Cadbury Castle, was this Camelot?

Cadbury Castle is near the town of South Cadbury in Somerset. Cadbury Castle is a good example of an Arthurian-age hillfort. Cadbury Castle is large, a classic hillfort with earthworks and a perimeter of 1200 yards encloses an 18 acre flat plateau at the top, with a raised area on the western end that is called localy as "Arthur's Palace." The summit of Cadbury Castle commands a fine a view over the entire countryside as far as Glastonbury Tor 12 miles away.

John Leland, King Henry VIII's Antiquary and author of The Assertion in the 16th century, is one of the first mention Cadbury Castle as having a connection with Camelot. He specifically says that the hill at South Cadbury is called Camelot. There is evidence he was drawing on a long tradition of local folk lore. The hill had been used as a fort up until the pre-Norman rule of Ethelred in the early 1000s, and it is possible that stories were passed down to Leland in the 1500s. Leland mentions that ploughing had brought coins and other small objects to the surface. It should be remembered that Camelot was a creation of twelfth century literature, first appearing in the romance, Lancelot le chavalier de la charette, by Chretien de Troyes.

The excavations at Cadbury Castle in the 1960's uncovered evidence of a long occupation, beginning in 3000 BC and running through to 1000 AD. Occupation was spasmodic, with the fort being unoccupied for longs periods. The major periods of construction were the Neolithic era, Late Bronze Age, Iron Age, Roman, Post-Roman, and Late Saxon.

Amounts of Tintagel pottery were unearthed, which would make Cadbury Castle a relatively wealthy hillfort of this time period. Tintagel pottery is the distinctive late 5th/early 6th-century imported pottery that had served as major dating evidence on other Arthurian sites. Either Cadbury Castle was involved in a trade route with Tintagel or the same inhabitants were transporting the pottery from place to place along with themselves.

The archeology shows Cadbury Castle seemed to be more the heavily fortified headquarters for some great king, than purely a military castle. Four stone ramparts surrounding the inner structures, while the second, dubbed the "Stony Bank", had a coin built into it which could date no earlier than the fifth century. The innermost rampart was the most complex and is sixteen feet thick. The Post-Roman excavations show that there was a large timber hall built between 460-500. This hall measured 63'x34' and about a third of the building was separated by a screen which may have delineated the chieftain's quarters. The layout of this building implies a mastery of carpentry.

Basically Cadbury Castle was large enough to hold an entire army. Only powerful kings could amass such a large army. King Arthur could have been such a king..

There is also a "cave legend" connected to Cadbury Castle - Arthur is said to lie sleeping in a cave within the hill. The stories vary, but on Christmas Eve, apparently Arthur and his Knights come out and ride around the hill, and the sound of the hoofbeats can be heard.

Cadbury Castle has been fortified and occupied during the King Arthur era. It is only 12 miles from Glastonbury.

Southern England Arthurian Sites