Dumbarton Castle, pp.73-86.


Rock of the Clyde, 
Let me recall the scenes thou couldst unfold, 
Mightst thou relate the changes thou hast known. 
You castled steep, 
Whose banner hangeth o’er the time-worn tower 
So idly, that rapt fancy deemeth it 
A metaphor of peace. 


THE rock of Dumbarton, crowned with the embattled walls of its ancient fortress, forms certainly the most picturesque and interesting object on the Clyde. It is situated on a point of land, at the confluence of the Leven with the Clyde, the waters of which wash its base on the south and west sides, and is distant from Glasgow about fourteen miles. The surrounding country presents a perfectly level plain, of some miles in extent, from which this singular, and as it were, insulated rock, rises to a height of 650 feet above the sea. It is of a conical shape, but the top is separated into two parts, by a deep ravine, or gulley, which crosses it from south to north.

Several portions of the rock are strongly magnetic, and affect the needle of a compass, brought near it, very considerably, causing it to vary much from its true pole. This circumstance is noticed by the historian Buchanan.1 “In the upper part of the Castle,” he observes, “is a piece of rock of the nature of a loadstone, but so closely connected and fastened to the main rock, that no manner of joining appears.” Professor Anderson, of the University of Glasgow, made repeated experiments on the magnetism of the rock, and the direction of its poles. On the south side, and near the top of the western rock, a large bare crag was pointed out to us, by Mr. Romeo Drysdale, the master gunner of the Castle, who has made various experiments upon it, and found it to be highly magnetic. This, from its situation, is in all probability, the rock alluded to by Buchanan. Mr. Drysdale says its influence has even been felt on the opposite shore of the Clyde. 

The entrance to the Castle is at the south-west base of the rock, near the water. Here a small outwork has been recently erected, on the level ground in front of the former entrance. Passing the gate, and crossing a small court, we come to an arched gateway, under an embattled wall, on entering which, we find ourselves within the walls of the Castle. A broad stone stair leads up to the paved platform within the walls, where sentinels keep guard, and where the guard-house for the soldiers on duty is situated. Another stair leads to a higher level on the rock, where stands the governor’s house, which has a fine exposure to the south, and is protected from the north winds, by the height of the rock that rises immediately behind. On the west, we here perceive various batteries, and walls, erected for the protection of those points that have been considered most accessible. This part of the rock, is in different places neatly adorned with plots of flowers and shrubbery.

Leaving this level, we again ascend, by a stair which has been constructed in the gulley, or ravine, already mentioned as dividing the upper part of the rock. Here we pass, under an arched passage, the officers’ guard-room; and continuing our ascent, we arrive, at an ancient arch across the ravine, which at one time has obviously formed a portcullis. This seems to be the only portion of the more ancient works of the Castle, which now remain; all else having been swept away, from time to time, in constructing walls and batteries, on the principles of modern warfare. Passing under the portcullis, and continuing to ascend, we at length attain the highest part of the ravine, where the rock is separated into its two heads. The stair we have ascended, is constructed in the southern portion of the ravine, and has a remarkable appearance, from the rock rising perpendicularly on either side, to a great height.

Where we now are, the ravine extends to greater breadth than it has hitherto done, and the sides, instead of being perpendicular, slope gradually from the two summits of the rock. In this more sheltered situation, the armoury, and the residence of the master gunner, is situated, near the top of the stair. Beyond these, and at the north side of the rock, are the barracks, for the soldiers composing the garrison. Adjoining to the barracks, is a small state prison, now happily but seldom used. In it, however, the French General, Simon, one of Bonaparte’s officers, was confined for a period of two years. This officer, while a prisoner in Britain, was allowed to go at large on his parole of honour. Not regarding this, it would appear, he made his escape to France, but was afterwards again taken prisoner, and on being brought back to this country, he was confined in Dumbarton Castle, till, with others of his nation, he was liberated by the return of peace.

Behind the barracks, and at the north termination of the ravine, is the Duke of York’s battery, erected in 1794. Previous to that time, a staircase stood here, descending to the foot of the rock, and secured at the bottom, by a strong iron gate. This is supposed to have been the principal entrance to the Castle in ancient times. At the north-east angle of the rock, where the Duke of York’s battery terminates, formerly stood an old tower, called Wallace’s tower, which rose to a great height from the very edge of a high precipice. This, as well as the old staircase, was removed in 1794, at the time the battery and barracks were erected.

The armoury is not worthy much notice, but few arms being now kept in it. But there is one relick of great antiquity still preserved here, which is well worthy the stranger’s attention. This is one of the large double-handed swords, once so common among Scottish warriors, but which now, few could wield. It is upwards of five feet long, straight, and double-edged; but is said to have lost nine inches of its original length. Scotchmen must ever look on it with regard; for tradition affirms it to have been the sword of the patriot Wallace, with which he so often combated, and triumphed over the oppressors of his country. It is known that Wallace, having been treacherously betrayed into the hands of the English, at Robroyston, in the neighbourhood of Glasgow, was carried to Dumbarton Castle. There is nothing improbable, therefore, in believing that his arms were left here, when he was sent to London; or that this is indeed the good sword, he so often, and so effectually wielded. Until within these few years, it was covered with rust, and seemed to have been very carelessly kept; but it was sent up to the Tower, at London, where it was cleaned and repaired, and afterwards sent back, as a valued relick, to the place in which it had been originally deposited.*

The garrison are well supplied with spring water of the purest kind, from the rock itself; and immediately adjoining the armoury, is the tank in which it is collected. It is not a little singular, that a supply of water so abundant, should be obtained at such a height, when we consider the small extent, and the insulated nature of the rock on which it is found. The water must obviously come from the hills in the neighbourhood, the nearest of which, however, is a mile distant.

Having examined this portion of the Castle, the traveler has again to ascend. A flight of steps, erected over the ancient portcullis, leads to the western rock, on the summit of which the flagstaff has been erected. As this portion of the rock, from its steepness, is rather of difficult access, steps have been constructed, and an iron rail erected all the way to the top. A small area around the flagstaff has also been surrounded by an iron rail; so that although the extent of level ground is but little, and the descent all around extremely rapid, the most timid can stand here without fear or danger. Near the flagstaff, is a small circular building, considerably decayed, and certainly of great antiquity. The period of its erection, or the purpose to which it was applied, are not known; but from its situation, it was most probably a Roman pharos, or light-house, constructed by that enterprising people, for the benefit of their galleys coming up the river.

The view from this place, in a clear summer day, is extensive, and magnificent beyond description. Toward the east, the rich and beautiful vale of the Clyde can be seen, through its whole extent, as far as Tintoc, a distance of upwards of forty miles. All that can constitute a fine landscape, here makes a part of the scene. A broad and majestic river, its bosom covered with shipping of all kinds; beautiful meadows; sloping hills, some wooded, others green to the top; rugged rocks, pointing their bare crags to the sky; hills and valleys, with their little streams running towards the Clyde; splendid mansion houses, bosomed amid extensive pleasure grounds; wealthy towns, and populous villages; and at intervals, simple cottages, and quiet home-scenes, far up on the hills, or in the valleys below.

The view towards the north, though not so extensive, is equally fine. Immediately below the Castle, is seen the town of Dumbarton, with its shipping and numerous public works. Beyond it we can trace the river Leven, rolling its limpid course through a delightful valley, from its parent loch. On its beautiful banks are seen village and public works; seats of gentleman, embowered among ancient wood, lovely meadows, and lands rich with the labours of agriculture. Smollett, who was born upon its banks, and whose monument we see from hence, thus panegyrises the Leven. 


“Pure stream! in whose transparent wave, 
My youthful limbs I wont to lave; 
No torrents stain thy limpid source, 
No rocks impede thy dimpling course, 
That sweetly warbles o’er its bed, 
With white round polish’d pebbles spread.” 


In the distance, a part of Lochlomond, and its numerous islands is beheld; and towering over all, the lofty cloud-capt Benlomond, and its surrounding mountains, close up the scene.

Turning to the west, the view is considerably different, but still very grand. The broad estuary of the Clyde is seen till it passes behind the point of Kempock, at Gourock. On its shores, the hills of Renfrewshire, the towns of Port-Glasgow and Greenock, with their harbours and shipping, and the village of Gourock, and its beautiful bay; on the northern shore, Cardross, where the great Bruce closed his eventful life; Helensburgh, and the entrance to the Gair loch; Rosneath, covered with magnificent wood; and the mountainous coast of Cowal, as far as the village of Dunoon. The whole scene terminated by the dark mountains of Argyllshire. The view to the south is at once shut up by the hills, which begin to ascend, within a few hundred yards of the river.

The eastern summit of the rock is not so high as the west, on which we have supposed ourselves to be standing, but it has a more extended surface. On it, the magazine is situated, surrounded by ramparts, and defended by batteries. Although Dumbarton must have been a place of great strength in ancient times, it would obviously, however, be of little utility in modern warfare. Were a small battery erected on Dunbuck hill, about a mile distant, it would, from its greater height, command the Castle, and might in a very short time, destroy the whole of the works, and bring the garrison to terms. Happily, there is but small chance of this ever occurring. Britain possesses a far superior defence to castles or forts, – one which, during a long and arduous war, kept the most vindictive of her enemies altogether from her shores.

From the appearance and nature of the soil around the castle, it would seem in former times to have been surrounded by the sea, at least at high water; and this supposition is confirmed by ancient writers. Harding, so well known for his great enmity to the Scottish nation, who wrote in 1334, thus describes it:

”   And pass on furtherwards to Dunbertayne, 
A castle strong, and harde for to obtain; 
In which castle Saincte Patrike was borne, 
That afterward in Irelande did winne: 
Aboute the whiche (Dunbarton) floweth even and morne, 
The western seas, without noyse or dinne;  
When furthe of the same, the streames dooe rinne, 
Twise in xxiv hours, without any faile; 
That no manne maie that strong castle assaile.”2


Probably, however, it was only surrounded on the land side by a wet ditch, into which the sea flowed at every tide, or “twice in xxiv hours,” as Harding describes. Froissart, the French chronicler, who traveled in Scotland about the time same period at which Harding wrote, says that “Dunbreton is a strong castel, standing in the marches agenst the wylde Scottes;”3 but although he must have seen it, he says nothing about its being surrounded with the sea.

Dumbarton is supposed to have been the ancient Alcluith, the capital of the Strathclyde Britons, and the residence of their Princes, during the existence of that kingdom. If this be correct, Theodosia, a naval station of the Romans, was also here; and it is probable, the Roman wall was continued down from Kilpatrick, or Dunglass, along the margin of the Clyde, to this important place, for the protection of the fords on the river. Here, then, may have rode in safety, Roman ships and galleys, protected from the inroads of the barbarous people beyond the wall, by the rock of the Clyde.

Alcluith is obviously the Balclutha of Ossian. Bala in British, and Balia in Irish, still signify a town; bal, a place; balla, a wall, or bulwark; Latin vallum, a wall, Obrien. “I have seen the walls of Balclutha,” says Fingal, in the poem of Carthon, “but they were desolate. The fire had resounded in the halls; and the voice of the people is heard no more. The stream of the Clutha was removed from its place, by the fall of the walls. The thistle shook here its lonely head; the moss whistled to the wind. The fox looked out from the windows; the rank grass of the walls waved round its head. Desolate is the dwelling of Morina, silence is in the house of her fathers.”

It has been doubted, however, though certainly on insufficient ground, whether Dumbarton can be considered as the site of the ancient city of Alcluith; and Dr. Jamieson, whose authority is not to be lightly treated, is for placing it farther up the Clyde, nearer Kilpatrick, or at Dunglass.4 Bede expressly asserts, that the Roman wall terminated “juxta urbem Alcluith,” near the city of Alcluith. Now, as the general opinion is, that the wall terminated either at Dunglass, or at the village of Old Kilpatrick, Dr. Jamieson considers that he cannot be thought to have used the term juxta so loosely, as to include a distance of several miles,5 especially in a sentence in which he seems so anxious in regard to accuracy, as to say that the wall had its commencement “duorum ferme milium spatio,” nearly two miles from the monastery of Abercurnig. Setting aside, however, the possibility that Bede may have been misinformed, as to the distance between Alcluith and the termination of the wall, if we believe as is done by Chalmers, that after terminating on the Clyde, it was continued down the river, by a chain of posts, to Dumbarton, the strength of this objection is lost, and we may still be allowed to consider Dumbarton as the British Alcluith, notwithstanding the difficulty arising from the expression of the venerable historian.

The next objection of Dr. Jamieson is, that tradition places Alcluith at Kilpatrick; if such were the traditions at Kilpatrick, they are equally opposed by traditions at Dumbarton. But whatever tradition may say, it is impossible to believe that the Britons, who in every other instance, chose a height for their towns, should have selected, for their chief seat of their power, the low ground at Kilpatrick, where there is no height worthy of being denominated the rock of the Clyde, and neglected the strong natural position at Dumbarton. Nor would it be easy to discover, why the Princes of this people should have chosen to fix their residence at the extreme boundary of their dominions, had it not been for the strong natural fortress they there possessed. Alcluith, situated at Kilpatrick, would after the departure of the Romans, have been continually exposed to the incursions of the people beyond the wall; and the more civilized Britons could not there have withstood them.

The name Dumbarton is not mentioned by any ancient writer, during the period that Alcluith was the seat of British power; the earliest writer by whom it is mentioned, that has been discovered, being Jocelin, the Monk of Furness, who about the year 1180 wrote the lives of St. Kentigern and St. Patrick. This fact, Dr. Jamieson seems to think favours his hypothesis, but it is unquestionably a very strong objection against it. Dumbarton was not known by name as a place of strength during the existence of British power, and yet it must have been a British fort. The word Dumbarton is obviously a corruption of Dunbriton [Gaelic – Dùn Breatann “Fort of the Britons”] the fortified hill of the Britons. The Britons therefore had a stronghold at Dumbarton; and if Alcluith is supposed to have been at Kilpatrick, what was then the name given to Dumbarton? The probability is, that during the existence of British power, it was called Alcluith, the rock, or height of the Clyde; and, that after the fall of the ancient kingdom of Strathclyde, which existed as a separate power till near the close of the tenth century, it received from their conquerors, the Argyllshire Scots, or the Picts, the appellation of Dunbriton, the fortified hill of the Britons. It would never receive this name from the Britons themselves, nor from others, while their power existed, but after the fall of their kingdom, it might very properly receive it from their conquerors. This accounts for its not being met with in any ancient writer, while they existed as a separate people, nor for some time after.

A strong argument against Alcluith being the present Dumbarton, is urged, from no Roman remains having been found at the place. It is undoubtedly true, that nothing of the kind can be pointed out there, with the exception of the old building on the top of the rock, which has been supposed to be a Roman Pharos [lighthouse]; while numerous antiquities have been discovered at Kilpatrick. That Kilpatrick, which was within the wall, was the site of many Roman works, does not at all prove that that people had not also a station at Dumbarton. Any works they would have there, would probably be upon the rock; and as this has been used in so many subsequent ages as a fortress, and does not now show any portion, with the exception of the old Portcullis, even of the works of much more recent times, it is not very wonderful, that none should remain of the Roman period. There is a tradition at Dumbarton, that a town, more ancient than the present, was swept away by the Leven. This tradition is confirmed by local facts. Above the town, the Leven forms a large bay, from which have repeatedly been taken large stones, having every appearance of being hewn and squared, and used in building. Here then may have existed on the banks of the Leven, Roan works, now for ages swept away by the stream.

Upon the whole, when we consider the ancient name, which meant the rock of the Clyde; the more recent name, – the fortified hill of the Britons; the improbability of either the Romans or Britons neglecting the important station at Dumbarton; and the traditions of the people, and the opinions of the majority of learned men, there can be little hesitation in believing that Dumbarton is the true Alcluith of Bede, the Balclutha of Ossian, and the Theodosia of the Romans.

Bede describes Alcluith as the most completely fortified city which the Britons possessed, and we learn from him, that while he wrote, at the beginning of the eighth century, the Britons were predominant on the Clyde. In 726, this city was attacked by Egbert, King of Northumberland, and Oangus, King of the Picts, and the Britons were then obliged to submit to terms. From the annals of Ulster, it appears that it was burnt in 779. It was again destroyed by the Daci, or the Norwegians and Danes from Ireland, in 869.

Whatever importance may be assigned to Dumbarton Castle during the early period of which we have been treating, it appears afterwards to have fallen from its former dignity. After the amalgamation of the Britons with the Scots and Picts; and these formerly separate nations, becoming the subjects of one government, under the Scoto-Saxon Kings, we find it only the principal messuage of the Earldom of Lennox. In the year 1174, when the four most important fortresses in Scotland were given up to the English, as security for the payment of the ransom of William the Lion, Dumbarton is not enumerated among them. It was not then in the King’s possession.

The importance of such a place, however, for a royal fortress, was apparent; and Alexander II. Became anxious to obtain it, and the territory of Morach, with its harbour and fishing, contiguous thereto. In consequence of this, Maldwin, the third Earl of Lennox, surrendered the Earldom of Lennox into the hands of the King. A new charter was granted to the Earl, in 1238; but the Castle, and the territory of Morach, were not included in it. This it was mentioned in the charter, was done with the consent and free-will of the Earl. The Castle has ever since continued a royal fortress; and the royal burgh of Dumbarton has been erected on the territory of Morach.6

During the competition for the crown of Scotland, after the death of Margaret of Norway, nearly all the important strongholds of the kingdom, and among others, Dumbarton, were delivered up to Edward I. of England, who had been chosen umpire in the dispute. In 1292, it was given over by him to John Baliol, whom, as best suiting his own purposes, he had placed on the throne. John de Monteith, the betrayer of Wallace, was, in 1305, constable of the Castle, and Sheriff of Dumbartonshire. He held the Castle from that period to 1309, when it was taken by Robert Bruce. When Edward III. renewed the war in Scotland, after the death of Bruce, the Earl of Lennox was governor of the Castle, but he was unfortunately killed at the battle of Halidon Hill, in 1333. It was secured, however, for the young King, by Malcolm Fleming, of Cumbernauld, who afterwards was appointed its keeper. In 1334, the young Stewart of Scotland, afterwards Robert II. Who had concealed himself in the island of Bute, after the battle of Halidon Hill, passed over to Dumbarton Castle, and there again resolutely took up arms in his country’s cause. It was here he formed the plan, afterwards so ably executed, or surprising the Castle of Dunoon and Rothsay; which was the first favourable turn in the affairs of David II.

At the accession of Robert II. to the throne, in 1371, Sir Robert Erskine, ancestor of the Earls of Mar, held the Castles of Dumbarton, Stirling, and Edinburgh. He faithfully maintained his trust, and firmly supported the legitimate succession. Sir Robert Danielston was appointed governor in 1377. He held it till his death in 1399, having had an appointment for life, with a yearly salary of £80. At his death, it was seized by Walter Danielston, the parson of Kincardine O Neil. Who, under pretence of hereditary right held it three years.

After the restoration of James I. in 1424, the Castle appears to have been held by Sir John Stewart of Dundonald, the King’s uncle. In 1425, James Stewart, youngest son of Murdoch, Duke of Albany, in revenge for the imprisonment of his father, mother, and brothers, burnt the town of Dumbarton, attacked the Castle, and put the governor to the sword. During the early part of the reign of James II., Sir Robert Erskine was governor. In 1440, he engaged to deliver it to the King, when he should be put in possession of the Castle of Kildrummie. In 1443, Sir Robert Semple, deputy keeper of the Castle, was surprised and dispossessed, by Patrick Galbreth, who had been turned out of it the day before, by Semple. In 1449, Robert de Calentare was keeper. Sir John Colquhoun of Luss, in 1477 obtained a grant of the office of captain and keeper of the Castle, during his life, with the lands and revenues attached to the office. He was killed at the siege of the Castle of Dunbar, in 1479. After his death, Lord Avendale was appointed to his situation. During the hostilities of Edward IV. in 1481, Dumbarton was besieged by the English fleet, which entered the Clyde. It was skilfully and bravely defended by Andrew Wood of Leith, who afterwards, for this and other services by land and sea, in the English war, obtained a grant of the lands of Largo in Fife, which are still in the possession of his descendants. The Castle was held by Lord Avendale till 1488, when the Earl of Lennox, and his eldest son, Robert Stewart, were appointed keepers.

During the minority of James IV. the Earl and his son having become discontented with the government, aided by their associate, Lord Lyle, broke out into insurrection. The Earl of Argyll, then chancellor of the kingdom, was sent to besiege the Castle of Dumbarton; but it defied all his efforts, and his forces were obliged to depart. Lennox, however, was afterwards defeated by Lord Drummond, at Kippen; and the Castle, which was held by his four sons, was again vigorously besieged, by a large force, headed by the King, and the ministers off state. It held out, notwithstanding all the efforts made against it, for a period of six weeks, when it was surrendered to the King. In 1497, John Striveling, son of John Striveling, of Craigbarnard, and steward to the King, obtained a grant of keeping of the Castle for nineteen years, with all the property and revenues attached; and in 1511, Robert Lord Erskine received a similar grant.

The minority of James V. as usual, gave rise to much strife and bloodshed, in disputes, as to the regency. In 1514, the Earls of Lennox and Glencairn, who favoured the claim of the Earl of Arran, during a tempestuous night took the Castle, by breaking open the lower gate, when they turned out Lord Erskine, the governor. In November 1516, the Earl of Lennox was imprisoned by the Regent Albany, to compel him to surrender the Castle, then regarded as the key of the kingdom in the west. The Earl was obliged to comply; and Alan Stewart received delivery of the fortress, in which he placed a garrison. Sir James Hamilton of Finnart, was appointed captain and keeper, with all the usual revenues, for nineteen years, and for life. He held this office for many years. This important office was in 1531, committed to Matthew, Earl of Lennox, for nineteen years.

In the beginning of the reign of Queen Mary, 1544, the Earl of Lennox, having entered into a treasonable compact with Henry VIII. Entered the Clyde with eighteen English ships, and six hundred soldiers. Upon their arrival at the Castle of Dumbarton, the Earl was civilly received by Sir George Stirling of Glorat, then deputy keeper; but when he discovered to Stirling the plan of delivering up the Castle, and betraying the country to Henry, he, despising a pension which had been promised him, turned the Earl out of the Castle, and compelled him and his soldiers to re-embark. Disappointed in his principal scheme, Lennox sailed down the Clyde, ravaging its shores and islands with fire and sword. Stirling, although he refused to deliver up the Castle to Henry, would not for some time, render it to the Regent, continuing to hold for the Earl of Lennox, whom he still considered governor. In June, 1546, however, the Regent besieged the Castle, which, after a siege of fifteen days, was surrendered to him. The Duke of Chatelherault continued to hold the Castle till 1562, when he resigned it to the Queen.

During the disputes which arose between Mary and the confederated lords, after the death of her husband, Henry Darnley, this Castle was held for her by Lord Fleming, then the governor. To this secure retreat her friends were conveying her, when they were intercepted at Langside, by the Regent Murray. Notwithstanding the signal defeat she there sustained, and her subsequent flight into England, Lord Fleming continued to hold it in her name, for a period of three years. On the 2d May, 1571, however, it was surprised and taken by escalade, by Captain Thomas Crawford, of Jordanhill, an officer of great bravery and talent. A soldier who had served in the garrison, and who conceived he had been ill used, gave the necessary information for making the attempt. Provided with scaling ladders, and whatever else was considered necessary, Crawford, towards evening, marched from Glasgow, with a small, but determined body of men. About midnight they reached the foot of the rock, and began to take measures for the ascent. The night was favourable to the enterprise; the moon having set, the sky, which previously had been clear, was now enveloped in a dense fog. At the south-west side, where the Clyde and the Leven join their waters, and where the base of the rock is washed by the tide, the attempt was to be made. The rock is here steep and inaccessible, and its summit considerably higher than toward the east; but at this place there were likely to be fewer sentinels than elsewhere, and these less likely to be on the alert.

Crawford and the soldier who acted as guide, scrambled up to a ledge of the rock, where they fastened a ladder to a tree which grew on one of its cliffs. The party began the ascent, and soon all stood in safety beside their commander and the guide. They were still, however, far from the height they had to attain. The ladder was again planted, and they began this higher ascent. An unforeseen impediment now occurred, which seemed at first as if it would have baffled their enterprise. One of the foremost soldiers, already half-way up the ladder, was seized with a sudden fit, and held fast by it, motionless, and seemingly without life. All farther progress was stopped. To throw him down would be inhuman; the noise of the fall might alarm the garrison, and endanger all. In this emergency, Crawford ordered him to be made fast to the ladder, and turning it, all passed over him in safety, and reached the foot of the wall. Day now began to break, but the enterprise was not yet completed. The wall was still to be surmounted. After the dangers and they had encountered, this last effort was not to be left unperformed.

The first man who reached the parapet was observed by a sentinel, who gave the alarm, but was immediately knocked on the head. The assailants poured over the wall, and rushing forward with great fury and loud shouts, got possession of the magazine. The officers and soldiers of the garrison, alarmed at the noise, came running out naked and unarmed, and beholding what had occurred, were more solicitous to save themselves by flight or submission, than to defend the place. Crawford and his band now seized the cannon, and turning them against the garrison, soon secured possession of that which it had cost them so much labour to achieve. Lord Fleming fled alone into Argyllshire. Not a single man was killed of the assailants. Lady Fleming, Verac the French ambassador, and Hamilton, Archbishop of St. Andrews, were among the prisoners taken. Captain Crawford, as a reward for an enterprise so successfully conducted, received a grant from the Regent Lennox, of a pension of £200 yearly during life, from the revenues of the Archbishopric of St. Andrews. The keeping of the Castle was committed to John Cunninghame, of Drumquhaesil. In March 1608, King James VI. appointed Esme Stewart, Lord D’Aubigny, whom he had created Earl of Lennox, keeper of the Castle of Dumbarton. His son Ludovick, second Duke of Lennox, was also assigned by King James, keeper of the Castle.

This fortress was one of the first which fell into the hands of the covenanters in the reign of Charles I. On Sunday, 24th March, 1639, Sir William Stewart, the captain of the Castle, had gone with his family and the greater part of the garrison, to the church at Dumbarton. John Semple, the provost of the town, and McAulay of Ardencaple, with a body of armed covenanters, surrounded Stewart and his soldiers, and took them prisoners. By threats of death, they obtained from Stewart the watchword of the Castle, which enabled them to get within the outworks, with a body of soldiers: the small portion of the garrison who remained within surrendered it the following morning. It was committed by the covenanters, to the keeping of the Earl of Argyll; but the pacification in June 1639, restored it to the King, who fortified it, provided it with ammunition and provision, and placed a garrison in it. On the recommencement of hostilities in 1640, Sir John Henderson, the captain of the Castle, was induced by the Earl of Argyll to surrender it to him; the Earl was afterwards commissioned by the estates, to keep it for the covenanters. In 1641, an act of parliament was passed, ordaining Argyll to surrender it to the Duke of Lennox, to whom it belonged. This act directed that the soldiers, ammunition, and cannon, should be removed, and that the walls should never be repaired. In 1644, it was ordered by parliament, that the houses and walls of the Castle should be demolished; and John Semple, provost of Dumbarton, was ordered to see this executed. It was however, never done; on the contrary, Semple, who was afterwards keeper, expended considerable sums from his own private fortune, in keeping it in repair. From 1648 to 1650, Sir Charles Erskine was keeper. In 1651, it fell into the hands of Oliver Cromwell.

The custody of the Castle, as we have already mentioned, was conferred by James VI. on Ludovick, Duke of Lennox, with the lands and revenues pertaining to it. These continued with his descendants throughout the troublesome times which followed, till the death of Charles, Duke of Lennox and Richmond, without issue, in 1672. The Dukedom of Lennox, and Earldom of Darnley, with the property, jurisdictions, and heritable office of the family, devolved on Charles II. the collateral heir male. In 1680, Charles II. granted to his natural son, Charles Lennox, Duke of Richmond and Lennox, the Dukedom of Lennox and Earldom of Darnley, with the estates, jurisdictions, and heritable offices of the Lennox family in Scotland. This grant comprehended among other things, the Castle of Dumbarton, with its revenues. In 1702, the Duke of Richmond and Lennox sold the whole of his property in Scotland. The Marquis of Montrose purchased a considerable portion of it, several of the jurisdictions, and among others, acquired Dumbarton Castle. The ministers of Queen Anne declined to ratify this transfer, except on condition that the Marquis should resign to the Queen, the Castle with the rock on which it stands, and the hereditary office of keeper and constable. This the Marquis agreed to. An act of parliament was then passed, ratifying the transaction, and the Castle of Dumbarton, though deprived of its revenues, was restored to the crown. By the articles of the union, 1707, it was stipulated, that this Castle, with those of Stirling, Edinburgh, and Blackness, should never be dismantled. Since that period there is nothing of any importance connected with its history. A few soldiers still garrison it, and the offices of governor and lieutenant-governor are usually filled by persons of rank in the army.

Within the Castle there was founded a chapel, dedicated to St. Patrick. The patronage belonged to the crown, but before the reformation it appears to have been acquired by the Archbishop of Glasgow. In 1390, Robert III. Granted to it ten marks Sterling yearly, out of the king’s rents from the burgh of Dumbarton.

The town of Dumbarton is situated on the banks of the Leven, about a mile distant from the Castle. It is a royal burgh, and head town of the shire. The ground on which it stands is formed into a peninsula, by the windings of the stream; at springtides indeed, the town is sometimes nearly surrounded with water. There is little in its appearance to attract the attention of strangers. It consists of one principal street, running north and south, and a few smaller ones which enter it at right angles. The houses are, generally speaking, irregularly built; but of late years, the style of building has improved. The principal street now presents a good many handsome houses, and a variety of shops, many of them having a respectable appearance. A substantial, though rather narrow stone bridge gives access to the town, from the suburbs on the opposite side of the Leven. It was constructed by government about seventy years ago, and cost £2500. The Church, a modern building, stands at the south entry to the town. In 1618 the magistrates obtained to themselves and the community of Dumbarton, a grant from the King of the patronage of the parish church, with the tythes, parsonage, and vicarage, and also of the lands, tenements, and revenues of the altars and chaplianaries which had been founded in the church. Under this grant they continue to enjoy the patronage. A new Gaol and public offices have been recently erected, sufficiently large for the purposes of the county. The population of the town and parish of Dumbarton in 1821, was 3481.

The principal manufacture is that of crown and plate glass. The works of Messrs. Dixon, where this is carried on, were begun in 1776, but have since been repeatedly and very much enlarged. There are three cones, with the whole apparatus necessary for carrying on this beautiful manufacture in the best manner; and the glass made is equal to any manufactured in Britain. The works employ 300 men, and consume yearly about 15,000 tons of coal, 88,000 stones of hay and straw, and nearly 1200 tons of kelp. They give employment to 10,000 tons of shipping, and pay from £40,000 to £50,000 annually of excise duties. Ship-building is carried on in the town to a considerable extent; and there are two or three tanworks on a limited scale. The river is navigable up to the bridge, and a quay has been erected, where the vessels load and deliver. In 1692 Dumbarton had only one bark of 24 tons, valued at £55 6s. 8d. In 1791, it had about 2000 tons of shipping, navigated by 70 seamen, but since that period the quantity has very much increased.

Dumbarton seems in very early times to have become a village under the shelter of the rock. In 1222, it was erected into a royal burgh by Alexander II. with special privileges of trading in the adjoining districts. Dumbarton obtained other charters from Alexander II. Alexander III, and David II. These were confirmed by a charter from James VI. In 1609, which conferred on the burgh additional privileges. This charter was ratified by parliament, 1612. The rights of the burgh were ratified by subsequent acts of parliament in 1641 and 1661. By act of parliament, 1595, the burgh obtained the right of holding two additional fairs annually. It is ruled by a council of ten Merchants and five Tradesmen, including the Provost, two Baillies, Dean of Guild, and Treasurer. The revenue of the burgh in 1817 was L855 Sterling.

The collegiate church of Dumbarton was founded in 1450, by the Lady Isabel Lennox, daughter of Duncan, Earl of Lennox, and wife of Murdoch Stewart, Duke of Albany, Regent of Scotland. At a little distance to the north-east of the town, stands an old, pointed arch, which is all that now remains of the ancient collegiate church. It was dedicated to St. Patrick, and had a provost and six prebendaries. There were several altars in it previous to the reformation, at which, service was performed by chaplains, who were supported by the endowments of pious individuals. One of these altars was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and was called the Lady-altar; another dedicated to the Holy Cross, was called the Rood-altar. There was also an hospital for beadmen in the town, to which was attached a chaplain, with a chapel. Robert III. coined some money at Dumbarton, but whether in the town or Castle is not known. Cardonnel says this was the first coinage that ever took place in Dumbarton.7


1  History of Scotland, B. xx. p. 28.
2  Chronicle, 1543, fol. ccxxxvii.
3  Chronicles, Lerd Bernier’s Translation, Tom I. fol. xvii.
4  Illustrations of Sleizer’s Theatrum Scotiæ, v. Dumbarton.
5  The Distance between Dumbarton Castle and Kilpatrick Church is about five miles.
6  Douglas Peerage, v. Lennox. Nimmo’s Stirlingshire, p. 244.
7  Numismata Scotiæ, p. 662.
*  From what I’ve come across, in the form of Scot’s Lore (pg. 281) and contemporary newspaper articles, this is not Wallace’s sword. Not when it was at Dumbarton Castle nor now at the Wallace Monument. 

13 thoughts on “Dumbarton Castle, pp.73-86.

  1. Good day! I could have sworn I’ve been to this website before but after reading through some of the post I realized it’s new to me. Anyhow, I’m definitely happy I found it and I’ll be bookmarking and checking back often!

Leave a Reply