19th Century Prison History : 19th Century Prison Search

Stirling Tolbooth


Location   Jail Wynd,  Stirling

County   Stirlingshire

Year Opened   Unknown

Year Closed   Unknown

Century of Operation   1700-1799, 1800-1899

Remarks   Although the Tolbooth was built in 1703, it is unknown when use as a prison began. Now an entertainment venue. During excavations in 1999-2000, archaeologists discovered the burial of Allan Mair, hanged aged 84 for beating his wife to death in 1843.

Stirling Tolbooth TowerPhoto © Lairich Rig (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Further information can be found at


  • 'The new tolbooth which faces onto Broad Street was built in 1703-5, extended in 1785 and again between 1806 and 1811 when a jail and courthouse were added. Prisoners were held in the tower and hung outside the building for the worst crimes. Some of the victims were said to of been buried under the foundations...Conditions in the prison were condemned by the government inspectors in early 1800's as the worst in Scotland. The Town Council continued to hold meetings in the Tolbooth until 1875 but by then the prison had been moved to St. John Street.'
    Stirling.co.uk, 'The Tolbooth - an historic building in Stirling'

  • 'Harry Livingstone, master mason and John Christie Wright, from draft design by Sir William Bruce of Kinross, 1703-5. Gideon Gray, N front extension eastwards by 3 bays, 1785 (See Notes). Richard Crichton, courthouse and jail added to S, 1806-1811. Richard Murphy Architects, 1999-2001, converted to music focused art venue with courtroom as theatre, robing room as bar and old council chamber as restaurant....INTERIOR: substantial 18th and 19th century interior decoration retained, including following. Ground floor with narrow, vaulted strong room, with cupboards closed with iron doors; small vaulted cell... 1st floor courtrom in early 19th century addition lit by 3 tall windows in round-arched recesses; Gibbsian door surround, circa 1865. Ground floor of court house with vaulted rooms (guard house and cells). High coved ceiling to 1st floor justiciary court room. 2 further cells in attic.'
    Historic Environment Scotland, Listed Building, LB41110, 35, 37 Broad Street, Jail Wynd, and 32 St John Street, Tolbooth

  • 'The Stirling tolbooth is a multi-phase series of structures...[containing] a late medieval and early post-medieval core. The exterior of this part of the structure was recast in c.1700-5 to the designs of Sir William Bruce...The existing courthouse range was erected in the middle of the first decade of the 19th century, followed soon afterwards by...a debtors' prison...significant archaeological remains of the late medieval and post-medieaval landscape survive to a considerable depth above the bedrock in the centre of the town...[Excavations found 6 cells in the former courthouse building (Rooms G5-11 on excavation plans)]...The Tolbooth was strategically placed on the main thoroughfare leading to Stirling Castle in an area where nobility and politicians lived...when the Royal Court was in residence...the recovery of an iron key highlight that the Tolbooth was a prison and that security was a priority...'
    Bob Will, Tom Addyman, et al., 'The Archaeology of the Tolbooth, Broad Street, Stirling', Scottish Archaeological Journal (Vol. 30, 2008), pp.79-159.

  • 'My ggg grandfather William Smith was sentenced to death here as part of the Radical War, a week of strikes and unrest in Scotland in which workers, particularly weavers, sought reform of the electoral system and uncaring government. The two principals, Hardie and Baird, were executed and are commemorated by a plaque at the Tolbooth. The remaining twenty were transported, William being sent to New South Wales for fourteen years. William Smith was born in Ireland in 1779, married Lavinia Todd in 1814 and had two sons and three daughters. He was described as 5' 2" high with a sallow, pock-marked complexion, black hair and hazel eyes. He worked as a weaver in Scotland so was later employed as overseer of the Female Factory at Parramatta in the Colony, and appointed as master manufacturer in 1822 at a salary of £150 p.a. In February 1822, he applied to have his family sent from Stirlingshire to the Colony and they arrived the following year, his third daughter being born there in 1826. In 1825, Smith petitioned the Governor for mitigation of his fourteen-year sentence but added that he wished to remain in the Colony to continue running the factory. He was granted a conditional pardon. William Smith left the factory in 1831 and acquired 320 acres near Wollombi. His elder son established a woollen manufactory on land adjacent, whilst his younger son succeeded to his father's lands and became a schoolmaster and magistrate. William Smith died in 1862. In 1837 there was a reunion of all the radicals then in Sydney, chaired by Smith, at which they toasted the health of the new King, who they called the great reformer. More information on the Radical War can be found at the following link https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radical_War'
    Notes from Eric Lucas, historian.


  • Stirling.co.uk, 'The Tolbooth - an historic building in Stirling'
  • Historic Environment Scotland, Listed Building, LB41110, 35, 37 Broad Street, Jail Wynd, and 32 St John Street, Tolbooth
  • Bob Will, Tom Addyman, et al., 'The Archaeology of the Tolbooth, Broad Street, Stirling', Scottish Archaeological Journal (Vol. 30, 2008), pp.79-159.