The French Prison
THE FRENCH PRISON
For centuries, Dumbarton Castle functioned as a state prison. Its first named prisoners were three
prominent English knights, sent to Dumbarton by William Wallace after the Battle of Stirling Bridge.
in 1297. An abiding local legend suggests that Wallace himself was held at the castle briefly after his
capture by Sir John Menteith, the castle’s governor.
The French Prison, built around 1790, still stands adjacent to the site of the old Wallace Tower. It
was used to house French prisoners during the Napoleonic Wars. The castle’s collection of historical
artefacts includes an attractive wooden box decorated with coloured foils and paper, which was
made by some of these prisoners.
The most famous French prisoner was undoubtedly General Edouard Francais Simon, captured at
the Battle of Busaco during the Peninsular War. A dashing figure with an adventurous past, he may
have been housed in more comfortable quarters in the Governor’s House due to his high rank. He
was allowed to walk twice daily on The Beak (the Eastern Peak), closely guarded by soldiers with
loaded rifles and fixed bayonets.
The prison, which consists of four well-proportioned rooms, is symbolic of Dumbarton Castle’s close
links with France, which go back many centuries. One of the signatories to the original Auld Alliance
of 1296 was Sir Ingram de Umfraville, Keeper of the Castle.