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From the Neolithic Age (c.3,000 BC) to the early 11th century, the fortress of Cadbury Castle which dominates the modern village of South Cadbury was a military stronghold, a centre of trade and culture and probably the focus of a religious cult.

By the early 16th century, the castle had become identified in folklore as the Camelot of Arthurian romance - a fact recorded by John Leland during the reign of King Henry VIII in his Itinerary.

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

Truly me seemeth it is a mirackle in bothe Arte and Nature

- John Leland, 1542

The Bronze-Age settlement here was a modest one but it grew into a large hill fort town during the Iron Age, becoming a center of craft, trade and worship. The dwellings within its ramparts were made of wood, wattle and thatch. It may have been the capital of the Durotriges tribe which occupied central and southern Somerset and Dorset.

The Iron Age site covered 18 acres and was the focal point of many ancient trackways. The hilltop was defended by no less than four huge banks, in places towering 40 feet above the bottom of the associated ditch. Three entrances cut through these massive fortifications.

From the hil-top site, the cradle of Christianity in Britain can be seen in the form of Glastonbury to the north-west.

This Iron Age settlement seems to have been ignored by the Roman invaders until about 70AD when some of the population was killed and the remainder dispersed into the surrounding country. Having evicted the Britons, the Romans established a fortified station on the hill from which to subjegate the surrounding area.

During the insecure times towards the end of the Roman occupation, the population began a slow drift back to Cadbury Castle so that the hilltop was refortified by 500AD. Where earlier earthen banks once were, the fortifications were bolstered with timber and dry-stone walling. A new south-west gate was built with its timbers set into solid rock.

Excavations of the site in 1967 revealed the defences to have been built about 500AD. Also found were the possible foundations of a cruciform church which might suggest the fortress of a great Christian military leader and hence its association with King Arthur and Camelot.

Material revealed by the excavations can be viewed at the museum in Taunton.

Cadbury Castle, located on private land is a scheduled Ancient Monument and protected under the Ancient Monuments Act 1979.

The use of metal detectors or excavation is prohibited on the site. The summit is regularly grazed so, if visiting the site with a dog, keep it on a lead at all times.

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The Modern Antiquarian
Early British Kingdoms   David Nash Ford
The Megalithic Portal
South Somerset County Council
Celtic Twilight
Later Bronze Age shield

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Recommend a Book for this Page

Boy South Cadbury is that Camelot
  by Leslie Alcock, Thames and Hudson, 1972

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