for Falkirk & District United Co-operative Soc. Ltd., Kirk Wynd

The largest project that the Falkirk and District United Co-operative Society undertook was the construction of a superstore in the centre of Falkirk.  It acquired old properties on the east side of Kirk Wynd and asked J G Callander to design a fitting structure for the site with a budget of around £50,000.   These plans for a three-storey department store were approved by the Society in February 1934 and the demolition of the historic buildings, described as “an eyesore,” was then carried out with some of the land given off to Falkirk Council for road widening.  The Dean of Guild Court passed the plans in July. 

Illus: The building in 2021 as the Clydesdale Bank.

Various problems arose and had to be overcome.  When the excavation work for the deep basement started it was found necessary to shore up the properties on the adjoining feus.  Then for 6-7 weeks the work was delayed by bad weather in Northumberland where the freestone was being quarried.  There was also a shortage of skilled labour for the preparation of the stone on site and erecting it.  Further delays were caused by labour troubles between the plasterers and the joiners.  J G Callander was often on the site to help to resolve any disputes or to provide additional information.  As work progressed he and a deputation from the co-op visited similar shops in England to see the latest trends in shop layout and fittings.

The additional cost of fittings and displays increased the total actual cost of the building to a little under £70,000.  After almost four years the superstore was officially opened on 12 March 1938 by W G Murray, the president of the Falkirk Co-operative Society.  J G Callander presented Mr Murray with a gold key.  A crowd of over a thousand people congregated on the street for the ceremony and a small party of policemen regulated the movement of traffic and the crowd.  The electric lift for customers, a first in the town, attracted much attention. 

The structure is steel framed faced with concrete floors and polished hand-dressed sandstone facades making it of fireproof construction.  The design of the facades continued the themes seen at Callendar Riggs, Laurie’s Garage and elsewhere with huge windows – the upper ones being recessed.

The ground floor had very large plate glass display windows with bronze frames and was encased in black marble.  The upper two floors had polished sandstone in a pale buff colour (blonde) arranged in vertical lines.  The large windows of these two floors were set directly above one another and recessed between the vertical lines of stone which took the form of picture frame surrounds, pylons and columns – the frames dentilled.  A broad horizontal band of bronzed fascia panels or spandrels with subtle variations of wavy lines and denticulation separated the windows of the two upper floors allowing the columns to dominate.  The engaged columns have simple moulded bases and clusters of round blocks (boldly reeded) forming the capitals in a vaguely Egyptian style.  A wide moulded eaves course and low parapet wall studded with geometric “keystones” tops the ensemble.

The main entrance was at the usual canted corner placed at the junction of Kirk Wynd and Bank Street.  A curved bronzed canopy with palmate antifixes emphasised the transition from the street and inside a short arcade was created.  A square-faced bronze clock is neatly set into the first-floor panel above the entrance.  The masonry is at its heaviest on this corner, naturally drawing the visitor in.

Illus: Canted Corner with square Clock and Entrance Canopy sporting Antifixes.


The main entrance opened onto the drapery store and was flanked by the arcade with 30 display windows.  The drapery department was utilised for the hardware and china departments and had a unique semi-circular fitting equipped with goods display recesses which were illuminated with strip lights.  The floor also accommodated the gents’ outfitting section which was entered from Bank Street.  The south side of the ground floor was occupied by the following departments – pastries, bread, sweets, groceries, provisions, fruits and vegetables.,.  The counters and fittings finished in three shades of “Vitrolite” black, primrose and green.  All the counters were fitted with chromium-plated basket rails.  A tobacco kiosk served direct to the street in the centre of the display windows.

Illus: The Grocery Department at the back of the Ground Floor was lit by skylights.

The First Floor covered an area of 5,700 square feet and was occupied by the Clothes and Hardware Departments.  Clothing was divided into the following sections – mantles, gowns and blouses, millinery and furs, hose and undies, children’s outfitting, gloves and handbags, cosmetics and perfumery, ladies’ and kiddies’ boots and shoes, men’s and youth’s ready-mades and the boot repair department.  Fitting rooms were provided.  Display cases with concealed strip lights were plentiful.  A chiropody department on this floor had walls panelled with bright green Vitrolite divided with chromium plate horizontal rails.

The Second Floor was utilised for the Furniture and Linoleum Departments with three fully-furnished rooms having illuminated scenic windows.  The Wireless and Electrical sections were also on this floor, as was the Tearoom with its all-electric kitchen.  Each floor was served by a high-speed lift, together with a terrazzo staircase with a beautiful balustrade, and an electric goods lifts.  Central heating on the low-pressure hot water system was installed throughout, as well as refrigerators for perishable goods.

Contractors – Mason and Brick work – D Ramsay & Son, Polmont; Joiner work – Henry Bain, Stenhousemuir; Slater work – W & J Happer, Falkirk; Plumber work – J T Borland, Falkirk; Plaster and Cement works – James K Millar Ltd, Falkirk; Glazier work – Daniel O’May Ltd, Falkirk; Electrical work – T Laurie & Co Ltd, Falkirk; Steel work – Redpath, Brown & Co Ltd, Edinburgh; Marble and Tile work – Galbraith & Winton Ltd, Glasgow; Granite work – J Wright & Sons, Aberdeen; Terrazzo work – Diespeker & Co Ltd, London; Heating Installation – MacKenzie & Moncur Ltd, Edinburgh; Asphalt work – Val de Travers Asphalte Paving Co Ltd, Glasgow; Reinforced Concrete work Trussed Concrete Steel Co Ltd, Glasgow; Steel Windows – Crittal Manufacturing Co Ltd, Glasgow; Bronze Shopfronts – H H Martyn & Co, Cheltenham; Shopfitting work – George Parnall & Co Ltd, London; Electric Lifts – Waygood Otis Ltd, Glasgow; Cash Tube System – Lamson Pneumatic Tube Co Ltd, Glasgow; Decorative Flooring – Korkoid Decorative Floors; Glasgow; Carpets and Linoleum – Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Society Ltd, Glasgow; Neon Signs – General Electric Co Ltd, Glasgow; Painter work – Falkirk and District United Co-operative Society Ltd, Falkirk.

The building is listed as architecturally important because it is a well-detailed example of a purpose-built large commercial former department store with characteristic period detailing with an emphasis on Egyptian and Mayan Art deco motifs. The bold modernist classical design scheme is well detailed and includes prominent use of major architectural features such as giant order engaged columns, striking window detailing and sculptural blind balustrade. The design has remained largely unaltered.

Falkirk Co-operative Building              SMR 1563       NS 8881 8000

G.B. Bailey, 2021