John Allan, the architect who designed many of Stirling’s most interesting buildings, was born in Carnock, Fife, on the 21st of April 1847, so today we are celebrating his birthday. In this blogpost, we will look at five of his most impressive projects in Stirling.
Allan moved from his home in Fife to Stirling in 1870, aged 24, and set up his architectural practice. He was a remarkable man, pushing the boundaries of architectural style and the use of new materials and techniques. He also advocated for better housing throughout his career, incorporating modern housing standards in his tenement designs.
Royal Gardens, Kings Park
The development of King’s Park as a well-heeled suburb in the nineteenth century provided Allan with the opportunity to design a number of buildings; including 1-11 Royal Gardens, which directly overlooks the King’s Knot, and 42 Albert Place. These handsome semi-detached sandstone villas were built in the popular Italianate style by Allan, who was appointed architect for the project by local solicitor and property developer John Wood Blakely in 1877, who lived in Albert Place.
55 Baker Street
Built in 1890, this was John Allan’s first foray in building in brick, to great effect. This charming Old English Tudor style corner tenement used to have a pub on the ground floor, The Stirling Arms, whose name appears in a plaque above the door. This building is a real gem, and has tangible impact on the surrounding, more traditional, Scottish streetscape.
The Wolf Craig
This is the most well-known of all Allan’s designs. Constructed in 1897, the Wolf Craig was built to house a grocer’s emporium for Robertson & Macfarlane. Allan’s interest in symbols and symbolism can clearly be seen in this building. Allan used symbols and decorative elements throughout his career to express his professional identity and reference local history, and the Wolf Craig building represents Allan at his best. With its Welsh Ruabon brickwork, panels of decorative tiles, and famous wolf sculpture relating the story that a howling wolf alerted sentries of an imminent attack and thereby saved Stirling. Under this Stirling wolf, the inscription reads:
Here in auld days
The wolf roam’d
In a hole of the rock
In ambush lay
John Allan’s stylised signature can be seen in the date panel on the chimney on the rubble façade of this three-storey tenement. Allan frequently incorporated the building owner’s initials into his designs but he would also include his own signature together with other mysterious symbols and mottos. Allan designed a number of tenements later in his career, combining his desire to use technological advances with improved layouts to make better homes.
29-31 Friar Street
This slim red brick tenement and shop was designed for J.B Richardson in 1902, using the same Welsh Ruabon brick as in the Wolf Craig. This four-storey building has a continental feel, with its balconies and scrolled Dutch gable. Symbols appear in panels across the façade, including the consecration marks of the Church of the Holy Rude and the enigmatic phrases; HONOR PRINCIPLE and DO YER DUTY. Like 55 Baker Street, this building creates a statement amongst the more traditional Scottish buildings in Stirling’s bustling commercial centre.
Stirling City Heritage Trust produced an exhibition on John Allan in 2018, and you can download a PDF of John Allan: A Man of Original Ideas, researched and written by members of Stirling Local History Society for a more in depth look at his life and works.
Which of John Allan’s building’s is your favourite? Let us know over on Facebook or twitter, and be sure to share any of your own photographs of his designs.