King Arthur’s bridge will rise again: Tintagel Castle’s legendary lost crossing that vanished centuries ago will be restored thanks to £2.5m donation from billionaire Tetra Pak heir

  • Tintagel castle is spread across a rocky outcrop and the Cornwall mainland 
  • Castle spans a 190 foot gorge and is thought to be the birthplace of King Arthur
  • It was once joined with a medieval drawbridge and guarded by three knights  
  • The modern replacement will be 98 feet long and made of two cantilevers  
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A Cornish castle has received a £2.5 million cash donation to rebuild a connection that once allowed Uther Pendragon to sire his son, Arthur. 

The crossing will link the separate parts of Tintagel Castle – on the mainland and on a rocky outcrop – via a bridge 187ft (57m) above sea level.  

Sections of the castle are on both land masses and a medieval drawbridge once joined them together but perished centuries ago. 

According to folklore, the castle was home to the king and the birthplace of Arthur, after the monarch enlisted the help of Merlin in crossing the gorge and bedding the wife of the Duke of Cornwall.  


A 190 foot gorge separates the two locations and they are currently only accessible by foot via a rocky path. The solution, according to English Heritage, is to build a 98 foot (30 metres) long bridge made of two separate cantilevers

A 190 foot gorge separates the two locations and they are currently only accessible by foot via a rocky path.

The solution, according to English Heritage, is to build a 98 foot (30 metres) long bridge made of two separate cantilevers, 

The two-pronged design is to leave a 1.5 inch (4cm) gap in the middle to allow people to appreciate the moment they step to the other side. 

The original bridge that joined the two parts of the castle together crumbled some time between the 14th and 17th century and the modern day replacement will be built in the same location. 

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English Heritage is leading the project following the donation from philanthropists, and heir to the Tetra Pak fortune, Hans and Julia Rausing which adds to smaller contributions from more than 1,000 people. 

Julia and Hans Rausing said: ‘It is a pleasure to support English Heritage and Tintagel Castle. 

‘The new footbridge is a great feat of design, fitting into the landscape, and providing new views of the site’s architecture, whilst improving access for many visitors.’ 

Tintagel show to fame and cemented itself in British folklore when Geoffrey of Monmouth declared it to be King Arthur’s birthplace. 


The crossing will link the separate parts of Tintagel Castle – on the mainland and on a rocky outcrop – via a bridge 187ft (57m) above sea level. Sections of the castle are on both land masses and a medieval drawbridge once joined them together but perished centuries ago



English Heritage is leading the project following the donation from philanthropists Hans and Julia Rausing which adds to smaller contributions from more than 1,000 people. All contributors signed a piece of slate to mark their monetary donation 

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT TINTAGEL CASTLE?

The site of Tintagel Castle has been inhabited at least since the late Roman period, and a community flourished 5th to 7th centuries. 

The castle once spanned both the mainland and the tiny island jutting into the sea and the two sections were once united by a narrow strip of land.

This connection no longer exists and now the island can only be reached via a steep and challenging staircase. 

Anew footbridge will follow the path of the original land bridge. 

The bridge has been designed by Ney & Partners engineers and William Matthews Associates Architectural Practice.

It will be set 57 metres above sea level, and two separate sections will be built of 30 m in length from opposite sides to meet in the middle, but not quite touch. 

At the centre, a narrow gap (40mm) represents the transition between the mainland and the island, the present and the past. 

The bridge has been designed to be as unobtrusive as possible and to reflect the historical land bridge. 

The original narrow land access gave rise to the castle’s name, with the Cornish Din Tagell meaning ‘the Fortress of the Narrow Entrance’. 

Tintagel is known as the legendary place where King Arthur was conceived – according to Geoffrey of Monmouth’s book ‘The History of The King’s of Britain’

Passages in Monmouth’s book depict how Arthur was conceived at the castle by Uther Pendragon, King of Britain, after his magically assisted seduction of Queen Igerna (Igraine), wife of Duke Gorlois of Cornwall. 

Evidence from artifacts found at Tintagel suggest a fair amount of trading with the Mediterranean. Goods found include Mediterranean pottery, and high-quality tableware. The area has by far the largest quantity so far discovered. 


Map showing the trade that would have taken place between Tintagle and the Mediterranean in the 13th Century. 

 

Dr Jeremy Ashbee, Head Properties Curator at English Heritage, told The Telegraph: ‘Historically Tintagel would have looked completely different to how it does now.

‘Currently you have a third of the castle on the mainland and then a big big gap and then the castle resumes on the island. It’s very hard for people to imagine that these two things facing each other were once part of something much larger.

‘And it’s not just a historic site, there is also the legend about the conception of King Arthur. That’s all to do with the land bridge.

‘Uther Pendragon conceives this terrifyingly intense lust for the wife of the Duke of Cornwall, and so the Duke places her in the most inaccessible spot available, the inner bit of Tintagel. But Merlin transforms him to look like the lady’s husband and Arthur is conceived.’

During the reign of King Arthur and his father before him, the bridge at Tintagel was a key part of the fortress. 

It is believed to have been extremely narrow, permanently guarded by three guards and have a drawbridge in the middle.  

The ongoing project has raised concerns from locals of a ‘disnification’ of the site. 

The charity widely refutes this and says it is simply rebuilding a historically and culturally significant site that has been lost from the Cornish coast.   

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE LEGEND OF KING ARTHUR?

The facts around the real King Arthur are mired in myth and folklore, but historians believe he ruled Britain from the late 5th and early 6th centuries.

Many historians agree that while the king was a genuine historical figure in early Britain, he could in fact be a composite of multiple people from an age of poor record keeping.  

There are many versions of the Arthur legend, but some common threads are interwoven throughout them.

In 410 AD, the Romans pulled their troops out of Britain and, with the loss of their authority, local chieftans and kings competed for land. 

In 449 AD, King Vortigern invited the Angles and Saxons to settle in Kent in order to help him fight the Picts and the Scots.


Guinevere leading a wounded Lancelot from The Rochefoucauld Grail. The illuminated 14th century manuscript containing what is believed to be the oldest surviving account of the legends of King Arthur

However, the Angles and Saxons betrayed Vortigern at a peace council where they drew their knives and killed 460 British chiefs. 

The massacre was called the Night of the Long Knives, which, according to Geoffrey of Monmouth, occurred at a monastery on the Salisbury Plain.

Ambrosius Aurelianus, became King and consulted the wizard Merlin to help him select an appropriate monument to raise in honour of the dead chieftains.

Merlin suggested that the King’s Ring from Mount Killarus in Ireland be dismantled and brought to England. 

The king’s brother and Arthur’s father, Uther Pendragon, led an expedition of soldiers to bring the stones from Ireland to England. 

Merlin magically reconstructed the stones as Stonehenge on the Salisbury Plain around the burials of the dead British chieftains in the monastery cemetery. 

Some legends say Arthur was born at Tintagel Castle in Cornwall and was taken by Merlin to be raised by Sir Ector.

Shortly thereafter, civil war broke out in England and Uther Pendragon was killed.

When Arthur was a young boy he drew a sword called Caliburn from a stone. 


Some legends say Arthur was born at Tintagel Castle in Cornwall and was taken by Merlin to be raised by Sir Ector.

One version of the legend states that the sword was made at Avalon from a sarsen stone that originated either from Avebury or Stonehenge and whoever drew the sword from the stone was the true King of England. 

Arthur was coronated in the ruins of the Roman fort at Caerleon in Wales.

In another version, King Ambrosius Aurelianus led a battle against the Saxons at Badon Hill. 

Aurelianus was killed and his nephew, Arthur, took control of the soldiers and won the battle. Later, Arthur lost Caliburn in a fight with Sir Pellinore but was saved by Merlin’s magic. 

Arthur received a new sword (Excalibur) and a scabbard from Nimue, the Lady in the Lake at Avalon. 

The scabbard was magical and as long as Arthur wore it, he could not die.

Arthur had three half-sisters who are sometimes referred to as sorceresses. 

Arthur fell in love with Morgana, not knowing that she was his half-sister and they had a son named Mordred. 

When Arthur discovered the truth, he was horrified and ordered all male infants born at the same time as his son to be brought to Caerleon. 

The babies were put onto an unattended ship and set out to sea, which crashed on some rocks and sank. 


Film, ‘King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword’, (2017)Jude Law’s sneering Vortigern

Mordred survived the sinking of the ship and was found by a man walking on the shore and taken home.

Arthur fell in love again with a woman named Guinevere who was the daughter of King Lodegrance of Camylarde.

They married and her dowry included a round table and many knights. Arthur established his court at Camelot

The round table became a symbol of equality amongst his knights, for no knight was seated in a position superior to another.

In addition, a mealtime rule at the table was that no one could eat until they told a story of daring. 

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