Not to be confused with Cadbury Hill near Burnham, also in Somerset or with Cadbury in Devon N.E. of Exeter.
An archaeological excavation of the hilltop at South Cadbury in 1967 examined the possibility of the site being used in what are hypothesised to be Arthurian times (mid 500's) i.e. the 'Dark Ages'. The site was occupied for 1600 years from the Iron Age when four ramparts were built, the top rampart being thirty feet high.
In mid July 1967 the director of the dig, Leslie Alcock found evidence for a wall which had been built in the Roman0-Saxon period (500's). In front of the wall lay a stone-lined ditch.
A stone wall measuring five feet wide and ten feet high was located as the last of the five ramparts. This wall was probably added to  in A.D.1010 this later addition is definitely of Saxon construction. A thirty foot length of this wall was uncovered during the 1967 season.





Below the wall are defences erected by the Durotriges which were erected against the Romans in A.D. 45 when Vespasian's 2nd Legion attacked the hill fort. There does not seem to have been any evidence to show that it wasThe Saxon wall at Cadbury Hill, Somerset. attacked in the real sense of the word, the Romans may merely have entered by the south-west gate and systematically burnt the area. The evidence for this burn lies beneath the wall built in the 500's and thus predates the wall. The wall has been used as a field boundary evidenced by  plough scars which have been found on the bedrock, are parallel to the wall. Pottery from the 500's was discovered in a bank of earth piled up against the stone wall. As found at Tintagel, this was a Mediterranean type of pottery so it was surmised that the owner would have been wealthy. The probability is that during the Dark Age period the site was occupied by a local ruler in what is now Somerset but then would have been associated with the Sumorsaete people who as Roman-Britons would have been Christian whereas the invading Saxons were pagans until conversion in the 600's.




                                         Ordnance Survey map of south Cadbury Hill Fort.

 Saxon brooch 1.5 cm diameterA  bronze Saxon brooch from the 500's was also discovered. This brooch depicts a warrior wearing a helmet. It is suggested that this may be part of the booty from an attack on Saxons living further to the east. Tradition has it that Arthur was established on this site at Cadbury while other claims are made for Tintagel in Cornwall, 108 miles distant from South Cadbury. 
Another site for Camlann has been proposed at Camboglanna, here, archaeological evidence suggests that it was occupied in the 500's by the Romano-British. Camboglanna lies not far from the great medieval fortress of Carlisle, castled by William II [Rufus]. To the North of Carlisle just within Scotland lies Arthuret, deciphered as 'Arthur's Head' where some believe King Arthur is buried. Certainly Carlisle Castle could have been equated with the romantic 'Camelot' in the medieval period.  The Eden valley also has a long tradition associated with Arthurian romance. It was from the Eden valley region in the 1100's that Hugh II de Morville, Lord of Appleby and forester of Inglewood took a copy of an Arthurian tale to Austria whilst acting as a hostage for the release of Richard I. This copy passed into the hands of  Ulrich Von Zatzikhoven whence Chretin de Troyes popularised it as Morte d' Arthur in North East France before it was reintroduced into Britain during the later medieval period.

                   South Cadbury ramparts looking towards Parrock Hill


      Northern ramparts which would have been topped by a wooden palisade                  


The Battle of Mount Badon according to:
Bede in Ecclesiastical History of English Nation, the Battle of Badon took place about 493.
Nennius placed the date as 516. Badon was significant because it held the Anglian and Saxon advance for forty years. Arthur and Medrault's last battle is recorded at 'Camlann'  in 537.

Following the Battle of Mount Badon  there elapsed 40 years of peace between the Romano-Britons and the invading Angles and Saxons. It is possible that the Saxons befriended the occupants of Cadbury. Either way it would appear that South Cadbury sat near the disputed territory of the Britons and the Saxons.

Cadbury Castle


                                         South Cadbury hill fort as it may have appeared

On a clear day Glastonbury Tor, 11 miles away, can be seen from the top of Cadbury hill fort. In the 1890's, between South Cadbury Castle and Glastonbury Tor to the N.E., lay a bridle path called "Arthur's Lane, which is believed to have originally been founded as a Neolithic causeway into the Glastonbury marshes2.
Within the rampart enclosure the site of a possible Romano-Celtic temple was identified. If this is a temple then it is unlikely that the wall was built before the 400's. The hilltop was probably refortified in the first half of the 500's. A Roman arrowhead, two fragments of Roman roofing tile and some tufa were found in the supposed sixth century wall. Other Roman temples occur at:

                                                Maiden Castle, Dorset (23 miles away)
                                                Lydney, Gloucestershire

An earlier excavation in 1966 unearthed a gilt bronze letter "A' which may have come from a votive tablet at a temple site.

                         The site of the Cadbury hill fort gate in the N.E. rampart
                          The descent from the site of the N. E. hill fort gate
                                        The 'Camelot Pub', South Cadbury

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1. Dunn, Cyril. Article in The Observer, 13th August 1967,
2. Hill, Helen. The Realms of Arthur, 1970.
3. Alexander, Marc. A Companion to the Folklore, Myths & Customs of Britain. Sutton Publishing. 2002

© Copyright, Tim Midgley 1999. Internal links revised 3rd August 2023.