King Arthur’s 2nd to 5th Battles – Bulbarrow Hill Site Visit

This month, February 2017, I visited the area I had identified four years ago as where King Arthur fought his second to fifth battles. In my post “King Arthur of Somerset: early battles above the River Divelish”, I explained that the Historia Brittonum “says Arthur’s four battles on the borders of Lindinis were ‘above the river which is called Dubglas’,” and that “linguists inform us that the name Divelish can have derived from Dubglas. The River Divelish rises on the N Dorset Downs south of Ibberton.”

The location is far more spectacularly credible than I had imagined as the site of Arthur’s early skirmishes to prove his worthiness to rule the Kingdom of Lindinis by defending its southern border.

In what is now deeply rural north Dorset, two miles south of Ibberton, the rim of Bulbarrow Hill gives large vistas to southward over the valleys below. Any general who had command of south Somerset but needed to guard against enemies from his south would want to control and defend Bulbarrow Hill. Correspondingly, Bulbarrow defended would be extremely difficult to conquer from the south with anything less than overwhelming force.

Today there is a sign informing us that this scenic location is on the “Wessex Ridgeway” long-distance footpath. The footpath is a recent creation; but the ridge, one can truthfully say, is as old as the hills, and the sign tells us that it was “used by traders and invaders”.

There is even an Iron Age fort on the ridge, called Rawlsbury Camp (a mile west of the sign), about 500 metres from one of the sources of the River Divelish. King Arthur’s base for his second to fifth battles? The pieces of the jigsaw fit together: credible purpose, credible strategically, credible linguistically[1]. One can’t prove it, of course, but it would certainly make sense.

 

[1] Equally so, incidentally, if the anciently Dubglas-named river be the stream flowing from Higher Ansty (below Rawlsbury) southwards through Dewlish, as others have suggested.

 

 

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4 comments on “King Arthur’s 2nd to 5th Battles – Bulbarrow Hill Site Visit

  1. I am always intriguerd by tales of the ‘Somerset Arthur’, not least because I was brought up in Somerset. I lived in the Tone Valley about eight miles from Taunton, and am familiar with the sights you mention. After I travelled to other parts of UK, I used to consider crossing that ridge on my return visits, with the whole of South Somerset and the distant Levels laid out before me, as ‘entering Camelot’. It remains for me one of the most beautiful views in England. However, do I believe in Tintagel and the West Country legend of Arthur? No. I more readily accept Welsh versions of the legend, A nice article though, thank you.

  2. Edit: ‘intrigued’ – where did that ‘r’ come from?

    • wademk says:

      Thanks for reading, liking, and engaging with my blog. On Tintagel, I primarily accept the conventional view (for once!) that Geoffrey of Monmouth invented that connection. (Q: What have Tintagel, Nazareth, and Bran [in Transylvania] have in common? A: They are famous for, and make a living out of the tourism because of, a man of historical importance who never lived there.) Geoffrey acted like a Hollywood mogul, selecting a location that was symbolically right for his purpose – a dramatic setting for a magical encounter – rather than literally ‘true’. However, archaeologists have found evidence (Tintagel Ware) for there having been a caer (royal citadel) there, or possibly a monastic site like Glastonbury. Since Kernow (= Dumnonia) was Lindinis’s neighbour, I reckon it is as good as certain that King Arthur visited it during his reign.

      I don’t know of Welsh versions of the legend that locate Arthur in what is now Wales. Isn’t it the case that most of the primary sources we have for the legendary Arthur are Breton lays? Of course, because of Badon, Arthur was a war-hero for all of Celtic Britain….. alluded to by Aneurin in Y Gododdin (about a battle disaster at Maiden Castle, now in North Yorkshire), and by Talisein in one of the poems connected to his journey to Deganwy (when he was bard to Elffin of Ceredigion).

  3. Katy says:

    Good work on the Dewlish (modern name) connection. I look forward to reading some of your other posts.

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