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HER Number:MDV51415
Name:French cemetery, Princetown prison


Landscaped burial ground created between 1866-1868 for the remains of the prisoners of the Napoleonic Wars discovered by 1860; buried without ceremony or coffins and uncovered by harsh weather and grazing animals. The governor of the convict prison decided to apportion the remains recovered 50:50 American: French, and these were buried in two separate compounds marked by two obelisks. The current prison inmates keep the compound well-tended, but with the prison's future in doubt, there are concerns that the cemeteries could be at risk.


Grid Reference:SX 587 742
Map Sheet:SX57SE
Admin AreaDartmoor National Park
Civil ParishDartmoor Forest
DistrictWest Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishLYDFORD

Protected Status: none recorded

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX57SE/344

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • CEMETERY (Constructed, XIX - 1866 AD to 1868 AD (Between))

Full description

Ordnance Survey, 1880-1899, First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map (Cartographic). SDV336179.

'Cemeteries' depicted on the late-19th century historic map, on the north-eastern side of the prison compound.

Unknown, 2017, Autumn New articles (Article in Serial). SDV360889.

Landscaped burial ground was created between 1866-1868; before that it was open moorland. The Prisoners of War who died at the prison were buried with neither coffins or ceremony. After the Napoleonic Wars ended, the prison closed, but later was rebuilt and re-opened (1850-1) as a convict gaol. By 1860 the harsh weather and grazing animals had uncovered the remains of the Prisoners of War and the governor ordered every remnant, both French and American should be collected and reburied.
Trevor James, who has published a book on the history of the prison with Alain Sibiril (the Honorary Consul of France living in Plymouth, who discovered the overgrown plot in 2001) and his wife said that it was decided to apportion the remains 50:50 American: French (although not an accurate reflection), which were then buried in two separate compounds marked by two obelisks.
The grassy expanse surrounded by trees that can be seen today is the careful work of prison inmates but with the prison's future in doubt, there are concerns that the cemeteries could be at risk.

Ordnance Survey, 2018, MasterMap 2018 (Cartographic). SDV360652.

'French Cemetery' is marked on the modern maps.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV336179Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1880-1899. First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map. First Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Map (Digital).
SDV360652Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2018. MasterMap 2018. Ordnance Survey Digital Mapping. Digital. [Mapped feature: #93996 ]
SDV360889Article in Serial: Unknown. 2017. Autumn New articles. Dartmoor Magazine. Digital.

Associated Monuments

MDV114897Parent of: Obelisk in French Cemetery, Princetown Prison (Monument)
MDV51419Related to: American cemetery, Princetown prison (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV7115 - Assessment of the buildings at Princetown Prison, Dartmoor

Date Last Edited:Feb 27 2018 10:41AM