Thomas Coats was a devout member of the Baptist Church and a successful industrialist whose working life almost mirrored the reign of Queen Victoria. Within the family firm, J & P Coats (his two elder brothers) he was a key figure in the expansion of the company not just in Paisley where it had been founded in 1828 but also in Europe and in North and South America. By 1910 around 10,000 people worked in the thread mills in Paisley which required 400 tons of coal per day to keep the machinery running.|
In common with many other members of the family Thomas was a philanthropist. The breadth of his concern reflected the way in which the Coats family used their resources and their position to improve the amenities available to the population of Paisley and its environs. As well as expanding their textile business - well into the 20th century - they were committed to the improvement of public education and health and what we might now refer to as the living environment of the citizenry of 19th century Paisley. Underpinning this was a Christian faith which kept the family at the heart of the religious life of the town.
The Coats legacy is still to be found throughout the town with the Thomas Coats Memorial Church, which dominates the Paisley skyline, being the most obvious example. The Memorial building was built after his death in 1883 on the commission of his wife and children. Gothic in design and built with warm red sandstone the base is cruciform under a superb vaulted roof and has a seating capacity of around 1000. Rising above the church is a magnificent crown tower and spire.
The wider Coats family contributed to the construction and renovation of three other churches including Paisley Abbey. The former main hospital for Paisley, the Royal Alexandra Infirmary, owed much of its provision to Peter Coats. Though much of the industrial presence has now gone from the town there are still echoes to be found of Paisley's textile past. Where else might you find an interwoven pattern of streets called Cotton, Silk, Lawn, Thread, Mill and Incle.