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Renfrew town hall.jpg
Renfrew Town Hall and centre
Grid reference: NS519186
Location: 55°51’60"N, 4°21’60"W
Post town: Renfrew
Postcode: PA4
Dialling code: 0141
Local Government
Council: Renfrewshire
Paisley and Renfrewshire North

Renfrew is the county town of Renfrewshire, and gives that county its name. It stands 6 miles west of Glasgow. Renfrew is known as the "Cradle of the Royal Stewarts" as a result of its early link with the House of Stewart who became the Kings of Scotland and of Great Britain.

Renfrew gained royal burgh status in 1397. The current Baron of Renfrew is His Royal Highness The Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay (known outside Scotland as The Prince of Wales) who holds lands in the area as part of the principality of Scotland.


The status of the town and its attachment the Royal House of Stewart begin with the granting of land in the area to Walter fitz Alan, the High Steward of Scotland by King David I of Scotland in the 12th century. The strategic location of this castle was to prevent the eastern expansion of the kingdom belonging to Somerled, the Lord of the Isles, and protect Western Scotland from Norse invaders.[1] Eventually the hereditary title of High Steward came to form the surname Stewart.

Later in the 12th century, King Malcolm IV, grandson of David I, finally demanded the Somerled's fealty. In 1164, Somerled sailed to Renfrew and attacked an assembling Scottish army in a conflict known as the Battle of Renfrew. The outcome was a defeat of the Lordship of the Isles and the death of Somerled.[2] Somerled's descendants retained the Isles until 1493, after conspiring with Edward IV of England to overthrow the Scottish monarchy, since when the heri to the throne has borne both titles Lord of the Isles and Baron Renfrew.

The role of the Stewarts continued to grow and in 1315 Walter Stewart, 6th High Steward and Baron Renfrew married Marjorie Bruce|Marjory, daughter of King Robert the Bruce. Their son succeeded to the throne as Robert II of Scotland.

During the Monmouth Rebellion of 1685, Archibald Campbell, 9th Earl of Argyll was injured and captured at Renfrew before being transported to Edinburgh and executed for his role in attempting to overthrow the Crown. The Argyle Stones in the town mark the site where his capture took place.[3]

The early origins of Renfrewshire lie in the expanding influence of the Stewarts of Renfrew, the family holding the hereditary High Stewardship of Scotland. In 1371, Robert Stewart was crowned King of Scotland as Robert II and in 1402 his son, Robert III established the shire of Renfrew with its seat at Renfrew, the site of the Stewarts' castle.

Renfrewshire's Commissioners of Supply, Quarter Sessions and freeholders met at Renfrew, as did the sheriff court until it was moved to Paisley in 1705 as that town grew.


The M8 motorway intersects Renfrew and two junctions at Arkleston and Braehead provide access to the town, with the neighbouring town of Paisley largely lying on the opposite side. The former Renfrew Airport was located to the south of the town (only a couple of miles from the present Glasgow Airport), its terminal building now occupied by a supermarket.[4]

The Renfrew Ferry connects to Yoker on the north bank of the Clyde, a crossing of a few minutes. Renfrew was also once served by a series of stations on a branch of the Glasgow and Paisley Joint Railway. However that line was closed to passengers in 1967.


The major industry of Renfrew was previously shipbuilding. Simons and Lobnitz, most notable for building sand dredgers were based in the town. The Renfrew shipyard closed in the early 1960s. [5]

Renfrew is home to the engineering company Doosan Babcock (formerly Babcock and Wilcox), the King George V Dock and the Braehead out-of-town retail development.


Renfrew is located at the confluence of the River Clyde and the River Cart. A passenger ferry crosses the Clyde to Yoker and a bascule bridge crosses the Cart to Inchinnan and Glasgow Airport.



  • Patterson, Raymond Campbell (2008). The Lords of the Isles, A history of Clan Donald. Edinburgh: Birlinn Limited. ISBN 1841587184. 

Further reading

  • History of Renfrew, J.A. Dunn, Town Council of Renfrew, 1971

Outside links