow stair with maple timber treads at the east end leads to all floors. The ladies cloak room to the east is lined with pink Vitrolite tiles and has two deep recesses with mirrors and has a terrazzo floor.

Statement of Interest

Dating to 1922 and by the architect William James Morley & Son Ltd, the Sir James Clark Building is the only known gassing mill to survive in Scotland. It formed part of the renowned and once extensive Anchor Mills thread manufacturing complex in Paisley. The building is situated close to the few surviving buildings from this complex and is important as a surviving element of the thread industry which was the mainstay of Paisley's economy in the 19th and earlier 20th centuries. The building is of brick construction and the rooflights and large windows relate to its previous function where maximum light was necessary. The building is relatively little altered and retains a rare Vitrolite panelled ladies' cloakroom.

Age and Rarity

The Sir James Clark Building was designed as a gassing mill for the thread company J & P Coats, as part of their Anchor Mills site in Paisley. James Clark (1821-1881) was the founder of the Anchor Mills. J & P Coats was internationally known as a thread producer and was a vital part of the commercial economic success of Paisley in the 19th and 20th centuries. The company stopped production at this site in 1992, but continues to produce thread at other sites around the world.

Photographs from 1929 show the Anchor Mills site with numerous buildings including mills, offices and ancillary buildings (Canmore). The majority of these buildings have since been demolished and parts of the site have been redeveloped for housing and retail use. The remaining mill buildings are 19th century in date and most of those associated with the mill are listed. These include the former Domestic Finishing Mill (listed at Category A, LB38915), the former Embroidery Mill (listed at category B, LB38916) and the Mile End Mill (listed at category A, LB38917) and its chimney (listed at category B, LB38918).

Together with the shawl industry, thread manufacturing was a major industry in Paisley from the early 19th century and was the basis for much of the town's wealth. Two families are particularly associated with the industry – the Coats and the Clarks. These influential families dominated the world thread market in the mid 19th century and were responsible for many public buildings in the town, including the later 19th century Town Hall (listed at Category A, LB38978) and the Coats Memorial Church (listed at Category A, LB39027).

The centre for the Coats' production was at Ferguslie Mills, to the southwest of Paisley town centre, while the Anchor Mills site was owned by the Clarks. The two companies amalgamated in 1896 to become J & P Coats Ltd and by the mid-20th century, over 10,000 workers were employed at the two factory sites. All the mills at Ferguslie were demolished in the late 20th century and only a few survive at the Anchor Mill site, as described above. These buildings are important remnants of a once prolific and extensive industry in the town.

Gassing was one of the final stages in the production of thread and involved passing thread through a gas jet to give a smooth surface. It was a new process in the 1920s and helped to produce a smooth thread. The former gassing mill in Paisley is the only known gassing mill to survive in Scotland and has been little altered externally from its 1920s form.

Whilst there are no other gassing mills surviving, there are other 20th century factory buildings, which include the later, 1938 extension to Glasgow's Templeton Carpet Factory by George Boswell, (listed at category A, LB33857) and the earlier, 1913, former Arrol Johnstone Motor car factory at Heathall, near Dumfries (listed at category B, LB3819).

The listing criteria state that the older a building is and the fewer of its type that survive the more likely it is to present a special interest. The former gassing mill is not rare as an early 20th century industrial building, but it is the only known gassing mill to survive. As such, it adds significantly to our knowledge and understanding of the thread milling process.

Architectural or Historic Interest


The interior was seen in 2016. The building was designed to have large open spaces to accommodate the specialised machinery used for gassing. Whilst the current interior has been partitioned to provide modern office space, the open plan nature of each floor is still apparent. The maple flooring has been retained on each floor and the stair and contributes to the industrial character of the building. None of the former specialised machinery survives.

The Vitrolite tiling within the ladies' cloakroom is rare and indicates some attention to detail of design by the original architects.

Plan form

The rectangular plan form is standard for an industrial building. The original internal plan was of large open floors, with a stair, canteen and cloakrooms at the east end. Whilst partitions have been erected within each floor, this plan form has largely survived.

Technological excellence or innovation, material or design quality

The Sir James Clark building is of standard construction for an earlier 20th century industrial structure and its overall form and materials are testimony to its function as a gassing mill.

It is of standard steel-framed brick composition. The process of gassing required large amounts of light and the rooflights and large windows to the north, south and west elevations were necessary for the building's function. In this regard, it is comparable to some other, earlier factory buildings, including the 1913 former car factory at Heathall, near Dumfries (listed at category B, LB3819). The majority of the windows of the Sir James Clark building have been altered from steel framed Crittal windows to aluminium, but the glazing pattern has been largely retained. The windows to the east are bronze framed. A lift shaft was added to the north elevation of the gassing mill in 1957.

There is little in the way of decorative features in the design, but this is not unusual in a factory building, where the functional aspects were the most important considerations. The carved keystone to the rear of the building was brought from the north elevation of the nearby Pacific Mill which was demolished in 1972-3.

Vitrolite is an opaque, pigmented glass which was popular in the 1920s and 1930s as a decorative material. Its smooth surface made it a popular material for areas where a streamlined and contemporary look was wanted, and it was particularly used in bathrooms, and also on shop fronts. It was manufactured in the UK until the mid 20th century and was usually produced in black, green or pink. As it is a fragile material, it is rare to find it surviving in a large area such as the cloakroom here.

The architect for this building was William James Morley (1847-1930), who was born in Leeds and was the architect for J & P Coates for over 40 years. Based in Bradford, he designed a number of the mill buildings in Paisley including the nearby Mile End Mill, (listed at Category A, LB38917) and the Domestic Finishing Mill, (listed at Category A, LB38915).


The former gassing mill is set very close to the former Embroidery Mill (listed at category B, LB38916). The former Domestic Finishing Mill (listed at Category A, LB38915) lies to the west and is visible from the building. The former Mile End Mill (listed at category A, LB38917) and its chimney (listed at category B, LB38918) lie to the east, and can clearly be seen from the former gassing mill. Together, these buildings are the core remnants of the once extensive complex of mills which formed the Anchor Mills site. Although the wider setting and historical context of the building has been altered by the addition of modern housing to the east and a large retail outlet to the south, the listed mill buildings and this former gassing mill have retained a visual relationship which is a reminder of the complex as a whole and the importance of this industry to the town.

Regional variations

There are no known regional variations.

Close Historical Associations

There are no known associations with a person or event of national importance (2016).

The building was part of Anchor Mills, which was one of the world's largest thread manufacturing sites.

External Links

External links are from the relevant listing authority and, where applicable, Wikidata. Wikidata IDs may be related buildings as well as this specific building. If you want to add or update a link, you will need to do so by editing the Wikidata entry.

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