Prestige property: Arts and Crafts marvel in Paisley comes on to the market

Sometimes the right house meets the right owners at the right time. A case in point is Wilmar, a spectacular property in a quiet and secluded spot in Thornly Park, Paisley. The house was designed by the renowned turn-of-the-century architect, and contemporary of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, William Daniel “WD” McLennan.

Wilmar, South Avenue, Paisley. STUART RUSSELL PHOTOGRAPHY
Wilmar, South Avenue, Paisley. STUART RUSSELL PHOTOGRAPHY

Fitting with the artisan ethos of Arts and Crafts architecture, the design encompasses everything from the roofline, chimneys and bay windows, to the staircase and stained glass, right down to the smallest detail of door furnishings and light fittings.

That almost every feature has survived is down to two families’ love of the house.

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The Clarks are synonymous with the cotton trade in Paisley, and William Clark, for whom the house was built, along with his wife Margaret – hence the portmanteau name, Wilmar – was the grandson of James Clark, mill owner and the inventor of the wooden bobbin.

Wilmar, South Avenue, Paisley. STUART RUSSELL PHOTOGRAPHY

William’s daughter, Moira, lived in the house all her life. And then the current owners, Paul and Lindsay O’Neill, bought the place in 2004 to find that almost nothing had changed in a century.

Paul says: “Technically, we are the second owners in 113 years. When we bought it, it had been empty for a while after Moira died.

“Although she had clearly loved it to stay here into her 90s, it did mean the house was neglected. But the stunning interior was still intact. There was only one layer of wallpaper on the walls, so the house hadn’t undergone the indignity of any ’70s or ’80s makeovers.”

Paul is an architect, and Lindsay an interiors specialist, so the O’Neills falling in love with the house is arguably the best thing that could have happened to it.

Wilmar, South Avenue, Paisley. STUART RUSSELL PHOTOGRAPHY

Paul says: “I’ve done a lot of conservation preservation work and recognised that Wilmar is architecturally important, it should have a higher listing than ‘C’.

“It is utterly unique, on the cusp of Art Nouveau, so it isn’t pure Arts and Crafts, but a melding of both.”

He recognises that the design is influenced by Mackintosh but also points to the style of CFA Voysey, the influential English architect.

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Paul says there are repeated motifs throughout the house: “There is a most delightful detail which is an arch rising to a point and it is present around the house, in plaster and timber. It is obviously on a different scale to Mackintosh’s Hill House, but the layout is similar and I think McLennan has taken his influences from there.

Wilmar, South Avenue, Paisley. STUART RUSSELL PHOTOGRAPHY

“The house sits proudly above the street but the exterior is understated with an element of restraint. Coming in feels like cracking open a stone and finding a gem.”

The O’Neills undertook a huge project to secure the building’s fabric. The couple moved out for five months while the work got underway, which involved scaffolding to chimney level, replacing a steel beam under a cantilevered floor, rot work, rewiring and replumbing, replacing cast iron guttering and 34 windows, including some which were load bearing. The also put in a central heating system.

As Paul attests: “It is now as solid as the day it was built.”

The original Arts and Crafts detail surviving in such quantity is remarkable and Paul and Lindsay have spent many hours cleaning and restoring, while decorating and furnishing in a style that fits perfectly with the house’s age.

Wilmar, South Avenue, Paisley. STUART RUSSELL PHOTOGRAPHY

But the previous owner’s predilection to throw nothing out came in handy too. Paul explains: “The original brass chandeliers had modern paper shades on them. However, the original copper shades were found at the back of a cupboard. We spent two weeks cleaning the chandelier, then replaced the shades.”

In 2014 the O’Neills made the decision to add a sunroom extension, which Paul designed. It replaced a lean-to at the rear of the house and is open-plan to the dining-kitchen and links to the back garden. It modernises the layout, and makes the house fit for 21st Century life, without taking away any of its historical importance.

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It is a good example of what the O’Neills have achieved at Wilmar. The momentous project has secured a special house for the next century, at least.

Wilmar, South Avenue, Paisley is priced at offers over £750,000

For more information, contact Robb Residential on 0141-225 3880.

Wilmar, South Avenue, Paisley. STUART RUSSELL PHOTOGRAPHY
Wilmar, South Avenue, Paisley. STUART RUSSELL PHOTOGRAPHY