An entry in the Annales Cambriae:  

"Gueith camlann inqua arthur & medraut corruerunt  

et mortalitas in brittannia et in hibernia fuit."   

("The strife of Camlann in which Arthur and Medraut perished,

 and there was plague in Britain and Ireland")1


  Most of the Arthurian accounts written after the 11th century name 'Camlann' as the location where Arthur fought his last battle against the forces of his rebellious son Mordred (the Cornish version of the name), and where Arthur was mortally wounded and then carried off to his final burial on the Isle of Avalon.  Was this a historical event or just the stuff of legend ?  And if historical, where did the conflict occur ?

     Arthur, the historical leader, is understood to have lived in the late 5th or early 6th century  and the conflict at Camlann  is variously placed between 515 and 542.  The above entry (early 12th century copy of 6th century entries) is the earliest historical mention we have of the name, and is now accepted by most scholars as authentic.  The next mentions of 'Camlan' are in the Welsh Tales Culhwch and Olwen (after 950) and The Dream of Rhonabwy (after 1200).  The actual name is not used by other medieval writers, who nevertheless write extensively about the battle.

   Camlann's location is debated among scholars.  Locals want to claim Arthur for their own benefit, and writers compete to establish their theory, based on very slim evidence.  But early accounts give no indication: the Annales, (below) for example, do not even say whether Arthur and Mordred were on the same or opposing sides.

ms Harley 3859, folio 190A

   Geoffrey of Monmouth (c.1136) locates the battle 'towards Cornwall . . . [at] the River Camblam'.2   This location, said to be  at Slaughter Bridge, is proposed in some of the medieval romances, but the only archeological evidence of a battle here was for one fought in 823 between Saxons and Cornish Britons.  The geographical location, Arthur's birth region, and the name of the river, are the main 'evidence' for this site.

  O.G.S. Crawford, in the 19th century proposed Birdoswald in Scotland, west of Hadrian's wall: the Roman  Camboglanna, based mostly on a suggested Welsh translation of the Roman name as Camlan ('crooked glen or bank'), but which may have been a common place name.  Three locations in Wales, for example, are still called Camlan.  Rodney Castleden has recently  supported a Welsh Camlann location, by the River Gamlan.3

   Another candidate for the site is at South Cadbury, in Somerset.  The River Cam flows between Cadbury and Sparkford, at the foot of an impressive iron age hill fort, which excavations in the 1960s showed was re-fortified around 470 A.D., making it a prime candidate for an Arthurian stronghold, if not the original 'Camelot' of the medieval romances.  Indeed, there is a long tradition in Cadbury associating the hill with Arthur a legend that Arthur sleeps under the hill;  a mention by the historian William Camden in the late 1500s that the villagers referred to the hill as 'Arthur's Palace'.

   Cadbury is the area we have chosen for our village setting.  It has archeological, traditional, and place name associations with Arthur.  We want to re-create a typical medieval village, not a particular one, and the fact that the historical Camlann location is uncertain, and that Arthurian romances were very popular in the 14th century, were two good reasons for us to choose the name for our project.  At some point we will construct a 'typical village history', going back to the battle of Camlann, to be spun out by a village story-teller, which will allow us to illustrate how villages changed and developed, and were passed on by different owners, over the 1000 years of the middle ages.

1 Arthur's Britain, pp.45-7, Leslie Alcock, Penguin Press, 1971

2Historia Regum Britanniae, (History of the Kings of Britain), London Folio Society, 1969

 3 King Arthur, the truth behind the legend, Routledge, NY, 2000