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Uther Pendragon in Cumbria?


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steve_ash
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 One of the few pieces of evidence that Uther Pendragon existed are in the legends of Cumbria which associate him with various folk tales, including the defeat of a dragon, but more concretely as the founder of Pendragon Castle, a very real ruin in the locality. These legends have been part of some current research I've been carrying out, and some curious material has emerged.

While Pendragon Castle was almost certainly built by Baron de Morville in Norman times, the association with Uther Pendragon has always been strong. Curiously there are references to a Roman fort in this area too but no remains have ever been found, apart from Roman coins on the castle site. Could the fort be under the castle I wonder? And if so could it have been reoccupied by a Celtic Warlord like Uther? Some regard Uther as purely a mythical character, and many of his stories suggest that, though like Arthur he is probably a legendary hybrid persona, drawn from many half forgotton sources. The claim he was Arthur's father comes from Welsh tales which talk of Arthur ap Uther, taken to mean Arthur son of Uther, or Arthur the Terrible or Awesome. If the latter Uther could just be a title for the 'terrible one'  and not a name at all. Arthur and Uther might have even been the same person. Certainly some historians have suggested most of 'Arthur's battles' could have occured in Cumbria and neighbouring areas. And some could have been the victories of the real high king Urien of Rheged, a few decades after Arthur, who was curiously said in legend to have both been a descendent of Uther and the husband of Morgan le Fey!

Urien of Rheged was a real life 'Arthur-like' king who defeated the Northumbrian Anglo-Saxons, preserved British culture in the North for some time, until he was betrayed by an ally, and may have had the bard and magician Taliesin as an advisor. His son Owain was also a local king and features in the Arthurian tales as Sir Owain the knight.

A curious link in all this is that one of the greatest restorers and preservers of Pendragon Castle was Lady Clifford, of a family descended from the ancient Vipont family of Cumbria. The Vipont family were sent to the region by King John, but soon married into various local families including the Greystokes, an Anglo-Norse family given lands by Henry I after the representitives of William Rufus (the Morvilles and Taillebois) had been ousted,  but much older.  The Greystokes themselves were associated with the Arthurian mythos, as a Lady Emma Greystoke was said to have had an affair with one Sir Eglamore, a knight of Arthur,
who becomes the hermit guardian of a sacred waterfall (in which she drowns). The Greystokes did not really extend back to Arthurian times, but the connection is interesting, she is said to have been the ancestor of the Greystokes. Curiously there is another guardian of a sacred water feature in Cumbria, but this time a spring not a waterfall, the
similarly named Sir Esclados, who is the servant or consort of  the lady of the spring, Laudine (sometimes said to be related to the lady of the lake).  Esclados is defeated by Owain son of Urien, who marries Laudine. Both Owain in this story and Eglamore in the other legend briefly abandon their watery consorts, who both pine for them,  and on return one is rejected, while the other loses his love in her favourite waterfall, both then become hermits due to this loss. It seems a basic tale lies behind both, somewhat jumbled in the telling, which archetypally is similar to the tale of the pining Freya and her wandering consort Od of Anglo-Norse myth. But it might also preserve a real history as well, if so Laudine would appear to be the same as Emma Greystokes, raising interesting genealogical legends.

My research here still continues however and further confirmations are required. 

 
 
 

 
 

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Daniel Parkinson
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Uther Pendragon in Cumbria?

I think it's highly likley that strategic sites that were easy to defend were re-used, so that could be the case for Pendragon Castle. Great bit of research. I think the Arthur legend is difficult to place exactly because it deals with a time of turmoil when the Romans left, and the threads of the myth have developed as time went by, and every region seems to want to lay claim to the real Arthur.

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Ian Topham
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Uther Pendragon in Cumbria?

There are certainly tales connecting Cumbria with Arthur.  When I first started investing in Cumbria, a good five or so years before moving up here, I started to hear of the Arthur tradition centred around the county.

I cannot remember the sources off the top of my head but there was a suggestion that Ravenglass was the port from which the wounded Arthur was taken away to Avalon.  Ravenglass was a major Roman port with it's own fort and bath house.  Carlisle and it's fort (which lies under Tullie House Museum, the bypass and the castle) has been linked, probably because it garrisoned cavalry I think and this ties in nicely with the thought of mounted knights.

There has also been suggestions of Birdoswald being linked to Arthur and the fort was certainly the base of a Dark Age Chieftan after the Romans departed.

steve_ash
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Templar connection (of course)

 There's an interesting Templar link as well, as the Vipont family were very much connected with the Templars and probably sponsored their local estate at Temple Sowerby, just north of Appleby, the nearest Preceptory appears to have been Temple Dove Scar on the Dales between Yorkshire and Cumbria.  

steve_ash
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A bit of mythic speculation

 Contemplating some of the myths of the region I realised an interesting feature of the area north of Pendragon Castle, at Appleby, a seat of the Cliffords and Viponts, was the strange meterological phenomenon known as the Helm wind . A near hurricane force wind that unpredictably rushes through the valley in Spring, arising from air currents over the barren mount of Cross Fell (a high point in the region, formerly known as Fiends Fell, due to its association with demons. Now mounted with a cross after a medieval exorcism was performed there apparently). This got me wondering if the Helm wind was associated with any more pagan myths, and specifically wondered if it could have been linked with the evil dragon that Uther battled.
 
Then I read that the Fell is rich in copper, and has a lot of bronze age sites near it, but the copper is mixed with lead that has to be seperated. So I tried to think like a bronze age myth maker and came up with this speculative tale. The Fell contains treasure (the copper) guarded by a dragon (lead) who also manifest as the destructive Helm wind (which presumably would have to be appeased). The dragon also has to be defeated and the treasure retrieved (the lead burnt off and seperated from the copper) and as copper was linked to Venus classically, perhaps the copper was also a maiden to be rescued from the underground prison of the Saturnine dragon?  Saturn being associated both with lead, restriction and the destructive elements of nature.  Though it is also a protective force so perhaps the victor (Uther) takes the power of the dragon for himself as protector of the maiden. As the bronze agers would have wanted to combine the copper with tin to make bronze, perhaps some Jovial (tin = Jupiter) Sky god from Cornwall also wanted to marry the maiden (nicely linking the West Country and Cumbria, via the historically linked Wales and Chester). I'm sure an Irish Sun god was linked to some gold from Ireland too, lots of Irish connections with Cumbria and a need to trade something other than copper for tin! :)

Well its a nice story lol.

mary sunshine
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whelpdales of cumbria

I am interested in the history of Roger de Whelpdale  one time Bishop of Carlisle and his descendants. His relationship with the nobility and royalty of his time. His birth place, siblings and other relations. His sojourns in London and cause of death

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Northen Lass
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Welsh link/cumbria

The strong link with cumbria and wales I think comes from around the 6th century when cumbria was invaded and some of the tribes escaped down the coast to what is north wales. Taking with them language, place names and local legends.
As for the Helm wind there was one a few weeks ago, I remember being blown over whilst trying to move house in Appleby during a helm wind, not a good idea :)
Maybe the new settlement they found last year outside Brougham will give us more information.

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Northen Lass
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BBC Link

http://www.bbc.co.uk/cumbria/enjoy_cumbria/heritage/arthurian_legend/arthur.shtml

Two pages of places to check out and follow the legends.

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Ian Topham
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Thanks for the link

Thanks for the link Sharon.  I noticed it states that Arthur was trained by the Roman Wall.  We assume it means Hadrians Wall thus placing him in Cumbria/Northumberland, but there was of course the Antonine Wall between Glasgow and Edinburgh (roughly) and the lost Roman wall of Septimius Severus, which some have suggested could be Offa's Dyke.

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Northen Lass
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Arthuret Church

Have you ever had any stories around Arthuret ? I'm sure there is also one about Merlin, something about him going mad and fleeing into the nearby woods....

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Daniel Parkinson
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The furthest place North (to

The furthest place North (to my knowledge) with an Arthurian place name is Ben Arthur, also known as the Cobbler in the Arochar Alps about an hours drive North of Glasgow, it's a popular climbing/walking destination and looks imposing due to its double rocky summit - I have never been able to find any legends or folklore linking it to Arthur apart from the name, but it is an example of an Arthur naming in what is the highlands. Merlin has recently been placed as a Glaswegian according to local press. Again bbc has a good link:

news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/glasgow_and_west/8054420.stm

news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/glasgow_and_west/6965593.stm

And for anybody not in the know this makes Merlin a Weegie: www.weegieweb.org.uk/ 
If he was from Glasgow of course.



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