The Grave of Arthur?

Rex Artorius inscription. Image: Alan Wilson and Baram Blackett

Article first published in Pendragon, the Journal of the Pendragon Society XVI No 3 (1983), and here slightly revised and expanded


Several Pendragon Society members over the past year [1982-3] brought to our attention news of two South Wales historians who have claimed to have discovered the grave of Arthur.

So I wrote to Alan Wilson and Anthony Blackett of Penylan, Cardiff to get more details than those provided by press cuttings. A correspondence was begun in August and continued till November 1983.

They have clearly completed a lot of research over a decade, investing much of their savings, and some of it appears in books they have themselves published. One (Arthur the War King) is a novel, but three are factual: King Arthur King of Glamorgan & Gwent, which I have seen, is the first; King Arthur and the Charters of the Kings is the second (though, according to Charles Evans-Günther, most of this is an uncredited copy of Rev W J Rees’ edition of Liber Landavensis, the Book of Llandaf). Finally, King Arthur’s Invisible Kingdom may already have been printed by the time this magazine is published.¹

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Changing History?

The ‘Arthur Stone’, a drain cover from Tintagel Island with 7th-century inscriptions

Slap-bang in the the middle of the silly season in 1998 Tintagel became a focus of interest with news of its so-called ‘Arthur Stone’. As the dust settled it became time to see what the fuss was about, examine its significance and assess the reaction.

A team from the Archaeology Department of Glasgow University, led by Professor Christopher Morris, had been re-evaluating Ralegh Radford’s pre-war excavations at Tintagel Island, Cornwall; the project was commissioned by English Heritage who are guardians of the site, itself owned by the Duchy of Cornwall.

Radford’s Site C is a terrace situated between the sea and the main plateau, on the north-eastern side of the promontory. On a nearby terrace Morris’ team had already discovered occupation from the late Roman to the 7th century, with evidence of cremation and sherds of imported East Mediterranean ware. Undisturbed, under Radford’s Site C, were further deposits, including drains running around the southwest corner. Re-used as a cover to the later of two drains was a piece of slate.

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Construct

Pendragonry will feature my musings on Arthurian matters from the late 1960s onwards, mostly in an amateur British magazine called Pendragon but also supplemented by commentary elsewhere and by my current thoughts.

Half a century and more of reflection on obsessions — mine and others — with ‘King Arthur’ have led me to the inevitable conclusion that Arthur, his Round Table and associated paraphernalia are all wonderful constructs, existing in as many different forms as there are individuals to consider them.

The Pendragon Society was originally founded in 1959 in Winchester, Hampshire, with the following aims:

    1. To stimulate interest in King Arthur and his contemporaries.
    2. To investigate the history and archaeology of the Matter of Britain.
    3. To study the significance — past, present and future — of the Arthurian legends. (This further clause was added later, when the Society was based in Bristol.)

Until it was voluntarily dissolved in 2009 (its golden jubilee year) the Society’s main activities were focused on projects, principally early medieval archaeology — a hillfort, a Roman villa and an Early Christian church site — and contributions to Pendragon, its magazine-style journal. The journal included news, views and reviews as well as articles, often substantial. Its members, many from overseas, included authors, academics and artists among its ranks as well as amateurs. For much of its existence I was contributing editor.

Pendragonry therefore will include many of my contributions to the journal, with additional commentary where necessary. Of course it will, since it’ll represent my opinions, be very opinionated. I do welcome comments, even criticisms (because opinions can change!) but naturally only those conducted politely.

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