NS3974 : Dumbarton Rock: the Wallace Tower

taken 16 years ago, near to Dumbarton, West Dunbartonshire, Great Britain

Dumbarton Rock: the Wallace Tower
Dumbarton Rock: the Wallace Tower
[This is one of a linked series of articles about Dumbarton Rock. See the end of Link for a list of the reference works that are cited here in abbreviated form.]

In the medieval Dumbarton Castle, the main entrance was on the north, while the only present-day entrance, on the south, was at that time a back gate. One of the defensive structures that protected the northern entrance was the Wallace Tower, whose remains are shown here.

(For the sake of clarity, I should add that the base of the Wallace Tower does not include the area in the foreground of the picture, but only the space, more or less square, that is enclosed by the old walls at the back: note the plaque that can be seen there in this photograph.)

The tower was built after the lifetime of William Wallace, but may have been named in his honour. His traditional association with the tower is perhaps connected with a passage in Blind Harry's "The Wallace" in which Wallace is said to have founded a structure upon Dumbarton Rock, and to have left his servants to complete it:

"Twa monethis still he duelt in Dunbertane;
A hous he foundyt apon the Roch off stayne.
Men left he thar till bygg it to the hycht."

The Wallace Tower whose ruins are shown here was a four-storey tower, which was probably built in the early fifteenth century [OSG07, p5]. Its role in defending the main north entrance made it the most important of the castle's buildings. In 1617-18, while William Middlemist was keeper of the castle, the Wallace Tower was the subject of extensive repairs, the work being overseen by Thomas Fallisdail (on whom, see NS3777 : The ruin of Ardochbeg), provost of Dumbarton [MacPhail, p106-7]. Its walls were also repaired in 1674, during the keepership of Major George Grant [MacPhail, p133].

In the twentieth century, between the Wars, a barracks that had been built on this site was cleared away, allowing the remains of the Wallace Tower to be uncovered [MacPhail, p164].

When I visited the Rock in June of 2009, the French Prison and surrounding area were off-limits (I have therefore used photographs from earlier visits) because stonemasons were carrying out conservation and repair work; there were plans to provide access to the French Prison and to the remains of the Wallace Tower, the latter being described as the "best-preserved part of the medieval castle".

Previous: NS3974 : Dumbarton Rock: the French Prison.
Next: NS3974 : Dumbarton Rock: Duke of Argyll's Battery.
Dumbarton Rock and Castle :: NS4074

The Rock is a volcanic plug, and it has a long history as a fortified site. For further information, see the Geograph article "Dumbarton Rock and Castle": Link

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NS3974, 250 images   (more nearby search)
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Date Taken
Monday, 8 August, 2005   (more nearby)
Thursday, 2 July, 2009
Geographical Context
Historic sites and artefacts 
Period (from Tags)
15th Century 
Place (from Tags)
Dumbarton Rock 
Person (from Tags)
William Wallace 
Ruins > Ruins   (more nearby)
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 3994 7454 [10m precision]
WGS84: 55:56.2311N 4:33.8431W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 3994 7453
View Direction
North-northeast (about 22 degrees)
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