John Cowane dies. A wealthy man, he leaves sums of money to numerous charitable causes including 500 merks to the Church of the Holy Rude. The largest bequest was the 40,000 merks which he leaves for the establishment of a hospital/almshouse to provide for twelve decayed (elderly) guild brethren.
John Cowane’s brother Alexander acts as his executor and signs the Hospital’s Deed of Foundation. The royal master mason John Mylne is appointed to design the Hospital and master-mason John Rynd begins the construction. Building proceeds throughout the troubled period of the mid -17th century when a series of conflicts affected Scotland and work is halted at various times notably by an outbreak of plague in 1645. The Hospital may not have been fully completed until 1661.
The Hospital occupies a key site in the historic heart of Stirling, close to the castle and adjacent to the Church of the Holy Rude, the Old Town Jail and the Mercat Cross. Over the years, the building has many uses including a barracks, a school and a lawyers’ library. In 1650, it is commandeered by Cromwell’s troops besieging the castle.
The statue of John Cowane sculpted by Mylne and William Ayton is added to the niche in the building’s tower. The statue is affectionately known as ‘Auld Staneybreeks’ and is said to come to life and dance in the courtyard at Hogmanay. The statue has recently been removed from the niche for the first time since 1650 to undergo conservation work. It will return to the Hospital in September/October, 2019.
Improvements to the gardens are ordered and Thomas Harlaw, gardener to the Earl of Mar, is appointed to draw up plans for the site. A bowling green is subsequently laid out, surrounded by a balustrade, terraces and Dutch-style parterres of box hedging with herbs and flowers.
The strict Hospital rules discourage pensioners from taking up residency and the Trust starts to support pensioners in their own home. At this time and until the present day, the building becomes the principal meeting place for Stirling’s Merchant Guild.
The building is pressed into service as an isolation hospital during a cholera epidemic which killed around one-third of Stirling’s population. This is one of the few times in its history that the building is actually used as a hospital.
The architect Francis Mackison transforms the interior of the Hospital into a grand Guild Hall with a gothic ceiling, timber galleries and panelling and stained glass windows. The exterior of the building remains largely unchanged.
Cowane’s Hospital including the lamp stands, terraces and boundary walls are granted Category A listed status. The Hospital is considered by Historic Scotland to be a “a rare survival of 17th century burgh architecture and one of the finest buildings of its kind in Scotland”.
The bowling green ceases to be used.
In recent years, the Hospital has been available for hosting local and national events, community hires, artists’ studios and a vibrant café.
The Hospital building begins to deteriorate.
The terrace, Dutch parterre and bowling green are added to the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes. The gardens are considered a “rare survival” of an institutional garden of the 17th century.
A major conservation project to restore the Hospital to its former glory begins.
The Cowane’s Hospital Building re-opens to the public after a major renovation and restoration project.