Skyline view towards Johnstone town centre, 2009
|Population||15,930 (mid-2020 est.)|
|OS grid reference|
|• Edinburgh||52 mi (84 km)|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Postcode district||PA5, PA6, PA9, PA10|
Johnstone (Scots: Johnstoun, Scottish Gaelic: Baile Iain) is a town in the administrative area of Renfrewshire and larger historic county of the same name, in the west central Lowlands of Scotland.
The town lies 3 miles (5 km) west of neighbouring Paisley, 12 miles (19 km) west of the centre of the city of Glasgow and 12 miles (19 km) north east of Kilwinning. Part of the biggest conurbation in Scotland, Johnstone is at the western edge of the Greater Glasgow Urban Area.
Johnstone was largely a planned community which grew up around the house of Easter Cochrane, later known as Johnstone Castle, seat of the Houston or Houstoun family who gained their name from the nearby village of Houston. In 1782, the Laird, George Houstoun, commissioned designs for a series of regular residential streets, which now form the town centre. At this early stage of development, the town’s population including the local estate and rural hinterland was around 1,500. Two mirroring civic squares were also constructed in the town: Houstoun Square and Ludovic Square, the latter named for the Laird's son, and by 1794 the town had gained its current parish church. Johnstone was raised to the status of a police burgh with significant local powers, a status which is now defunct. The former court building continues to stand in Collier Street.
Industrial development brought both prosperity and poverty to the community. Coal mining occurred in Johnstone, although its main industry was related to the thread and cotton industries, with mills powered by the Black Cart Water which runs to the north of Johnstone. A six-storey cotton mill, one of the largest in Scotland, was built in 1782, and was rescued from failure by Robert Burns of Paisley sometime before 1812. Burns introduced Richard Arkwright's methods for spinning cotton. As the community expanded, slum conditions formed in part of the town: the population by 1831 had increased to a sizeable 5,600. Unfortunately, the owners of Johnstone mill did not make much philanthropic progress among their worker population, and the situation was not addressed until the 1930s by a significant expansion of the size of Johnstone to include a number of purpose-built residential estates.
Much of Johnstone’s feudal heritage has disappeared. With the death of the last Laird in 1931, Johnstone Castle fell into disrepair before being largely demolished in 1950. The remaining tower was purchased in 2001 and is now a private residence. On the site of the former grounds now lies two housing estates, Johnstone Castle and Cochrane Castle. Embedded within Cochrane Castle is the Cochrane Castle Golf Club, which once held the world record for the longest hole.
Thorn Public School, as it was originally called, opened in 1904. A new Thorn primary school opened in 1988, with the former building demolished in 1988. The old site is now occupied by a housing estate, although parts of the original walls are still standing. In 1950 St. David's Primary School was built along with its sister school Cochrane Castle Primary School. In 2007 the two schools were housed in a new shared building nearby, 'West Johnstone Shared Campus', just outside Thomas Shanks Public Park; as of 2022, the locations of the original schools (between Dundonald Avenue and Craigview Avenue) remain overgrown 'gap sites' awaiting redevelopment.
Johnstone High School opened on its current site off Beith Road in March 1965, the previous building in Ludovic Square having burnt down in 1960 (there is now a modern health centre on its site). Its redeveloped campus opened in late 2009.
The original St Cuthberts High School was built adjacent to Johnstone High School and shared the same driveway and car parks. The school closed in 1972 and moved to a new site in Hallhill Road, Spateston that year. The original school was demolished and replaced by a housing development to the left of the driveway of Johnstone High School. The school at Spateston closed at the end of the summer term of 2006 along with St Brendan's High School in Linwood due to falling rolls and the buildings' poor state of repair. These were replaced by a new build St Benedict's High School at Linwood (named in honour of St Benedict of Nursia, the patron saint of Europe and of students). The old St Cuthbert's building was used to house several schools while their own premises were being refurbished (including Johnstone High School from 2008 to 2009). It was also subsequently demolished in 2010 and has since been replaced by new housing.
At a local government level, the town is split between the Johnstone South and Elderslie and Johnstone North, Kilbarchan, Howwood and Lochwinnoch wards for elections to Renfrewshire Council, which each elect four councillors each under the Single Transferable Vote electoral system. These boundaries were first used in the 2017 Renfrewshire Council election, with councillors elected across the two wards being three Scottish National Party (SNP), two Labour Party, two Conservative Party and one Independent.
For elections to the Scottish Parliament, Johnstone is included in the constituency of Renfrewshire South which is currently held by Tom Arthur. Arthur became the first SNP Member of the Scottish Parliament for the area in the 2016 Scottish Parliament election and was re-elected in 2021. Previously, from the establishment of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, the constituency and its predecessor seat had been represented by Labour Party politician Hugh Henry. Johnstone is also included in the West Scotland electoral region, which elects seven additional members.
In the British House of Commons the town is contained within the seat of Paisley and Renfrewshire South, which has been held by the SNP's Mhairi Black since the 2015 election. Black's election marked a significant political change for the town, as the area had traditionally been very strong for the Labour Party, which had continuously held constituencies containing Johnstone since 1945. Black was subsequently re-elected in the 2017 and 2019 elections.
Johnstone is served by Glasgow International Airport, which is located 3+1⁄2 miles (5.6 km) northeast of the town. Moreover, Prestwick International Airport is a 30-to-40-minute train journey from Johnstone railway station.
McGill's Bus Service Limited operate the majority of local services from their depot in the west end of Johnstone, running the following routes serving the town
Key Coaches are a local service operator based in Elderslie. They run the following services.
Johnstone is linked to Glasgow Central, Paisley and the Ayrshire coast by the Johnstone railway station which is located at the east of the town on Thorn Brae. A second unmanned station Milliken Park railway station lies at the west end of the town, just off the Cochranemill road. The railway line runs through the cutting of the old Glasgow–Ardrossan canal, although the route of the canal runs under the original bridge, Dick's Bridge, at the bottom of the Thorn Brae, where the canal basin was situated and in winter, the rim of the canal basin sometimes becomes visible.
It may be noted that a second railway line ran through the town serving the villages of Kilbarchan, Bridge of Weir, and Kilmacolm; the line now forms part of the Clyde to Forth cycle route (National Cycle Route 75). It had a station serving the Northern, more industrial areas of town, Johnstone North railway station.