Stirling celebrates its links with William Wallace’s story. While most people are familiar with the National Wallace Monument, there are actually several other statues of the Scottish hero scattered throughout the city, each with their own unique history and significance.
William Wallace was born around 1270, a Scottish noble who would become a legend. Fighting alongside Andrew Moray (d.1297) during the First War of Scottish Independence, he defeated English troops at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297, but he was ultimately defeated at the Battle of Falkirk in 1298 by Edward I (1239-1307). Wallace went on the run but was finally captured on 5th August 1305, handed-over to the English by a fellow Scot. Wallace was then transported down to London where he was tried as a treasonous war criminal. On 23rd August 1305 he met his gruesome end, being publicly hanged drawn and quartered at Smithfield. His limbs were displayed as a warning to would-be rebels in Newcastle, Berwick, Stirling and Perth, and his tar-dipped head was put on a spike on London Bridge.
Although he most likely wasn’t from Stirlingshire, William Wallace is linked to Stirling by the Battle of Stirling Bridge and the city’s built heritage. His famous victory was commemorated in 1869 when the National Wallace Monument was erected near the Stirling Bridge Battlesite after a fundraising campaign. The Monument is now a Category A Listed heritage attraction. A bronze sculpture of Wallace sits in a niche on the north west corner of the Monument, created by David Watson Stevenson (1842-1904). Installed in the early 1870s, the sculpture is 6m tall and weighs 2.5 tonnes. After over 100 years exposed to the elements on Abbey Craig the statue was carefully restored in 2019.
But this isn’t the only historic sculpture of William Wallace in Stirling, he can be found throughout the city centre, so we’ve highlighted some places to spot him in this blog.
The Athenaeum is built on the site of the former meat market and opened in 1817. It had a ground floor shop, private library, reading room and meeting rooms for Stirling’s merchants and people could pay an annual subscription to borrow books. From 1875 to 1918 it was used as Stirling Burgh offices until the Municipal Buildings were completed.
The statue of William Wallace above the portico was added in 1859, created by renowned sculptor Handyside Ritchie (1804-1870). Rev Charles Rogers, who proposed the idea of the National Wallace Monument, wanted to buy the statue and persuaded a local businessman to pay for it. He then managed to talk the council into building the Athenaeum’s portico so that the statue could be placed on top of it. He must have been very convincing!
The Municipal Buildings
Designed by J Gaff Gillespie (1870-1926) of Salmon, Son & Gillespie, works started on the Municipal Building in 1914 after King George IV laid the foundation stone. By 1918 the building was only partially completed as works were interrupted by the First World War. Look above the central entrance to see statues of Mary Queen of Scots, Robert the Bruce, and William Wallace himself.
Former Clydesdale Bank Building
Purpose built for the Clydesdale Bank by James Thomson (1835-1905) of Baird & Thomson in 1900, this building is covered in sculptures. See if you can spot the heads of James V, Mary Queen of Scots, William Wallace and Robert the Bruce. Art, science and culture are also represented by sculptures of Michael Angelo, James Watt and Mozart. A unicorn, Scotland’s national animal, is also perched high on a finial.
This building symbolises the wealth of King Street in the 19th century. King Street was originally known as Quality Street (unfortunately nothing to do with the sweets) and was renamed King Street in honour of George IV.