1836 – 1894
En route to the cemetery, visitors to the Royal Burgh may have passed the Crawford Arcade in King Street. Linking King Street with Murray Place, the Arcade was the idea of William Crawford, an early property speculator and owner of a ‘china emporium’ in Stirling.
A native of Dunblane, William Crawford spent most of his childhood in Deanston, where his father was a mill foreman. A moulder by trade, William worked in Egypt for a firm of Liverpool engineers and on his return to Scotland married a Glasgow lass, Margaret McKenzie, and set up a china merchant’s business in the city. William returned to the Stirling area in 1872 with Margaret and their first son, David, and opened another china shop.
This was in Baker Street, near what is now the Hog’s Head pub at the corner of Friar Street. Realising the value of property William purchased extensively in the area and built a number of shops in Murray Place. He was also responsible for building the County Club, for many years a meeting place for the businessmen of the town at the corner of Murray Place and Station Road.
Amongst his other purchases were properties in King Street and Murray Place, and in 1879 work started on the Arcade, which consists of two malls leading to a communal central square. In all, there were two hotels, a theatre, thirty-nine shops and six dwelling houses. The Arcade Theatre hosted a variety of performances ranging from music hall to traditional pantomime, and could boast of appearances by Scottish favourites such as Will Fyffe and Harry Lauder. Its name was changed to the Alhambra Theatre in the 1930s but it closed in the 1950s, when its narrow stairs and passages were defeated by Public Safety regulations. The Arcade itself has undergone two recent ‘facelifts’ and with its light, airy appearance is still is an attractive building, a handsome testimonial to William Crawford, china merchant.