PART of Renfrewshire’s horticultural past is being dug up and brought into the 21st century.

Books of minutes from meetings of the Paisley Florist Society dating back to 1797 have been digitised and can now be seen on the website.

Claiming to be the oldest horticultural society in the UK, the group was founded in 1782 by the town’s weavers.

David Weir, heritage co-ordinator with Renfrewshire Leisure, said: “When the Paisley Florist Society was formed, the weavers were at the high point of their trade, with stable employment and earnings. This income allowed them to have free time to spend on hobbies.

“Farm produce being sold in towns during the industrial revolution and the weavers’ spending power also meant they did not have to grow food in their gardens.

“This combination of factors meant they could grow flowers in the weavers’ cottage gardens and the Paisley Florist Society was born.”

Members met every week in a local hotel, exhibiting babs – an old Scots word for a posy – of seasonal flowers to be judged by the society.

The florists grew eight show flowers – auricula, tulip, polyanthus, carnation, anemone, hyacinth, ranunculus and pink.

In the first minute book, dating from 1797 to 1833, rule XVII states: “The two flower judges shall be chosen by open vote at a quarter before nine and they are to be ordered down to judge the flowers exactly at nine o’clock.

“It is requested that the landlord will provide a candle and a separate apartment if convenient for the better deliberation of the judges.”

And a minute from a meeting in November 1804 reads: “This night came on the discussion of the important notion of the changing of the place of the meeting. After some discussion, it was unanimously agreed that, as the ale was considerably improved, they remain in the house for some time longer.”

The digitisation project was funded by Arts and Business Scotland, with the work carried out by Paisley-based digital scanning and archiving specialists Abergower.

Councillor Lisa-Marie Hughes, chair of Renfrewshire Leisure’s board, said: “This project allows people to easily access information about an important part of Paisley’s culture and heritage. I’m sure people – and especially the many local gardening enthusiasts – will find the digitised minutes of great interest.”