Saturday, January 23, 2010

Robert Gardner's time in the Stirling Castle Jail

When Archibald’s father, Robert Gardner, was taken to Stirling Castle, he was held for nine weeks before the judges came. During those two months, Robert’s wife and children fully understood the seriousness of the charge of treason. An indictment required the oath of two witnesses,(1) and conviction resulted in execution. Archibald’s autobiography states that his father was released when nobody brought anything against him.

Historical records indicate that forty-seven men were taken to Stirling Castle, and twenty-four of them were tried and sentenced to death. Based on Archibald’s autobiography, Robert must have been one of the men who was released without being tried. Nineteen of the death sentences were commuted, and those men were sent to Botany Bay in Australia.(2)

Jails in the castles were nothing like modern-day prisons. Below are pictures of the jail in Stirling Castle.

Robert likely spent his nine weeks waiting in a similar cell for a trial that would never occur. The family said he was accused out of spite, and Robert was indignant that the government of his country had the power to hold an innocent man under such conditions. Within seven weeks of the time he was released, Robert Gardner and his family were included on a list of over six thousand Scottish people from the Glasgow area who wanted to leave their homeland.(3)

Archibald was only a small child when his father was released from Stirling Castle, but he had vivid memories of their reunion. When he was forty-two years old, he wrote, “I Remember the day he come back when crowds come to see him I was then only 5 years old & my Mother took me by the hand & we met him on the Burn green outside of the town[.]”

The Burn Green was located to the east of the road leading south from the Garrel Mill.

Below is a picture of the Burn Green today. It’s a beautiful grassy park area surrounded by homes.

1. Scotland, Courts of Oyer and Terminer and General Gaol Delivery and C. J. Green, Trials for High Treason, in Scotland, Under a Special Commission, Held at Stirling, Glasgow, Dumbarton, Paisley, and Ayr, in the Year 1820 (Edinburgh: Manners and Miller, 1825), 1:25, 26.

2. Tom Steel, Scotland’s Story: A New Perspective (London: Collins, 1984), 199, 200.

3. Robert Lamond, Narrative of the Rise & Progress of Emigration, from the Counties of Lanark & Renfrew, to the New Settlements in Upper Canada (Glasgow: Chalmers & Collins, 1821), 17-19.


  1. Cool story! I love that you have pictures to go with it!

  2. Jill, Your blog is wonderful! I have been to Stirling castle too! I loved my visit to Scotland and I felt a deep sense of my roots. My ancestors were from Airth, which is not too far from Stirling. (they did not leave me such nice journals) The pictures add so much to the story.
    Thanks, Lyn

  3. I loved the mention of the men being sent to Botany Bay, Australia. I was born in Sydney, so that was fun. I'm hoping that one day I can get to England/Scotland/Ireland, and see all the places that my ancestors lived. I loved your story and the photos!

  4. I have a particular interest in Scotland, since that is where my Grandfather was born. I am glad you let us subscribe to your blog in order to see how it should be done.

  5. My grandmother is Archibald's great grand daughter. I remember when i was younger we went to the family reunion and monument dedication in Afton, Wy. I have always been interested in the Gardner history in Scotland. I have searched for more information about them but unfortunately there isn't much. I did find an old news article from Sept 8 1820 which describes the execution of Beard and Hardy who Archibald mentions in his journal. Here is a link to the article

  6. I never knew this! This is amazing =]

  7. I am so glad that I came upon your blog as I am a gg grand daughter of Robert Gardner, Archibald's brother. I love reading any information about the family.

  8. I have read several stories that say that Robert Gardner was jailed for sedition for speaking out against the Queen. But there wouldn't have been a Queen at that time... I think it would have King George III or IV. Do you have any more specific information about his arrest and incarceration? Thanks a million. Christine Abbott

  9. Is it possible it was Queen Victoria? She became monarch in 1837. Could it have been that late? I'm not sure when Robert emigrated to Canada. Thanks. Chris

  10. Very interesting, thank you for that information. My husband's great grandfather is the brother of Archibald, Robert Gardner Jr. and we never knew this before. Ironically, my ancestors also were sent to the Star Valley, WY area to settle and that is where my 3x great grandfather, Grant Campbell, is buried.