Now a quiet village, Neilston was originally the industrial centre of old Neilston Parish under the lordship of the Mure family of Caldwell whose tombs are in the beautiful, old parish church. The old Crofthead mill building still survives as does the Caldwell Tower, part of the old Mure estate.

The Industrial Revolution played a large part in the growth of the village from a predominately farming community to one in which cotton production was the main industry and source of employment in the area.

By 1812 there were six cotton mills on the Levern, the waters of which provided much power for the mills: Crofthead, Gateside, Broadlie, Fereneze, Arthurlie and Levernmill, employing about 1500 people. Another 1,000 were employed in the parish in the bleachfields.

The growth of industry was responsible for the corresponding increase in housing in the area, including cottages, single and two-story buildings and mansion houses for the owners of the mills and factories.

In spite of the decline in industry during the 20th century the population of Neilston has been growing, with a shift from small communities owned by landlords and mill owners to rented council accommodation and privately owned housing. Many who live in the village now commute to work in Paisley or Glasgow.