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Medieval street hidden under shopping centre to open for guided tours

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Stirling’s City Walls were built during the ‘Rough Wooing’ in the 16th century to deter the English from forcing the infant Mary Queen of Scots into marrying Henry VIII’s heir.

When Thistles shopping centre was being constructed in the 1970s, it was built over the Dirt Raw sealing it away from the public – until now.

As part of Stirling’s 900th anniversary celebrations, visitors will have the opportunity to secure special access to this fascinating part of the city’s rich history and heritage on guided tours.

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The tours will also feature access to the hidden section of the Thieves’ Pot – the 16th century jail located in Thistles – and will be led by Stirling Council Archaeologist, Dr Murray Cook.

Dr Cook said: “Dirt Raw used to lie outside the Royal Burgh and was sealed in 1970s as the Thistles was built. It’s an incredibly atmospheric disorienting place and I can’t wait to explore it and the outside of the Thieves’ Pot.”

Tickets cost £20 per person, with all proceeds going to support non-profit organisation Start Up Stirling’s services as the charity celebrates its 30th anniversary.

Andy Ireland, General Manager for Start Up Stirling, said: “Start Up Stirling would like to thank Dr Cook for all of his help in devising this amazing and unique event, which will help to support our services.  We would also like to thank Thistles Stirling management team too, for their help.”

Gary Turnbull, Centre Director at Thistles, said: “Stirling is a city with such a rich heritage and it just so happens that Thistles was built atop the Thieves’ Pot. The museum in the centre always catches the eye of tourists and shoppers alike and we’re excited to be taking part in opening the Dirt Raw to uncover the city’s history whilst helping to raise vital funds for Start Up Stirling.”

The Herald: A medieval Stirling street has been hidden under the Thistles shopping centre for over 40 yearsA medieval Stirling street has been hidden under the Thistles shopping centre for over 40 years (Image: Stirling Council)

Stirling Council Leader, Cllr Chris Kane said: “These guided tours will provide a rare opportunity to see part of Stirling’s remarkable history that’s been hidden away for more than 40 years.

“As we mark Stirling’s 900th anniversary, this is a fitting moment to open up this medieval street to the public whilst supporting a fantastic local charity in Start Up Stirling as it celebrates its special milestone.”

The 900th anniversary celebrations officially began on April 26. The day started with ceremonial opening of the gates at Stirling Castle at 9am. At 10am, the bells of the Church of the Holy Rude rang for an hour. The festivities then continued at the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum, where a community launch event was held.

The day also saw a brand new city centre artwork unveiled celebrating Stirling’s people and its history. The colourful 30ft long illustration was created by local artist David Galletly and adorns one side of the square directly across from Stirling train station.

The artwork showcases some of the major moments of Stirling’s rich history over the past 900 years, from the Battle of Bannockburn to the opening of the University of Stirling, and mingles it with legends from the Stirling area such as William Wallace, Robert the Bruce, Sir Andy Murray and Billy Bremner.

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Founded by King David I in 1124, Stirling was one of the first Royal Burghs created in Scotland, meaning King David I granted his Burgesses or Freemen privileges: to hold their land and property directly from him, to elect a Council, to hold markets, to levy local taxes and many more. This allowed Stirling to prosper and created a special connection between the King and his subjects.

It is believed that King David I pronounced Stirling as a Burgh by giving verbal instruction and therefore no written charter exists for the original granting of burgh status.  

The earliest charter that Stirling Archives have which mentions the burgh status is from 1360 issued by David II (1329-1371).  The charter references an earlier charter of King Alexander II from 1226 granting the Burgesses of Stirling the right to hold a weekly market.

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