There are hundreds of closes in Paisley – and one woman has been up them all.

Catherine Watt is on a mission to chart a rather unusual piece of Paisley past . . . the tenemental tile.

She has uncovered all sorts of riches adorning what people outside the West of Scotland would call a “common entrance”.

Some closes are bland, some damaged and some now suffer the sacrilege of having their fancy tiles painted over. It is the tenements that still have the “wally closes” that are the most prized, named after the white china dogs that  were  once popular fireplace ornaments.

Education project worker Catherine lives in a Paisley tenement with a wally close herself.

She revealed: “I have been astonished just how many people love the tenement tiles.

“People have been sending me pictures of their favourites to add to my collection.”

Catherine, a 51-year-old mother-of three, admits to becoming rather obsessed with the tenements.

She said: “When I go out for a walk with my partner Dan, I suddenly nip up a close.

“It drives him daft that we cannot go out for a lovely walk without me disappearing.”

There are still thousands of traditional tenement flats in the town. Some date to the late 1800s, but as time ticks on even the last of them are now 100 years old.

Many are clustered around Glasgow Road in the east end, built in the 1920s in the south off Neilston Road and around Brodie Park, and in spots such as Seedhill and Causeyside Street.

Their ever-lasting appeal has meant prices for the best flats now soar over the £150,000 barrier.

Catherine estimates 60 per cent of the old buildings are now gone, often replaced with utilitarian and unstylish blocks that won’t last half as long.

Her  Behind Close Doors Paisley hobby may eventually lead to a book, a heritage trail or an exhibition. She said: “The thing I love about the Victorian buildings is that features were added for the sake of beauty, they were not needed at all.

“There should be much more done to preserve this rich heritage and I have contacted the chairman of the Tile and Architectural Ceramic Society (TACS).”

Her father was born and raised in a tenement in Stow Street, the area still a stronghold of the red and blonde sandstone blocks.

Catherine, who studied film art at Paisley University, said: “I am building up a database of what tiles are where and have written to the TACS to try and find out more about their history and where they were made. It was actually 25 years ago that I first started taking pictures of the tiles. But it is only now that I want to make more of it, a history of our built environment, like the Isle of Harris does with its natural environment. What sparked me on to document the subject was when two tenements in Wellmeadow Street were demolished and I realised I had photographs of their amazing tiles.

“People have such fond memories of living in these buildings.”

Some tiles are from the potter Herbert Minton and some in the art nouveau style, which always seems to be in fashion.

Sadly some of the closes – often housing privately owned rental flats – are in a state if neglect and nobody appears to have an investment in the fabric of the building.

Catherine reckons the finest tiles she has come across are in Whitehaugh Drive and Regent Street and she says  some in Glasgow Road are “absolutely beautiful”.

The first section of tenements in Greenlaw Avenue are just painted – but move half way down and the ceramics are stunning.

“Crossflats, Howard Street and Dunn Street are also noteworthy. She notes a rather ordinary looking block on a corner at Caledonia Street as having “amazing” tiles inside and ranks it as one of Paisley’s gems. And Greenock Road also gets a mention in her guide to wally closes.

* If you are interested in Catherine’s work, send your close image to behindclosedoors [email protected] or Behind Close Doors: Paisley’s Hidden Tenement Tiles and other artistic work on Facebook.