The place-name Camelford, first recorded in the early 13th century, contains the Cornish elements camm ‘crooked’, and alan, a common Celtic name for a river. The English suffix ‘ford’ was probably added later, presumably when the settlement developed around a crossing point on the river.
The earliest reference comes in an Arthurian romance (by Layamon)and several romantic Arthurian connections have been maintained in and around the town through much of its subsequent history (Camelford as Camelot; Tintagel as Arthur’s birthplace and castle; Slaughter Bridge as the scene of his death etc).
The routeway that is now the A39 follows ridges to the north of the town and valleys to the south and is likely to have been an important early topographical element in this part of Cornwall. Its crossing point on the Camel would have been the original focal point of what seems, from its well-defined strip field system, to have been a typical Cornish farming hamlet. There are references in medieval Duchy records to farmland being held in ‘Kamelford’.Camelford is not specifically mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, being at that time just another part of the large manor of Helston, later part of the Earldom and then Duchy of Cornwall.
There may have been an economic imperative to the creation of a third market and borough so close to nearby Boscastle and Tintagel at a point on a major highway and more centrally placed in productive countryside that included the great commons of Bodmin Moor (with its thousands of cattle and sheep). But, again it must be suggested that it was probably only because the place was part of the estate of a powerful Earl who was the King’s brother and who had his power-base in nearby Launceston that such a new town came into being at Camelford, rather than nearer Warbstow Bury or Hallworthy.