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Stirling, 35-37 Broad Street, Town House

Jail (19th Century), Sheriff Courthouse (19th Century), Tolbooth (18th Century)

Site Name Stirling, 35-37 Broad Street, Town House

Classification Jail (19th Century), Sheriff Courthouse (19th Century), Tolbooth (18th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Jail Wynd; Tolbooth; Stirling Town House And Tolbooth; Courthouse; Assembley Rooms; 32 St John Street, Former Prison

Canmore ID 46229

Site Number NS79SE 45

NGR NS 79310 93694

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Digital Images

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Administrative Areas

  • Council Stirling
  • Parish Stirling
  • Former Region Central
  • Former District Stirling
  • Former County Stirlingshire

Archaeology Notes

NS79SE 45 79310 93694

(NS 7931 9369). The Town House of Stirling was built between 1703 and 1705, incorporating part of the earlier tolbooth. In 1785, the building was extended eastwards, and a court-house and jail were added to the S between 1806 and 1811. The wall fronting on Broad Street is faced with ashlar and the one facing Jail Wynd is rendered in cement, the rest of the main building being in rubble. It stands two floors and a garret high.

RCAHMS 1963, visited 1957

As described.

Visited by OS (JP) 6 December 1973.

NS 7931 9369 Three 2 x 2m trial trenches were excavated prior to a proposed development in a courtyard to the N of the Tolbooth. Midden and demolition deposits were located in all three trenches, and the foundations of the Tolbooth were investigated. In the trenches to the E and W, the remains of mortar-bonded stone walls were located, pre-dating the present building (possibly pre-1473). In the central and eastern trenches possible stone structures of an even earlier date were located. In the eastern trench burnt daub or hearth material was encountered, possibly of medieval date.

Sponsor: Stirling Council.

M Roy 1999

NS 7931 9369 The report on the above trial excavation gave details of the excavation procedures and the findings. The trench was limited to a depth of 1.5m but the archaeological deposits continued past this level. However in some areas undisturbed subsoil was reached. Although earlier features were beginning to appear through the layer of burning the depth in the brief had been reached so work was stopped in order to protect the lower deposits. A trial trench past this depth uncovered masonry foundations, a possible cobbled surface and a posthole containing the post. Further historical research and analysis of the finds may help to date the structures and establish the sequence of urban development.

Sponsor: Stirling Council

NMRS MS/725/274 (GUARD 806. 2000)

NS 793 936 During December 1999, an excavation was carried out in the courtyard behind the Tolbooth (NMRS NS79SE 45) prior to the complete renovation of the building. A previous archaeological evaluation, consisting of three trial trenches in the courtyard, had uncovered a rich sequence of archaeological deposits dating to the medieval and post-medieval periods (DES 1999, 88). Area excavation proceeded in a 3m wide strip next to the E boundary wall of the courtyard, where a substantial cobbled surface was uncovered along with the stone foundations of several walls and buildings pre-dating the construction and subsequent extension of the Tolbooth in 1703. Historical records refer to executed prisoners being buried within the confines of the Tolbooth; therefore, care was taken to ensure that any human remains discovered during the watching brief or excavation were treated in an appropriate manner. Previously disturbed human remains were in fact uncovered during the watching brief. (GUARD 806).

Sponsor: Stirling Council.

R Will 2000

NS 7931 9369 Standing building survey, analysis and monitoring was undertaken of the Tolbooth during conversion of the structure to an arts centre in April-May 1999 and May-June 2000. The survey included a full drawn record of the earlier N wing and tower of the complex, and a general analysis of the entirety of the complex. Monitoring extended to the recording of sub-floor archaeological deposits throughout much of the structure and in parts of the courtyard.

Sub-floor excavations revealed a mass of structural remains and associated deposits that relate to the tenements already identified within the courtyard by GUARD. A very substantial clay-bonded footing to the S of the site appears to represent the original line of the St John Street frontage, while the original Broad Street frontage was also identified to the N. In places the N frontage walling survives to a height of 1m and contained the lower jambs of a street entrance. It is clear that within the N range these exposed walls are contiguous with parts of the standing fabric, particularly that of the S, courtyard-facing wall.

A considerable proportion of the medieval Tolbooth structure of c 1473 also appears to survive, including the tower (subsequently refaced externally) and much of its E and S walls. A test excavation within the structure revealed an extensive build-up of deposits relating to the construction of the Tolbooth; two make-up deposits consisting of midden-like levels containing a considerable quantity of ceramic and other domestic debris. Wall footings beneath the existing court may relate to its predecessor, the old council house and the jail that, from documentary sources, seem to have occupied the same site.

The extent of the reconstruction of the Tolbooth of c 1703-5, to designs by Sir William Bruce, was defined, including the refacing of the tower, the rebuilding of the W wall of the early Tolbooth and, following its purchase, the wholesale reconstruction of the tenement on the E side of the original structure including the encroachment by some 2m into Broad Street and the existing classical frontage. The existing roof structure survives from this phase of work as does the panelled first-floor council chamber.

Architectural fragments of classical detail recovered from the courtyard may relate to a refurbishment of the original court house by Alexander McGill, c 1710.

The subsequent evolution of the Tolbooth and wider complex largely follows that as defined by the RCAHMS, namely an eastwards expansion of the N range in 1785 (architect, Gideon Grey), the court and debtor's prison forming the W and S ranges respectively, to the designs of Richard Crichton in c 1806-11, and a general refurbishment by Wardrup & Brown in 1862.

An inhumation was located beneath the original pend below the court house that led from Jail Wynd into the prison courtyard, following removal of concrete flooring. Upon excavation this was found to lie within a pine coffin. The poorly preserved remains were that of a tall elderly male which, taken with the detailed documentation of the trial and execution, almost certainly represent the remains of Allan Mair, hung for the murder of his wife in Broad Street on 4th October 1843.

Sponsor: Stirling Council.

T Addyman 2000

Architecture Notes


Architect: Sir William Bruce 1703-4

Gideon Gray 1785 - extension

Richard Crichton 1808-10 - Courthouse

Brown & Wardrop 1862 - additions - not executed


Photographic Survey (1955)

Photographic survey of the exterior of the Tolbooth, Stirling, by the Scottish National Buildings Record in 1955.

Photographic Survey (1957)

Photographic survey of buildings on Broad Street and Baker Street, Stirling, by the Scottish National Buildings Record in 1957

Publication Account (1986)

In 1689 the existing Tolbooth was declared by the Town Council to be 'ruinous' and a new one was ordered to be built. The result was one of the first Tolbooths to be treated in the 'strictly classical manner' - the steeple alone conceding something to 'traditional Scottish taste' (RCAHM, 1963, 293). The Tolbooth which stands facing Broad Street on the corner of Jail Wynd was erected in 1703-5, had an eastward extension laid out in 1785 (RCAHM, 1963, 293). A jail and court houses were added between 1806 and 1811.

Information from Scottish Burgh Survey, ‘Historic Stirling: The Archaeological Implications of Development’, (1978).

Publication Account (1996)

This building stands on the SW side of Broad Street at its junction with Jail Wynd, on a site which had been acquired in 1473 for use as a tolbooth. It was built in 1703-5 to a design by Sir William Bruce, who may have done no more than provide sketch-plans and an outline specification. In 1785 the N front was extended eastwards by three bays to include an older property which was already in use as an annexe to the town-house, but the architect, Gideon Gray, copied Bruce's elevation so faithfully that the junction with the original work is hardly apparent. A court-house and jail, designed and built by Richard Crichton, were added to the S, fronting Jail Wynd and St John Street, between 1806 and 1811.

As enlarged in 1785, the town-house is an oblong building aligned nearly E and W, with a NW tower which projects 1.8m beyond the main (N) front. It is of three storeys and an attic, with six window-bays to the N and three to the W, all symmetrically disposed. The original portion measures 11.5m in length and, excluding the tower, 8.9m in breadth, but the extension of 1785 increased the overall length to 18.8m. The Broad Street frontage and the upper part of the tower above eaves-level are ashlar-faced, while the rest of the main building is of rubble masonry. On the Broad Street front the windows have lugged and moulded architraves with pulvinated friezes and their sills continue on the first and second floors as string-courses. On Jail Wynd the windows have plain offset margins, and on both elevations their upper halves retain sockets for iron grilles. Two ground-floor entrances correspond in style with the windows, one being in the N wall immediately E of the tower and the other, converted into a window, in the W wall immediately S of it. In the upper part of the tower, above a string-course at eaves-level, the voids and quoins are channelled; elsewhere, both in the tower and the main block, the quoins are simply offset.

The tower, which is 4.6m square, contains six storeys and finishes in a moulded cornice and an iron-railed parapet enclosing a timber belfry with crested ogival roof. A richly omamented round-headed arch in the N wall gives access to a wide straight stair rising to the first floor. Immediately above the arch there is an empty round-headed niche set within a rectangular frame carved with egg-and-dart ornament. The tower is lit by square-headed windows in the N wall, while the belfry has a louvred opening, formerly pedimented, in each side, and its roof, which is topped by a weather-cock, has four corresponding lucarnes. In each face of the tower, just below the parapet, there is a timber clock-face set in a square moulded stone frame.

Parts of the early 18th-century block may incorporate the remains of a two-storeyed tenement-building which stood immediately E of the old tolbooth, and it may even include part of the S wall of the old tolbooth itself. The main structural partitions, which rise to the attic and may in part have derived from the older building, divided each floor into two large equal rooms with a small one S ofthe tower, which itself contained a still smaller room.

On the ground floor an additional transverse wall in the E half forms a narrow vaulted strong-room, each side-wall containing two cupboards with iron doors. A blocked fireplace in the S wall of the W room may survive from the building that existed before 1703. From the adjacent room behind the tower a flight of steps leads down to a tiny vaulted cell, lit by a small window on the W, no doubt 'the holl beneath the steeple ' in which a prisoner was confined in 1707.

The approach-stair in the tower is ceiled with a quadripartite plaster vault, whose central bell-hole is now closed with a painted panel showing the burgh's later seal, a wolf couch ant on a rock, with the motto STIRLINI OPPIDYM. The semicircular-headed doorway at the head of the stair has a rolland-hollow-moulded surround, and the door itself is constructed of vertical nail-studded boards, cross-lined at the rear. From the first-floor vestibule a doorway with lugged architrave in the E wall gives access to the two main rooms and in the S wall an early 19th-century arched doorway, itself subsequently altered, serves the SW range of that period. The westernmost of the main rooms retains much of its early 18th century interior. It is panelled, and a moulded stone fireplace in the E wall has a painted landscape overmantel and is framed by fluted pilasters with Ionic capitals. The original doorway S of the fireplace has a lugged architrave, but that to the N is an insertion. The E room, which is plastered above a panelled wooden dado, has a ceiling, chimney-piece and doorways of late 18th-century character.

Now subdivided, the second floor retains few early features. It is reached by an early 19th-century staircase in the SW extension, probably replacing a forestair or turret stair which rose to a doorway, now blocked, in the S wall of the room S of the tower. The original door to the adjacent room has also been built up and in the inserted S passage there is a blocked original fireplace. A small room in the tower retains its original door, a roll-and-hollow-moulded firep lace in the E wall and a rebated locker opposite.

The attic, which contains three intercommunicating rooms, is reached by a newel-stair in the SE angle of the tower. Two corbels in the E wall of the room behind the tower suggest that this room may originally have been covered by a lean-to roof. The early 18th-century block has a collar-rafter roof, that overthe extension of 1785 being of king-post type. The upper

stages of the tower are reached by wooden loft-stairs. The early 19th-century addition, largely ashlar-faced to the street, comprises a first-floor court-room which rises through two storeys facing Jail Wynd, and a higher prison-block whose main (S) front is aligned to St John Street. The three tall window-bays of the court-room are contained in recesses which also enclose round-headed clerestory openings. The doorway to a stair serving the court-room and prison-block, in the W wall of the latter, has a round-headed Gibbs surround, probably 1868 of the 1860s. The three-storeyed, four-bay S block is of plain neo-classical design; its ground-floor windows and central doorway are set within arched recesses and at the wall-head there is a long blank panel carried on guttae.

The ground storey of the court-house contains seven vaulted rooms which probably included a guard-house and cells, and a passage from Jail Wynd to a courtyard on the E. The first-floor justiciary court-room, which was entered through the townhouse and had its bench to the S, has a high coved ceiling. The prison was described in 1836 as containing sixteen cells, but six in the lower part had been abandoned because of damp, leaving seven for criminals and three for debtors. There are five vaulted rooms on the ground floor of the S block, and two more in the W half of both the first and second floors, as well as two unvaulted cells in the attic. The E half of the upper floors is occupied by a single high chamber, probably formed as a county court-room after the removal of the jail to a new site in 1848.


The bell that hangs in the fifth storey of the tower is 0.41m in diameter and is inscribed: THE COVNSEL BELL OF STERLINE OVDEROGGE FECIT 1656, being the work of Cornelis Ouderogge of Rotterdam. Below appears the single letter S. In the belfry another bell, recast in 1864, bears a copy of the original inscription: PETRUS HEMONY ME FECIT AMSTELODAMI AD 1669 SIT NOMEN DOMINI BENEDICTUM (,Peter Hemony made me at Amsterdam,1669. Blessed be the Name of the Lord'). The bell of 1669 was itself a recasting of an earlier one. At the same level there is a chime of sixteen bells, two of which are dated 1729, one also being inscribed with the initials IW. A set of 'musick bells for the towns clock' was bought in London in that year.


The site of the tolbooth was acquired by the burgh in 1473. Repairs to the building were recorded at intervals throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, and the construction of a wardhouse was authorised and funded by a general stent on the inhabitants in 1616.

The decision to demolish and rebuild 'the tolbooth steeple and tenement upon the east syde thereof' was agreed by the town council in 1698, and funds were set aside from the malt tax. In March 1702 Harry Livingstone, a Stirling mason, was sent to Kinross to consult with Sir William Bruce, taking 'ane exact account of the breadth and lenth of the ground alongs with him' and having instructions to bring back Bruce's 'draught or sceme of the work'. The counci I received Bruce's 'draught of the new hous and steiple' by August 1702, and demolition of the old steeple began immediately. The new town-house was built in 1703-5 by Livingstone and John Christie, a local wright.18 'Hyeland oak trees' were used for the spire and 'to hing the great bell' , and in 1707 'Fyne French glass' was ordered for the windows. In 1710 Alexander McGill was paid three guineas for 'drawing a scheme for reforming the court place and benches therein'.Instructions were given in 1724 for the prison walls and partitions in the cellar to be thickened, to prevent the escape of prisoners. Thereafter little significant work is recorded, other than repeated repairs to the roof, until the main front was extended by the local architect Gideon Gray in 1785. The available space was found inadequate to house a prison, and Justiciary and Sheriff as well as Burgh courts. In 1805 the Edinburgh architect Richard Crichton prepared plans for a major extension to the S, and work began, to a somewhat altered design, in 1808. The court-house was completed in 1810 and the prison a year later. The new prison itself proved unsatisfactory, and by 1836 six cells in the lower part had been abandoned because of damp, leaving only ten in use, while the masonry was 'so bad, that holes can be easily made through the walls'. It was replaced in 1848 by a large new county prison of castellated design by Thomas Brown, situated on the opposite side of St John Street.

Thereafter the old prison, which had come into the possession of the County Prison Board, was sold to the County authorities for use as a County court and police office. The Justiciary court remained the property of the burgh, and the police station was housed on its ground floor, while the original town-house included the town clerk's rooms on the ground storey and the council chamber and police court on the first floor, with store-rooms above.

The Edinburgh architects, Brown and Wardrop, prepared plans in 1862 for modest alterations which were not fully executed and, in the same year, a scheme for a baronial-style Sheriff Court-house adjoining the prison on the S side of St John Street. The court-house which was finally erected to a similar design by the same firm in the 1870s, however, stands in Viewfield Place.

Information from ‘Tolbooths and Town-Houses: Civic Architecture in Scotland to 1833’ (1996).

Photographic Survey (8 June 2018)

The former town house has been photographed during a wider survey of the Broad Street/ St Mary's Wynd area of the city. The survey was limited to recording the external interventions into the older building as part of the conversion to form a music and arts venue, The Tolbooth, through Richard Murphy Architects (c. 2002) on behalf of Stirling Council.

Visited by HES Survey and Recording (IF & LM) 8 June 2018.


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