The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian

Cadbury Castle (South Cadbury)



Visited Cadbury Castle a couple of days ago while driving back from the Somerset/Dorset area. The sun was sinking as we climbed up the steep stony track from the village of South Cadbury. When we reached the top everything was bathed in the glow of the setting sun. Fabulous views of the surrounding landscape, quite easy to imagine this may have been the site of a the mythical city of Camelot. Back down in the small car park, I tried to read the information board - the light was failing by now so I photographed it and have reproduced the text below. A fascinating potted history of England from the time of the Neolithic up to the 15th Century.
(Information based on the work of Leslie Alcock and the excavations at Cadbury Castle 1966-70).

From the Neolithic Age (3,000BC) to early 11th Century, the fortress of Cadbury Castle was in turn military stronghold, centre of trade and culture, and probably focus of a religious cult; by the early 16th Century folklore identified it with Camelot of Arthurian legend.

Iron Age Town – A modest Bronze Age settlement on the summit grew into a large and spectacular hill fort town, a centre of craft, trade and religious worship. The place was probably a ‘capital’ of the Durotriges whose territory included central and southern Somerset and Dorset. Dwellings within ramparts were wood, wattle and thatch. At first left alone by the Roman government, the town was forcibly cleared around 70AD by the Romans, an action which left some of the inhabitants dead and which removed others to settlements in the surrounding countryside.

The Dark Ages and Camelot – People returned to the site towards the end of the Roman period and by 500AD there was a massive refortification on the hill top. Defences of timber and dry stone walling replaced the earlier banks and posts of the new south-west gate were embedded in solid rock. Within the defences stood a large, aisled timber hall. The scale of the work and precious pottery found from the eastern Mediterranean imply a wealthy, sophisticated and highly organised military society.
The only surviving written record of the 5th Century shows Britain divided into tribal ‘kingdoms’ and later Celtic tradition tells of a series of battles against invading Saxons under the command of a figure called Arthur. Cadbury, strategically placed to defend south-west Britain, could well have been the base from which Arthur led his troops to the final victory of Mons Badonis, whether that was fought in Dorset, near Bath, or in north Wiltshire. Cadbury was first linked to Arthur by Leland in 1542:
“At the very south ende of the Chirch of South-Cadbryri standeth Camallate, sumtyme a famose toun or castelle … The people can telle nothing ther but they have hard say that Arthure much resortid to Camalat” (sic)

Saxons and Vikings – The threat of Viking invasion during the reign of Ethelred II (the “Unready”) brought the hill top into use again as an emergency administrative and commercial centre in place of Ilchester. Coind were minted at Cadanbyric between 1009 and 1019 in the safety of new defences, and a church may have been begun but the ramparts were again destroyed. Soon after the mint returned to Ilchester."
tjj Posted by tjj
10th September 2015ce

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