Wednesday, January 25, 2017


Cadbury Castle, Somerset

As I mentioned in my previous blog piece, Badda of the Badbury/Baddanbyrig hill forts is an attested English name that is also found spelled Bada. It is the spelling with a single /d/ that should interest us the most.

I was thinking about the several Badburys and recalled that a similar pattern of hill fort names exists further to the west in England, in territory that remained much longer in control of the British.  I'm referring, of course, to the Cadbury forts.  There are four of these:

Cadbury Camp in North Somerset
Cadbury Castle in Devon
Cadbury Castle in Somerset
Cadbury Hill in North Somerset

To these we may compare -

Badbury Rings in Dorset
Badbury in Wiltshire
Badbury Hill in Berkshire
Badbury in Northants.
Baumber in Lincolnshire (Badeburg in the Domesday Book; Bada's or Badda's burg, according to                                                 Ekwall)

It is fashionable in older books (even Mills!) to find the first component of this place-name as a hypothetical OE personal name *Cada.  But more recent scholars (like noted English place-name expert Dr. Richard Coates) agree with me that the known Brythonic name (found in an Arthurian context!) Cadwy/Cato/Cado/Cattw, etc., more likely explains Cad-.  Although Cadwy is included in some royal genealogies and is presented to us as a human hero, his name might well be a hypocoristic form of a divine name like the Gaulish god Caturix, 'Battle-king'.  Dr. Coates response to my query about whether Cadwy could stand for Caturix or similar was merely "Yes."

The Welsh word cad as listed in the GPC:


[Crn. cas, Gwydd. cath, Gal. Caturīges; fel elf. mewn e. fel catberth, caterwen, catffwl ac enw nant fel Cadnant golyga ‘cryf, nerthol, mawr’]

eb. ll. cadau, cadoedd.

a  Brwydr, ymladdfa, rhyfel, ymryson, ymdrech, helynt:

battle, conflict, war, strife, struggle, trouble. 

In other words, the Cadbury hill forts are elevated defensive earthworks that were deemed sacred to a sort of divine personification of battle.

I would suggest that the same is true of the Badbury forts - and, indeed, that this and only this can explain why here are several such forts all bearing the same name.  

In the famous, though exceedingly brief, account of Badon in Gildas, we are told a great slaughter of the enemy occurred at the hill.  Gildas's word here is the Latin strages. [For those who would like to study for themselves the relevant sections on Badon in Gildas, in Latin text form and in good modern English translations, please see  As I've mentioned before, Bede pretty well repeats what Gildas has to say on the battle, using stragis for strages.] Strages or 'slaughter', as it happens, is one of the meanings of OE beado, a word that occurs in numerous uncompounded and compounded personal names in a fairly wide variety of spellings.

From the Anglo-Saxon dictionary of Bosworth and Toller:

BEADO, beadu; g. d. beadowe, beadwe, beaduwe; f. Battle, war, slaughter, cruelty; pugna, strages :-- Gúþ-Geáta leód, beadwe heard the War-Goths' prince, brave in battle, Beo. Th. 3082; B. 1539. Wit ðære beadwo begen ne onþungan we both prospered not in the war, Exon. 129b; Th. 497, 2; Rä. 85, 23. Beorn beaduwe heard a man brave in battle, Andr. Kmbl. 1963; An. 984. Ðú þeóde bealdest to beadowe thou encouragest the people to slaughter, Andr. Kmbl. 2373; An. 1188. [O. H. Ger. badu-, pato-: O. Nrs. böð, f. a battle: Sansk. badh to kill.]

So on the model of the Cadbury forts, I propose that Bada or Badda is merely a spelling variant of a beado-derived name, and that Gildas's comment on the strages that took place there is not only a description of the result of military action at the location, but an actual definition of Bada/Badda as 'Slaughter.'  When I passed this idea along to Dr. Coates, he commented "Well, to my mind this is ingenious."

If I am right, this is yet more evidence in support of Badon = Badbury, in this case the one now called Liddington Castle in Wiltshire.  

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