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My Favourite John Allan Building by Pam McNicol

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Building designed by John Allan, Architect, 29 – 31 Friar’s Street, Stirling

Stirling Council Archives takes care of the series of plans amassed as part of the Burgh Council’s function as a regulatory authority for building works within the burgh. The Dean of Guild Court, as it was known, oversaw the deposit of plans with the Council by those seeking permission for the works they wished to carry out. The collection has a number of sets of plans drawn by the idiosyncratic Stirling Architect, John Allan. The plans held show the variety of styles that Allan was capable of and some of his trademark quirks of design.

One of the most unusual of the buildings the Archives holds plans for is one at 29 – 31 Friar’s Street, Stirling.

Archive architectural plans of 29 - 31 Friar’s Street, faded yellow paper with a four storey building drawn on,
Dean of Guild Court Friars Street Elevation. Reproduced courtesy of Stirling Council Archives

Built in 1902 for J.B. Richardson, it is built of Welsh Ruabon brick and features a Dutch gable and large plate glass windows. On the façade are 6 stone panels, 2 of which are marble, the other 4 sandstone. Two of the panels are carved with Robertson’s initials and the date of construction. Others have symbols on them that are thought to relate to the Holy Rude Kirk in Stirling, of whose congregation Allan was a member, and the King’s Park, where he lived. At first floor level, the panels carry the mottoes ‘Do yer duty’ and ‘Honor Principle’.

red brick wall with a stone plaque with the words Honor Principle inscribed on it.
John Allan often included intriguing mottos on his buildings. © Jo Cound

I would describe this building as delightfully eccentric. The style hardly matches the buildings around it, yet is graceful and pleasing to the eye. In a way, it sums up a lot of what makes John Allan interesting as an architect: his dedication to his own vision, his preoccupation with symbolism and ties to a particular vision of Scotland’s heritage, mixing myth and tradition in an idiosyncratic aesthetic that is unique to him and him alone. All of Allan’s buildings stand out in their environment, but this is the one of them that I enjoy the most.

Pam McNicol, Stirling Council Archivist


Pam has have been a qualified Archivist for over 30 years. She took up the post of Stirling Council Archivist in 2007, having previously been Archivist for Renfrewshire Council and Deputy City Archivist in Edinburgh.

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