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13 Sep 2019

Stitching time at Weaver’s Cottage

A view of the exterior of Weaver’s Cottage from the cobbled courtyard in front. It’s a stone single-storey cottage, with green wooden shutters beside the windows. There is an inscription on the lintel above the door.
Weaver’s Cottage, Kilbarchan
At number 91 in our 100 Ways list are our archaeological studies at Weaver’s Cottage, which have created a tapestry of human life dating back to prehistoric times.

The threads of history span the centuries at Weaver’s Cottage, taking visitors back to a time when the village of Kilbarchan was at the heart of Scotland’s thriving weaving industry.

The little cottage, with its low beams and period furniture, transports you to 1723 – before the Industrial Revolution – showing how cloth was made on a working loom, and dyed using plants from the surrounding garden.

A close-up of the wooden loom at Weaver’s Cottage, showing rows of threads held taut.
The loom at Weaver’s Cottage

Digs, run by our archaeology team, have revealed a far deeper history, which remarkably dates back to prehistoric times.

A variety of glass and metal artefacts, including fragments of two pairs of reading glasses, have been found – as has a Neolithic stone axe and a human skull.

We have worked with AOC Archaeology to laser scan the interior and exterior and, for the first time, create a full and accurate picture of the building, which has given us an insight into the lives of the families who lived and worked there. Our work continued in 2019 with new digs involving members of the public.

Groups of people help dig at sites in the garden of Weaver’s Cottage. Blue tarpaulins and sieves lie beside each dig site.
The public helped dig at Weaver’s Cottage.

‘The cottage looks like a single property but, when you “take it to bits”, you find three or four different phases,’ explains Derek Alexander, our Head of Archaeology. ‘There may, in fact, have been as many as three or four families living here.

‘We have excavated an extension to the property, which was used for weaving, and we have to remember that this was once a thriving, lucrative industry – there may have been as many as 800 weavers at work in the village at its peak.

‘There’s a misconception that the Trust just looks after castles and grand buildings, when in fact we have far more smaller properties that tell the story of everyday people than we do “the elite.”

‘Archaeology lends itself to the study of the everyday. We find what’s been broken and thrown away, and it’s from those findings that we learn about real life.

‘Our work at the cottage has involved Trust members and local people and what’s been really exciting for everyone is that we have found so much here. There’s nothing better than digging and finding something – and everything we find has a story to tell.’

The National Trust for Scotland works every day to protect Scotland’s national and natural treasures. From coastlines to castles, art to architecture, wildlife to wilderness, we protect all of this For the Love of Scotland.

In Our Strategy for Protecting Scotland’s Heritage 2018–23, we set out how we’re planning to work towards our vision that Scotland’s heritage is valued by everyone and protected now, and for future generations.