Renfrew Town Hall
The rich and varied history of Renfrew is brought to life inside one of its oldest buildings.
When Renfrew Town Hall was fully refurbished in 2012, the idea was to preserve the building as an historic landmark while opening up its facilities for local residents and visitors. That plan was a success, as these days it thrives as a busy hub of activity at the heart of the community.
Although it hasn’t been used as a base for local government since 1975, the Town Hall is constantly in demand as a venue for meetings, conferences and wedding receptions. It’s also home to a small yet perfectly formed and four-star-rewarded museum co-curated by John Pressly.
As he explains: “When the town hall complex was being done up, there was a realisation that the existing Renfrew museum based at the institute just down the road was not too suitable for purpose. It was an opportunity to tell the story of Renfrew’s heritage a little bit better.”
The museum provides a fascinating interactive experience tracing the story of the former Royal Burgh of Renfrew from medieval times to the present day. Prize exhibits include a Merlin engine from a WWII Spitfire fighter built at nearby Hillington.
For such a small town, Renfrew has, in Pressly’s words, “a really good and unexpected history”, hence the need for a fact-packed museum. “It’s not a huge space, but we’ve crammed quite a lot in,” he says. “That was a challenge in itself. During our planning discussions the idea of basing the museum around the four elements came up. Air obviously represents the history of the airport and the 602 Squadron, Fire is looking at the steel industry, Water is shipbuilding and Earth is just a general social history and overview of the place.”
When Renfrew’s original Town Hall was built in 1670, it was primarily used as a jail and later a court of law. When that building eventually fell into decay, the present Town Hall was built in 1872. With its distinctive 105-foot spire, it’s been a cherished part of Renfrew’s skyline ever since.
Access to Renfrew Museum is through Renfrew Town Hall, Renfrew Cross, PAF 8PF, 0300 300 1210.