The Oakshaw area of Paisley lies behind the High Street and is one of the oldest inhabited areas of Paisley. It is reputed to have had a Roman Fort, or at the very least a Roman presence, although current thinking now suggests that the site may date as far back as the Iron Age. The area houses many Churches, some still used for worship, many converted to apartments, and some converted for community projects such as The Wynd Centre and PACE.
Other interesting buildings include the Coats Observatory, Hutcheson School, Peter Brough Home for Nurses and of course the John Neilson Institution.
The John Neilson Institution was originally a school. Bequeathed to the town by John Neilson, a wealthy grocery shop owner who died in 1839. The building was designed by Charles Wilson and eventually opened its doors in 1852 and continued as the John Neilson until 1968 when a new John Neilson High School was opened in Ferguslie. The original John Neilson Institution building in Oakshaw for a time became Oakshaw High School until it too closed in the 1970’s.
In the heart of Oakshaw , the "porridge bowl" as it is affectionally, known stands proud over the town. It took some 20 years after it ceased as a place of learning before it was converted into exclusive apartments.