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North Street, in the old village
Grid reference: NS404667
Location: 55°52’1"N, 4°33’7"W
Population: 6,610  (1991)
Post town: Johnstone
Postcode: PA6
Dialling code: 01505
Local Government
Council: Renfrewshire
Paisley and Renfrewshire North

Houston is a village in Renfrewshire, standing within the Gryffe Valley six miles north-west of Paisley. It shares a civil parish, ‘Houston and Killellan’ with neighbouring Crosslee and a number of smaller settlements in the villages' rural hinterland.

Houston is built around a 16th-century castle and parish church dedicated to St Peter, which gave the area its former name of Kilpeter ("Cille Pheadair" in Gaelic). Houston as its stands today dates back to the 18th century but it has grown a great deal since then. The old village is now a conservation area.

A larger area of modern residential settlement has grown up around the village mainly in the mid-to late 20th century, at parts of the village such as at Craigends and Brierie Hills. These additions to the village have expanded its population considerably, changing its character chiefly to a commuter village for nearby Glasgow and Paisley.


Houston House.

Houston was originally known as Kilpeter. In the mid 12th century, the fee of Kilpeter was granted by Baldwin of Biggar, Sheriff of Lanark, to Hugh of Pettinain. From Hugh, the lands eventually became known as Houston (meaning "Hugh's tun or manor").[1]

In a Papal Bull issued by Pope Honorius in 1225-7, the churches of Kilmacolm and Houston are mentioned as "ecclesiae de Kilmacolme et de Villa Hugonis". In a later Bull of Pope Clement IV in 1265, the churches belonging to Paisley Abbey are listed including the church of "Howston".[2]


Early history

Houston had long been a site of settlement. In the 1970s, a Bronze Age burial site was found at South Mound on the western edge of the village.[3] To the north-east is Barochan Hill, the site of a Roman fort.[4]

The first village in Houston was constructed around the parish Church of St Peter and Houston Castle, now respectively the parish church and Houston House - largely 19th century buildings. Houston House and the castle which is partially incorporated within its structure date back to the time of Hugh of Pettinain and remained in the possession of his family who later became the Houstons of Houston.[5] The Castle stayed in the ownership of the family until 1740 when it was purchased by Glasgow tobacco lord Alexander Speirs of Elderslie.[6] Following ownership by five generations of the Speirs family, Houston House passed to Major David Crichton Maitland in 1959 and then to his son Mark Crichton Maitland in 1995 before being divided into a number of flats.[7]

James McGuire MacRae was presented with the estate by his father's friend, James MacRae. It passed to his son, who demolished the castle and built the weavers cottages with the stones.[8] With this 18th-century change in ownership of the land therefore, the 'old village' was cleared from around the castle by the laird. The new village of some thirty five cottages constructed to the west in 1781 from the stone of the Castle, which was later to evolve into a country house. This new village - which forms the basis of the modern village - was a planned community built along two main streets: North Street and South Street and is an example of the 18th century Planned Village Movement.[9] The layout, straddling the Houston Burn, provided washing facilities accessible to local people as well as supporting the small-scale weaving industry.[10] This 'new village' is designated by the Renfrewshire authorities as a conservation village.[5][11]

Houston's mercat cross

A notable remnant of this move is the village's mercat cross, which incorporates parts dating back to the 14th century. Due to the move from an original position on Kirk Road, and the fact that it incorporates a large sundial, it has been placed at an unusual angle at the centre of the 'new' village. The mercat cross has become used as a symbol for the village.

Modern history

Both railway stations (on separate lines) built within the parish in the 19th century - Houston and Crosslee Station and Georgetown station (both now closed) - bypassed the village itself. As a consequence, Houston did not experience the railway boom of nearby villages like Bridge of Weir and Kilmacolm, expanding slowly until the later half of the 20th century when it became a popular commuter settlement.[5]

The main industry of the Houston between the 17th and 19th century was weaving. The River Gryffe later provided a cotton spinning industry with the creation of the Crosslee cotton mill with other small manufacturing concerns, such as embroidery, later opening in the village.[5]

In July 2007, Houston was featured prominently in news reports around the United Kingdom after it was discovered that inhabitants of a house in the village were linked to the 2007 Glasgow International Airport attack of 30 June.[12] The Houston Community Council observed that "it is a sobering thought that such a situation could happen on our very doorstep and that even in a quiet, rural setting such as ours there can be people intent on disrupting the natural balance of things by violent means."[13]


Houston's Village Hall

Houston's historic village centre, located at the north-west edge of the village, is a designated conservation area. The area is home to the main village pubs, small shops and the village's Post Office. North Street and South Street are dominated by traditional white cottages, some dating to the 17th century. The old village was a planned community of houses largely built around the Houston Burn, which gave communal access to washing facilities.

Some remains of the 16th century Houston Castle still exist largely in the grounds of the current Houston House. The area sits beside Houston and Killellan Kirk, the Church of Scotland parish church.

It is possible that Lord Darnley, third husband of Mary, Queen of Scots resided at the castle for some years.[14]

The Barochan Cross, an 11 foot tall Celtic Christian cross possibly dating to the 8th century, formerly lay just south of the Mill of Barochan in the parish. In the 19th century, it was moved to a knoll opposite Corsliehill closer to the village before finally being moved in the 20th century to Paisley Abbey where it now remains in order to protect it from further weathering.[4][15]

The Craigends Yew is an ancient yew tree in the parish, supposed to be the oldest living thing in Renfrewshire, with a potential age of around a thousand years.[16] There are two ancient wells in Houston, once considered to have healing powers. St Fillan's Well sits in the fields beside Killellan Kirk and St Peter's Well gives its name to a locally brewed ale.


Houston & Killellan Kirk (parish church), in the grounds of Houston House. The steeple is obscured.

The parish church, which is part of the Church of Scotland, is Houston and Kilellan Church, often known as 'the Kirk' at the end of North Street in the grounds of Houston House. The Kirk was constructed in the 1870s, replacing a church on the same site constructed in 1775, and dedicated to the memory of Alexander Archibald Spiers of Elderslie (former Member of Parliament for West Renfrewshire by his mother who provided its building costs.

As a united parish, the formation of Houston and Kilellan left the former Kilellan parish church (known as the Church of St Fillan - from which the name 'Kilellan' derives) redundant. The ruin, dated 1635 but believed to have originated in the 10th or 11th century,[17] still stands some four miles west of the centre of Houston on the Barochan Cross Road after having been abandoned around the time of the unification of the parishes in 1771. The church is now held by the Kilallan Kirk Preservation Trust following its donation by Elderslie Estates in 2005 and is a scheduled historic monument.[17] An annual evening service is held amongst the ruins in July by the congregation of the united parish. The church's manse, which is immediately adjacent to it, also finds continued use as a private residence and is thought to be the oldest existing dwellinghouse in Renfrewshire.[5]

The Houston and Kilellan church hall on Main Street was built immediately following the Disruption of 1843 as a separate congregation forming part of the Free Church of Scotland, and later the United Free Church of Scotland being known during this time as the West Kirk. Following the reunification of the United Free Church and the established Church of Scotland in 1929, the West Kirk existed as a second Church of Scotland congregation in the village until a fire destroyed much of the building in March 1941. The lack of a building caused the two congregations to again worship in the same parish church. The West Kirk building was fully restored by 1953, taking its place as the church hall it remains to this day.[18]

St. Fillan's Roman Catholic Church, also on Main Street, was established in 1841 on a property called "Four Windings" now remembered in the name of an adjacent street.


Chiefly serving a commuter village, Houston's chief local economic activity is agriculture, with some tertiary sector businesses such as local shops and public houses serving residents and visitors. There are a number of these shops and pubs in the old village, and a number of shops located on the boundary with Crosslee.[19]

Agricultural Show and Carnival

During the summer, the village hosts its own agricultural show in Houston Public Park. The Kirk also organises an annual Carnival, located around the church hall (the old Free Church) on Main Street, which involves a parade and a number of stalls and entertainments and involves the local primary schools.

Public houses and brewing

Despite its small size, the parish supports a number of public houses. Three of these are located in the old village centre - the Fox and Hounds (South Street), the Houston Inn (North Street), established in 1779 and 1784 respectively, and until recently (2010) the Crosskeys Inn (Main Street) whose name derived from the crossed keys symbol of St Peter, a reference to the original name of the settlement Kilpeter i.e. the church of Peter. The Cross Keys closed, was refurbished and opened as a restaurant in June 2010. A fourth pub lay in Crosslee, being the former Crosslee Inn, and subsequently known as the Pine Trees. Itself closed and refurbished, the Pine Trees is now a pub & restaurant, The River Inn[5]

A beer festival takes place in the village,[20] which is also home to a [microbrewery, the Houston Brewing Company.[5]

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Houston)


  1. G. W. S. Barrow (2003), The kingdom of the Scots: government, church and society from the eleventh to the fourteenth century, Edinburgh University Press, pp. 319-320, ISBN 0 7486 1802 3 . – via Google Books
  2. James Murray (Rev.), Kilmacolm: A Parish History, 1898
  3. See Morrison, A A Bronze Age burial site near South Mound, Houston, Renfrewshire, Glasgow ArchaeolJ, 6 (1979), 20-45
  4. 4.0 4.1 BAE Systems and Redrow Housing (2006-05-01). "Royal Ordnance Bishopton: Site Gazetteer". Renfrewshire Council. http://ilwwcm.renfrewshire.gov.uk/pdfs/pt/ROFApplication1/pt-SiteGazetter0606.pdf. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 "Renfrewshire Community Website - Houston". Renfrewshire Council. http://www.renfrewshire.gov.uk/ilwwcm/publishing.nsf/Content/Navigation-els-Houston(OurHistoryandHeritage)Homepage. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  6. Vision of Britain | Groome Gazetteer entry for HOUSTON
  7. http://www.elderslie.org/ee_about.php
  8. Cuthbertson, David Cuningham (1945). Autumn in Kyle and the Charm of Cunninghame. London : Jenkins. P. 35
  9. M. Pacione, Planning urban growth in Scotland: The new settlement option Scottish Geographical Journal, 1751-665X, Volume 122, Issue 1, 2006, Pages 32 – 54
  10. http://www.renfrewshire.gov.uk/ilwwcm/publishing.nsf/AttachmentsByTitle/pt-as-Strathgryfe.pdf/$FILE/pt-as-Strathgryfe.pdf
  11. "Renfrewshire Community Website - Houston Conservation Area". Renfrewshire Council. http://www.renfrewshire.gov.uk/ilwwcm/publishing.nsf/Content/PT-AB-Houston-Conservation-Area. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  12. Police Comb House Near Glasgow |Sky News|UK News
  13. http://www.houstoncommunitycouncil.co.uk/assets/literature/NOVEMBER%20AGM%202007.pdf
  14. The Craigends Yew-www.ourlocalhistory.co.uk
  15. "Archaeology in Renfrewshire". Renfrewshire Council. http://www.renfrewshire.gov.uk/ilwwcm/publishing.nsf/Content/els-jh-HistoricBuildingsArchaeology. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  16. http://www.renfrewshire.gov.uk/ilwwcm/publishing.nsf/Content/Navigation-pt-Houston(VisitingRenfrewshire)
  17. 17.0 17.1 http://www.elderslie.org/kilallankirk.php
  18. http://www.houstonscotland.org.uk/kirk/our%20church.htm
  19. http://www.scottish-places.info/towns/townfirst1158.html
  20. http://www.list.co.uk/event/178765-beer-festival-fox-and-hounds-houston/