Stirling (surveyed in 1858)


The fortress town of Stirling is located between the River Forth and the high crag atop which Stirling Castle sits, almost exactly in the centre of Scotland. It is Stirling's central position between the east and west coasts, combined with the fact that it also boasts the lowest crossing point of the Forth, which determined its great strategic importance for controlling Scotland. The name of Stirling appears to be derived from the union of the Scottish Gaelic words, sruth and lann, which mean 'stream' and 'land enclosure'. Thus the town's name translates as 'land enclosure by the stream', although this interpretation is only one of several possible explanations for the origins of Stirling's name.

One of Scotland's earliest royal burghs (King David I proclaimed Stirling as a royal burgh in 1125), Stirling Castle was the main residence for Scottish kings from Alexander I to James VI - a period encompassing 500 years. Stirling also boasts an impressive historical pedigree, with William Wallace's victory at Stirling Bridge and Robert the Bruce's triumph at Bannockburn probably being the most famous events to have occurred in, or around, the town.

Town Planning

Stirling's fortifications and bridges are probably the most interesting - and striking - architectural features of the town. The town-house in Broad Street was built in 1701, and contains an impressive tower complete with bell. Behind the town-house stand the sheriff courts and other municipal buildings. The new jail, built in 1848, is located in John Street. The Athenaeum reading room, located in King Street, was built in 1816, and boasts an impressive spire and portico, plus a statue of William Wallace that was added in 1859. The corn exchange is another elegant building located in King Street, and was also used for public meetings.

Trade and Industry

At the time this survey was carried out, Stirling boasted a diverse range of trades and industries. From the late eighteenth century onwards, the main industry was the production of cotton goods for the manufacturers in Glasgow. The dyeing of yarns, homemade cloths and other fabrics were also major industries during the nineteenth century. As the manufacture of shalloons (a type of fine woollen) went into decline, the town diversified and started producing tartan garments - following the fashionable reinvention of tartan in Scott's Waverley novels.

Carpets and yarns were also made in Stirling, as were leather products, soap and candles. Grain, flour, beer and malt also contributed to Stirling's economy during the nineteenth century, as did coach-making and rope-making. By 1857, the town also boasted a large number of banks and over 30 insurance offices. Although Stirling has possessed a small port since 1525, the shallow rocky protrusions in the Forth, combined with the serpentine windings of the river, prevented larger vessels from reaching the town. A market was held each Friday, while fairs also took place on special dates throughout the year.


Stirling High School was founded in 1854, with the emphasis very much on giving local pupils a classical education. In addition to the four burgh schools, the town also boasted an art school, a ragged school (a school for impoverished children), five boarding schools for ladies and a range of ordinary private schools.

Culture and Society

A number of cultural and social institutions were formed in Stirling during the nineteenth century, including a subscription library, a free library, a school of arts, Drummond's Agricultural Museum (built in 1840) and a horticultural society. Three newspapers were published in the town during the mid-nineteenth century: the Stirling Observer, the Stirling Journal and the British Messenger. A regional centre from early times, Stirling was finally declared a city in 2002, in honour of Queen Elizabeth's Golden Jubilee.