We think of the term ‘bungalow’ as referring to single-storey houses, generally in a suburban location. However, the word is also used to refer to a particular type of shop which can be found in many Scottish towns and cities, including Stirling.
Like their domestic counterpart, bungalow shops are single storey. They are typically found in rows of 3 or more matching shops and have common architectural features which aesthetically tie the row together. These may include similar floor tiles, cast iron brattishing on the stone parapet above the shopfronts or identical doors. This gives unity and impact to otherwise unimposing little shops which are sometimes overlooked in comparison to more elaborate retail buildings.
Rows of bungalow shops may be found in gap sites, filling an awkward location that could otherwise prove tricky to make the most of. They create variety within the streetscape, their low rise contrasting with taller tenements, grand public buildings and elegant church steeples. The contribution they make to the townscape should not be underestimated; their small scale allows vistas to buildings which would otherwise be hidden.
In Stirling, there are two notable rows of purpose-built bungalow shops, one in Friars Street, the other in Barnton Street. Both date to the interwar period. Although unlisted, they are located within the Stirling Town & Royal Park Conservation Area and so are legally protected from inappropriate alterations.
83-93 Barnton Street
In 1923, Stirling architect John Bruce was commissioned by G. Henderson & Sons to design 6 shops in front of Viewfield Church. Construction of Barnton Street began in the 1840s and comprised tall, 4 storey tenements. Here, in the lee of Viewfield Church with its impressive spire, the proposal for low-scale shops would still allow people to see the church as they headed into the town centre.
Dean of Guild Court plans for the shops held at Stirling Council Archives (Plan number 1515) show that the shops all had matching multi-pane glazed doors with iron railings along the top of the parapet. The row comprised a mixture of 4 smaller, single-fronted shops with the 2 outer shops being double-fronted. This mixture of smaller and larger shops is not unusual, giving a variety of options to prospective tenants.
Inevitably, with shops that are over 80 years old, some alterations have taken place. There are no longer iron railings along the parapet and the door has been altered at number 91 (now McCready & Co). The shop at number 87 (now Luxe Hairdressing) was re-fronted, most likely in the 1930s, and possibly for a butchers. It has a marble frontage, integral blind and black and white tiled lobby floor.
2-12 Friars Street
Originally known as Friars Wynd, this narrow dog-leg street links the old upper town with the routes to Stirling Bridge. Tall buildings prevail on the north-west but the opposite side is more open due to the single-storey shops erected there in the 1930s.
The shops were built in two stages. Numbers 2-8 were erected around 1930 and 10-12 in 1937. The latter were designed by Stirling architects Bruce and Marshall
and it is possible that they also designed 2-8. Surviving Dean of Guild Court plans in Stirling Council archives (Plan 2852) show the design for the 3 shops executed in a cream and green paint scheme.
As with the Barnton Street shops, there are common architectural features. With the later date of the 1930s, there are inevitable Art Deco influences in the design including stepped, geometric parapets. Numbers 2-8 have elegant curved glass entrances whereas the later shops at 10-12 have more angular lobbies. All the shopfronts have integral roller blinds and terrazzo lobby floors (a polished man-made ceramic product which is now very much back in vogue). Although there have been some alterations and mergers of premises, the essence of the original designs is very much evident.
As you walk down Friars Street you can see over the roofs of these shops to the spire of the Stirling Baptist Church on Murray Place. In the same way that the Barnton Street shops allow Viewfield Church to be enjoyed, these buildings with their gentle scale perform a similar role.
Bungalow Shops elsewhere
There are lots of other bungalow shops to see. Locally, there are good examples in Henderson Street, Bridge of Allan where John Cullens Butcher at 84 Henderson Street has a particularly fine tiled interior. Beech Road, Dunblane also makes a modest but valuable contribution to the entrance to the High Street. Have a look the next time you are out shopping and see what common architectural features you can spot in these charming and often overlooked additions to our streetscape.
If you want to find out more about shopfronts you can visit the Historic Environment Scotland website and download the Short Guide to Scottish Traditional Shopfronts.