Pre-Galfridian Arthur

The importance of Arthur, at least to the people of the West Country and Brittany, was not a creation of Geoffrey of Monmouth. This is indicated by Hermann of Tournai’s 1146 chronicle De Miraculis Sanctae Mariae Laudunensis which states that in 1113 nine canons from Laon in France were on a fund-raising journey that included Cornwall. They were shown local sites associated with Arthur. That there was at this early date landmarks associated with Arthur is remarkable in itself. What is even more intriguing is the incident that occurred at Bodmin in Cornwall. The French canons had brought the Shrine of Our Lady of Laon. A man with a withered arm came to be cured by the relics. The individual mentioning that Arthur still lived led to a quarrel with one of the French called Hangello and this in turn developed into a riot with order eventually being restored by the cleric Algardus. Hermann had mentioned that the Bretons, too, quarrel with the French with regards to Arthur.[1]

[1] Coe and Young, 1995, 46
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Celliwig

Arthur’s court is said to be located at a place called Celliwig in Cernyw. I believe it must be a place that occupies a prime strategic site in Cornwall. The Romans had to make a similar decision as to where to locate their forts. Two of their three known forts in Cornwall are a mere 5 miles apart. Both occupy hilltops that overlook the highest navigable point on major Cornish rivers.

The first is at Nanstallon and the associated river is the Camel which drains on the north coast at Padstow. The second fort is at Restormel, near the river Fowey which drains on the south coast at the town of Fowey. The forts are separated by an east-west ridgeway, possibly prehistoric in origin, which runs along the central spine of Cornwall. They could also monitor the north-south traffic, some of which would be avoiding having to sail round the tip of the peninsula.

It is here, near the geographical centre of Cornwall and between the two forts, that Castle Canyke or Kynock is situated. It is the largest hill-fort in Cornwall and I believe it to be Kelli wic. It is bivallate and oval in shape measuring 348 m and 308 m. Ferdinand Lot (1901) thought Arthur’s residence was Bodmin, the town the castle is located in, and he noted that nearby was a place called Callywith.[1] Nearby is Callywith wood, perhaps originally part of the forest indicated by the meaning of the name Celliwig, i.e forest grove.

[1] Romania 30, 13