Saved from ruin and lovingly restored, the colourful history and motifs of Blackhall Manor will melt hearts, writes Beverley Brown
SET well back from Barrhead Road on the south side of Paisley is an ancient house that almost beggars belief, particularly in this urban setting. Blackhall Manor is a B-listed tower house with crow-stepped gables, small windows, metal-studded doors and a stone façade draped in a cloak of green foliage.
Ensuring it remains Renfrewshire’s best-kept secret, the property has a private driveway and is surrounded by three well-screened and distinctly different gardens, while rampant lion statues guard the entrance to a cobbled inner courtyard.
The oldest house in Paisley, Blackhall’s history stretches back 850 years and has connections to some of the most important figures in Scotland’s emergence as an independent nation. It was originally owned by Walter Fitzalan, a Norman Knight from Shropshire who built the first Blackhall and later founded Paisley Abbey. His descendants took the name Stewart and further down the line in 1316, produced a son who became King Robert II and the founder of the Stewart/Stuart dynasty – at which point Blackhall became a royal property.
Having fallen into disrepair and been gifted to the people of Paisley in 1940, its condition deteriorated further and in 1978 it faced demolition, saved only by local protest that led to it being sold to a couple who undertook the gargantuan task of restoring the property using mostly reclaimed stone and timbers and lived in it until the present owners bought Blackhall in 1990.
The tower house of today is a comfortable, four bedroomed family home with every modern convenience, albeit juxtaposed by historic features, including a stone turnpike stair, vaulted ceilings, antique panelling, ornate plasterwork, exposed beams – and most amazing of all, two breathtakingly ornate ceilings painted in vibrant colours in Scottish Renaissance style.
Over four levels the accommodation comprises ground floor entrance hall, dining kitchen, utility, cloakroom and formal dining room with antique panelling, painted ceiling and exposed beams with inscriptions.
The first floor houses the great hall (never has a term been more accurate) and en-suite master bedroom. Up another level is a hallway leading to the family bathroom (partially tiled with over-bath shower), three further bedrooms, linen cupboard, sink cupboard and a steel spiral staircase continuing up to a floored and well insulated attic presently partitioned into study and storage areas.
There is something to marvel at round every corner in this home, and all of it unique. The 24ft grand hall is a work of art with a dramatic painted ceiling and exposed beams with hand-painted cartouches and mottos. If only walls could speak what stories these could tell. This spectacular setting also has a pitch pine floor and a substantial stone fireplace housing a multi-fuel stove. Down on the ground floor, the well-equipped kitchen includes a range cooker.
The garden grounds are almost as colourful as the interior, with mature trees, well-stocked beds, lawns, wild woodland and shrubbery – and in one corner is a delightful arbour and pergola draped with climbers, while a gravel terrace on the east side leads to a turreted stone folly and there is also a stone-built double garage.
Throughout the property there are signs alluding to this having been a house for lovers at some time in its history, from heart-shaped painted motifs inside, to the granite sets arranged in a heart shape in the cobbled courtyard.
This beautiful home is steeped in character, history, intrigue and works of art – and for those who, like me, have a passion for old houses, will set pulses racing.
Blackhall Manor is for sale with Robb Residential in Glasgow at offers over £399,000.