British Folklore
Fairy Lore & Prehistoric Sites in Britain

Badbury Rings

Badbury Rings

This is a large Iron Age Hill Fort - attested by a late 19th century antiquarian that there resides the battlefield of Arthur's last battle and defeat of the Saxons; the legendary Mount Badon.

Problem is, many other place names that begin with Bad have the same associations.  Despite the fact that there is no supporting evidence for any of these claims, the notion stuck and became known to the local Field Club in 1889 where it grew in the telling.  One particular legend revolves around a colony of ravens which abode on the top of the hill fort.  Their presence was supposed to ensure prosperity for the lord of the manor.  In 1908 another antiquarian and fledgling archaeologist A. Allcroft blended them with the Badbury/Badon theory.

The Arthurian tradition lingers obstinately on the spot, and in view of the ancient superstition that the dead hero's soul passed into a raven until in the fullness of time it shall be embodied in human shape and "Arthur shall come again", it is curious to read that the solitary clump of trees which now crowns the hill was the haunt of the last pair of ravens to linger in Wessex.

These ideas became part of local knowledge and spread into more stories and tales regarding Arthur and ravens at the site.  Bosworth Smith spoke of the ravens s well:

Don Quixote himself tells us that King Arthur did not die, but was changed by witchcraft into a raven... What place would be more appropriate for King Arthur to haunt, during his inter-vital state, than the scene of his greatest victory, Badbury Rings? Long may he haunt it! The raven has continued to built, with few intermissions, every year since 1856, either at Badbury Rings or in the adjoining park of Kingston Lacy.

The stories and tales only grew over the centuries and even in the last fifty years has more been added to it all;  the ravens ceased being the last in Wessex and indeed, the legend says they are now the last in England. (Those poor old ravens at the Tower, eh?)

'They do say if you'm up to the Rings come midnight, you'll see 'un'... Badbury Rings has many associations with King Arthur. Legend maintains he is still here, that at midnight he and his knights ride round the Iron Age Hill Fort in a ghostly cavalcade... People hereabouts will tell you that, of course, Arthur must have been at Badbury Rings for some period of his life. After all, was this not the last place in England where wild ravens lived? Trying to unravel this, one may recall that in Celtic mythology there is not only Arthur but also a goddess called Badb Catha, the Raven of Battle. Is it possible that Badbury Rings bears her name?

One of the most recent stories, just a few years after the one above, has Arthur appearing as a form of a raven ghost.

Legend has it that the victorious Arthur reappears on the anniversary of the battle every year since those stirring days, in the shape of a raven. He flies around croaking his satisfaction as he surveys the scene of his triumph, then off he flies to reappear the following year.

The other tales and legends, most of them quite recent, say that a golden coffin is buried at the top of the Hill Fort.