Pre-industrial Stirling was one of three major strongholds in Scotland, the others being Edinburgh and Perth. The castle was the strongest defence in Scotland and, in the 15th and 16th century, a Royal residential palace and favoured seat of the Stuart Kings. Sections of the Town Wall (c1547) remain and can be seen from the Back Walk (1723). Stirling had five Burgh gates to protect its trading privileges, the last remaining one, the Barras Yett, was only removed in the late 18th century to allow expansion to the south.
The Royal Burgh developed on the steep slopes below the castle. Burgh lands were divided amongst burgesses in long narrow burgage plots, developing historically from arable rigs, giving rise to the characteristic building form found in historic Scottish burghs of tall, narrow street frontages.
Despite intensive urbanisation, Stirling was slow to expand beyond its original burgh plan. Only in the early 19th century, with classical villas built to the north and south of the town did Stirling break from the confines of its medieval layout. The new streets had grand names- Irvine Place, Queen Street, Albert Place, Pitt and Melville Terrace.
These villas, set in generous grounds, contrasted with the Top of the Town where the streets were densely populated and over the course of the 19th and early 20th century became increasingly derelict. Progressive demolition began from the end of World War I. Attempts were initially made by Sir Frank Mears to save the historic buildings and continued under burgh architect, Walter Gillespie. What was built is essentially in the ‘Scottish domestic revival idiom’ with elements of Scottish vernacular architecture in the new housing.
Reflecting the important surviving heritage, Stirling Council has designated 11 Conservation Areas which aim to protect the historic built environment. Information, including on historic development, can be found on the Stirling Council website where the Conservation Area Appraisals and Plans are available to download.