Barony of North Cadbury
Somerset, England                                                                                                                                                                                                              

  Cadbury & The Legend of King Arthur

The Barony of North Cadbury is deeply connected to the legendary King Arthur and his knights of the round table. North Cadbury (Cadeberie - Cada's Fort) takes its name from Cadbury Castle in South Cadbury. Cadbury Castle also known as Camelot Castle, is a bronze and iron age hillfort in the civil parish of South Cadbury. The hill is the most probable site of King Arthur's principle court famously called Camelot. John Leland (1503-1552) an English poet, chaplain and librarian to King Henry VIII, was the earliest of a notable group of English antiquarians. He traveled through England and Wales between 1538 and 1543. On his journey through the county of Somerset he visited the historic places of North and South Cadbury.

In Leland's itinerary of 1542, he was the first to record the tradition (possibly influenced by the proximity of the villages of Queen Camel and West Camel, which are lying as well as North and South Cadbury at the River Cam) identifying the hillfort of Cadbury Castle in Somerset as King Arthur's Camelot:

"At the very south ende of the chirch of South-Cadbyri standeth Camallate, sumtyme a famose toun or castelle, apon a very torre or hille, wunderfully enstregnthenid of nature..... The people can telle nothing ther but that they have hard say that Arture much resortid to Camalat."

John Leland's material provides invaluable evidence for reconstructing the lost "tomb" of Arthur at Glastonbury Abbey. From the 12th century Glastonbury is associated with the legend of King Arthur. This connection was promoted by medieval monks who asserted that Glastonbury was Avalon.
It is stated that Arthur's burial place is at Glastonbury Abbey, located not far from Cadbury Castle - King Arthur's Camelot.

©The Baron de Newmarch Library

Cadbury Castle aerial view 1967

        The countryside is rich of Arthurian traditions 

Cadbury Castle is a scheduled monument and associated with the legend of King Arthur. Legend has it that on midsummer's eve (23rd June) the hill turns clear as glass and inside can be seen King Arthur and his knights of the round table.

It is said on moonlight nights King Arthur and his knights to gallop round the fortifications on steeds shod with silver shoes. A hardly traceable forest-path runs at the base of the hill in the directon of Glastonbury. This is King Arthur's hunting track.

Cadbury Castle is also be said by an ancient writer to have been one of the stations of the Round Table of King Arthur. The following account of this singular fraternity will be interesting to the reader: "This Round Table was kept at several places, especially at Caerleon in Monmouthshire, at Winchester, and at Camalet in Somersetshire.

Camlann - Scene of Battle between King Arthur and Mordred Photograph c.1905 ©The Baron de Newmarch Collection

The location of the battle is unknown but there are several possibilities. One is Queen Camel in Somerset, close to the hill fort Cadbury Castle near South Cadbury. Identified by some, including Geoffrey Ashe, with King Arthur's Camelot, where the River Cam flows beneath Camel Hill and Annis Hill.

Excavations at Cadbury Castle

In June 1913 trial excavations were held on Cadbury Castle. The excavations took place in the south west corner of the hill said by some to be the 'Camelot' of King Arthur. Six men were employed in the excavation work. Many pieces of pottery of the Romano-British era were found as well as evidence of walls and ramparts and a small child's skeleton. The work was carried out on behalf of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society.

The book 'By South Cadbury is that Camelot...' Excavations at Cadbury Castle 1966-70 is an excellent reference about the excavations at Cadbury Castle in the years 1966-1970. This book by Leslie Alcock, published by Thames and Hudson Ltd. in 1972, is certainly of great archaeological and historical significance and was also published in Germany by Gustav Lübbe Verlag, Bergisch Gladbach in 1974.

Among the excavations a vast number of unusual findings were found here, especially from the assumed time of King Arthur around the fifth and sixth century. This indicates that then a very rich and powerful personage had his seat at Cadbury Castle.

           Camelot Finds

Findings from the excavations at Cadbury Castle 1960-1970 © Camelot Research Committee

Findings from the excavations at Cadbury Castle 1960's-1970. © Camelot Research Committee

Skeleton of a young adult male buried in the defences at Cadbury Castle. Probably 1st century BC/A.D. Photo postcard from the excavations 1960's -1970 © Camelot Research Committee

Glastonbury - King Arthur's Avalon and burial place     

After the Arthurian Legend Glastonbury Abbey is the ancient graveyard of King Arthur and his wife and Queen Guinevere.

The ruin of Glastonbury Abbey

The burial ground of King Arthur

Glastonbury Tor

Glastonbury Tor - prospect from the distance of North Cadbury (Galhampton Cricket Ground)

Cadbury Castle