Prisons of War.
One of the exhibitions at Edinburgh Castle is the prisons of war exhibition.
It’s located within Dury’s Battery, which is at the top of the hill past the Royal Scots Museum.
The re-creation shows what life was like for the prisoners of war.
Of course, I found the prison doors most intriguing…
…a detail in architecture that I tend to notice more thanks in large part to having stumbled upon Norm’s (host of Thursday Doors) blog.
The first prisoners held at Edinburgh Castle were French privateers. These privateers were captured in 1758, which was soon after the outbreak of the Seven Years War (1756-1763).
In June of 1781, this prison was more crowded than at any other time. There were over 600 Frenchman, almost 100 Spaniards, a number of Dutchmen, 30 Americans, and a few Scots and Irish. Almost all who were held here were sailors.
Located in this section of the exhibition, we get a peek at the graffiti that they carved into the doors.
Ducatez is Spanish. Also carved into the door is Lefevre (French) and Garrick (presumed British or American). They were shipmates on the French ship Le Rohan Soubise, captured off the east coast of Great Britain in April of 1781.
The other side of the display case contains another graffiti covered door.
Much of the graffiti is hard to see on this door due to age. Besides the letters and numbers, there are carvings of the types of ships in which the men sailed. The most common types of ships in which they sailed were “two-masted” brigs and cutters.
Not only did Edinburgh Castle house prisoners during the Seven Years War, it also housed prisoners during The American War of Independence (1775-1783) and The French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815). Quite the history!
In 1811, 49 prisoners of war escaped through a hole in the south wall of the castle. Edinburgh Castle ceased to be used as a prison from 1814 and mostly due to the fact of the escapees.
While walking through the exhibition, I learned some interesting facts. One of those facts was that the prisoners held at Edinburgh Castle were ordinary seamen.
The officers of the seamen were “on parole”. In other words, the officers were able to stay in private accommodations.
The prisoners at Edinburgh Castle included young cabin boys, soldiers, ship’s carpenters, and cooks, as well as ordinary seamen.
Their sleeping accommodations were hammocks hanging from raftered frames.
Also, there are audio recordings playing that hint at what life may have been like at the time.
You can learn about their rations, healthcare, allowances, and more throughout the exhibition.
Visiting the exhibition.
Visiting the exhibition doesn’t take long and the entrance fee to Edinburgh Castle includes the exhibition.
There is quite a bit of interesting history and I would recommend taking the time to go through the Prisons of War exhibition if you are spending the day at Edinburgh Castle.
Have you toured this exhibition at the castle? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it!
Haven’t visited the castle? Is it on your “must see” travel list?
Update: I’ve had some people wonder how they missed this during their visit to Edinburgh Castle. I’ve included the YouTube trailer video from Historic Scotland.
During my time in Scotland, I found both Edinburgh and Glasgow to be wonderful places. I discovered that I didn’t have near enough time to see everything that would have made my “must see” list.
I think that means that I must return again someday!
Let your light shine!