Stirling's Heritage

Stirling’s Built Heritage

Pre-industrial Stirling was one of three major strongholds in Scotland, the others being Edinburgh and Perth. By the 16th century, the medieval castle had become a luxurious Royal Palace and favoured residence of the Stuart Kings.

The Royal Burgh developed on the steep slopes below the castle. Burgh lands were divided amongst burgesses in long narrow plots, giving rise to the characteristic building form found in historic Scottish burghs of tall, narrow buildings.

Despite an increasing population, Stirling didn’t expand beyond its original medieval layout until the 19th century when classical villas were built to the north and south of the town. These grand new streets had names which reflected contemporary culture and politics; 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. Living conditions were poor, and over the course of the 19th and early 20th century most buildings in the area were in a terrible state of repair. 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.

Who Built Stirling?

Architects and craftsmen constructed Stirling over many centuries. Although we do not always know who designed or constructed early buildings, from the later 19th century’ the architectural profession expanded and became very influential in the styles adopted. The distinctive buildings of the Victorian and Edwardian eras were designed by several notable architects such as John Allan and McLuckie & Walker.

More on Scottish architects working in Stirling can be found on the Dictionary of Scottish Architects website.


A shepherd and his sheep on the junction of Port Street and King Street, 1910s. Image courtesy of the Smith Art Gallery & Museum


Stirling’s Train Station, c.1932. Image courtesy of the Smith Art Gallery & Museum


Bustling King Street, 1950s. Image courtesy of Smith Art Gallery & Museum


A parade in Port Street, 1950s. Image courtesy of the Smith Art Gallery & Museum

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