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The excavation at Cadbury Castle, South Cadbury,

 made Alcock's name.

 The hillfort had a traditional link with Camelot and the Arthurian legends,

and Alcock made sure that the media were aware of his work.

 The five seasons of the excavations were widely reported,

 making Alcock into one of the better known British archaeologists of the time. His methodology made headlines within the archaeological community with his use of geophysical survey, which in at the time before its prominent use by archaeological television programme Time Team was an unusual and experimental process; while he also preferred the use of open-area excavation to the Wheeler method that held sway at the time. This methodology was to become the standard technique for British archaeology from the start of large scale rescue work in the 1970s, and shows that Alcock was at the cutting edge of archaeology.

Alcock's sense of humour also came out during the excavations. He had a good understanding of what visitors to the site wanted to see, so he had a plastic skeleton excavated from the same spot every afternoon, with a bucket beside the trench to take donations for the diggers' welfare fund. The money was used to the benefit of the local economy each evening in the pub.

The results of the excavation were impressive. The earliest identifiable occupation on the hill was Early and Late Neolithic. After an apparent hiatus during the earlier Bronze Age it was reoccupied in the centuries around 1000BC, remaining so continuously until at least the first century AD. His excavations produced scant evidence for Roman occupation, aside from a barracks block of the latter first century but demonstrated that it was the largest reoccupied fortified hilltop in post-Roman Britain. He also identified Late Saxon refurbishment of the defences and a foundation trench for a probable cruciform church, apparently never completed but intended to meet the needs of moneyers moved to the hill for security during the early 11th century AD.

Alcock was able to tell evocative stories of the history of the fort, and particularly of its fate during the Roman period, where there was clear evidence of a violent attack on the fort. However, the scale of the material recovered meant that his publication of the site (Alcock 1972) was really a large scale interim report. Final publication waited until 1995 for the Early Medieval material, which he published himself in 1995 (Alcock 1995), and 2000 for the earlier material (Barrett et al. 2000). The main drawback for Alcock was that he had now become irrevocably connected with Arthur in the minds of the public.

From 1994 until his death in 2006 Alcock was patron of the South Cadbury Environs Project, a programme of research exploring the landscape around the hillfort.[

Lindy Brown Turner raised her hand. “I’ll go. I decided to just read my story if you don’t mind. It is about the Ghosts of Cadbury Hill.” After a short period of excited mumbling from the group, Lindy proceeded. “Cadbury Hill is in the west country of England and is the home of an overgrown castle, Cadbury Castle. In the 1930s, a woman who wished her identity to never be known, a very respectable school teacher, was driving near Cadbury Hill at night. She and her companion saw lights parading down from the hill. They slowed the vehicle for a better view. They discovered that the lights were lit torches fastened to lances, and the ghostly bearers of the torches were on ghostly horses. They seemed to be warriors from ancient times, and they were led by a larger ghostly warrior, also on horseback. When these warriors had ridden to the base of the hill, they vanished into thin air. Somerset County of England is known for its fairies and phantoms. Legend has it that King Arthur rests with his soldiers at Cadbury Hill, waiting for England to request his services once again. Archaeologists agree that the old fortress could have housed a chieftain in the sixth century—the time of Arthur’s skirmishes with the Saxons.”

Cadbury Castle is located five miles north east of Yeovil at grid reference ST62862512. It stands on the summit of Cadbury Hill, a limestone hill situated on the southern edge of the Somerset Levels, with flat lowland to the north. The summit is 500 ft (150 metres) above sea-level. The hill is surrounded by four terraced earthwork banks and ditches and a stand of trees.


Excavation at and around the site has discovered Iron Age, Roman and Saxon artefacts. The excavation was led by archaeologist Leslie Alcock from 1966-1970. He identified a long sequence of occupation on the site and many of the finds are displayed in the Somerset County Museum in Taunton.
Prehistoric occupation

Earthworks at Cadbury Castle

Yetholm-type shield

 from South Cadbury. Displayed at Somerset County Museum, Taunton.

The earliest settlement was represented by Neolithic pottery and flints along with a bank feature.

The site was also occupied in the Late Bronze Age and throughout the Iron Age.
The castle is a multivallate hill fort built around 400 BC. Large ramparts and elaborate timber defenses were constructed and refortified at least five times over the following centuries. Excavation revealed rectangular house foundations, a blacksmith, and a possible temple indicating permanent oppidum-like occupation. There is evidence that the fort was violently taken and reoccupied by the Romans around AD 50.

Cadbury Hillfort Plan  Leland's material provides invaluable evidence for reconstructing the lost "tomb" of Arthur (a twelfth-century fabrication) at Glastonbury Abbey.[31]

On his itinerary of 1542, Leland was the first to record the tradition (possibly influenced by the proximity of the villages of Queen Camel and West Camel) identifying the hillfort of Cadbury Castle in Somerset as 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.