Thomas Coats Memorial Church, known as the Baptist Cathedral of Europe, is located at the west end of the High Street in Paisley. This majestic building has been a chief feature of Paisley’s skyline for over 120 years, its striking crown spire, rising to 60 meters above the High Street.
Thomas Coats (1809-1883) whose memorial this is, was a philanthropist and devoted member of the Baptist Church. One of the founders of the world famous J.& P. Coats Company, Thomas was committed to the well-being of his town.
The Coats family gifted the town with many fine buildings including, the Observatory, the Library and Museum and the Fountain Gardens. After his death in 1883 his family, wishing to commemorate his life, resolved to build a new church for the Baptist Congregation of which Thomas had been an active member for 44 years.
The family launched a competition in which they invited the most prestigious architects of the day to submit designs for a building, on a grand scale, in Gothic style. The winning design was that of Edinburgh architect Hippolyte Blanc (1844-1917). Work commenced 1885 and was completed in nine years, the official opening taking place on 13th May 1894.
The Memorial Church is simply breathtaking and is consequently Grade A listed and of national importance. Built of red sandstone in Victorian neo-Gothic style, the church bristles with flying buttresses and gargoyles and is approached via a set of grand stairs leading to three arched entrances with massive oak doors.
The immense detail of the exterior is surpassed by the incredible decoration inside. The craftsmanship is superb, the detail astonishing; carved marble, alabaster, and oak; mosaic flooring, hand painted ceilings, hand-stenciled wall decoration; immensely decorated metalwork in bronze, copper, and wrought iron.
Drinking Fountains and Electric Fire
As well as their spiritual wellbeing, the creature comforts of the congregation were also catered for. There are marble drinking fountains and state of the art Victorian toilets equipped with fittings by Doulton, tiling by Craven and Dunnill, and retiring rooms each with its uniquely designed electric fire.
The family regarded music as an integral part of worship and so commissioned an organ from William Hill of London. This remains one of the finest instruments in the country boasting four manuals and well over 3000 pipes. Its sound fills the immense space and compliments the marvelous acoustic of the interior.
Paisley is a Coats town, though much of the Coats heritage has already been lost. The mansion houses, the half-time school, and even the mill itself are gone or lie in ruins.
Today, the congregation can no longer sustain this important building. The Trustees, faced with the threat of closure are seeking to find a future for the building within the Paisley and wider community. Thomas Coats Memorial have created this petition an attempt to raise awareness of the present predicament and to try to find a secure future for one of Paisley’s most important buildings.
The petition link is here: https://www.change.org/p/george-adam-msp-scottish-parliament-uk-sign-to-save-thomas-coats-memoral-baptist-church