Friday, December 1, 2017

Dindraithou and Cadbury Castle in Somerset

Cadbury Castle, Somerset

In the past, I had opted for a Welsh interpretation of Dindraithou (VITA of St. Carranog) or 'Cair Draitou' (HISTORIA BRITTONUM) as "Fort of the Shores".  This meant that I was forced to look for a Cadbury fort (Arthur and Cadwy are ruling Dindraithou in the VITA) on the "shores", given that Welsh traethau meant exactly that.  I went to sources such as Rivet and Smith's AN ATLAS OF ROMAN BRITAIN (p. 13) and more recent studies such as -

- so that I might show that the only Cadbury or Cadwy's burg/fort that might be on the 'shores' of the sea would be Cadbury Camp in North Somerset. Alas, archaeology did not support my identification, for there is no evidence of sub-Roman habitation of Cadbury Camp.

Thus, I have been forced back upon the Irish version of the name, i.e. Dinn Tradui, the 'triple-fossed fort.'  This description, combined with the presence of Cadwy, fits only the great Cadbury Castle at South Cadbury, Somerset.  It has long been recognized through archaeological work that this site was occupied during the Arthurian period.

I must now confess to believing that Arthur, son of Illtud, the terrible warrior, served the Dumnonian king Cadwy at this fort in much the same way as Illtud had served his master Pawl Penychen at Dinas Powis.  

In the near future I will again address the Arthurian battles, this time assuming for the sake of argument that Arthur son of Illtud was serving as the military commander based at Cadbury Castle.


If we do go with something like Welsh traethau for the Dindraethou fort name, there are a couple other options - although it takes Cadwy and Cadbury Castle out of the picture. [I myself tend to give precedence here to the Welsh source, rather than to the Irish for Dinn Tradui.]


Not far south of Carhampton and Williton (places mentioned in the Life of St. Carannog) there is a hillfort called Mounsey Castle.  It is hard by a place called Draydon.  According to Ekwall and subsequent place-name specialists, Draydon is to be derived from

OE draeg  a place where something can or has to be dragged (boats, timber); derived from draga to draw

+ dun

When I looked up traeth in the Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru, I noticed that the word may be related to Latin tractus:

[H. Grn. trait, gl. harena, Crn. Diw. treath, H. Lyd. cundraid, gl. lidona, Llyd. C. traez, Llyd. Diw. traezh, H. Wydd. tracht: ?bnth. Llad. tractus ‘tiriogaeth, bro’]
eg. ll. -au, -oedd, treythydd, ?traith.
Ardal eang o dywod neu gerrig mân ar lan môr, glan y môr, tywyn, arfordir; moryd, aber; ?bro, ardal; hefyd yn ffig.:
beach, (sea)shore, strand, coast; estuary

The Lewis and Short Latin Dictionary at Perseus gives the following meanings to tractus:

a drawing, dragging, hauling, pulling, drawing out, trailing

Thus, is is quite possible that Dindraethou is a Welsh attempt at Draydon and Arthur and Cadwy's fort in this instance is Mounsey Castle.  Here are the Pastscape listings for this fort and the adjacent Brewer's Castle:

Could it be that Cadwy and Arthur are said to rule from here precisely because these are, essentially, "twin forts", divided from each other only by the River Barle?  In other words, Cadwy held one and Arthur the other?


Of the same etymology as Draydon, but with the place-name elements arranged to match that of Dindraithou, is Dundry in Somerset.  The great Maes Knoll hillfort is located at the eastern end of Dundry Down ridge.  

Maes Knoll is a very large fort - much more impressive than Mounsey Castle.  My own personal feeling is that if Dindraithou were an impressive site - and one associated rightly or wrongly with the famous Arthur - then Dundry must be the place.  

There is absolutely no possibility, as is often cited, that Dunster = Dindraethou.  The early forms (spellings) of Dunster and its proposed etymology do not allow for this identification.  Bat's Castle hillfort near Dunster cannot, therefore, be Dindraethou.  

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