[If the text below uses any of the terms ‘hill-letter’, ‘river-letter’, ‘old-style name’, ‘transitional name’ and ‘inversion-type name’ a reader who is not familiar with those terms may wish to refer briefly to ‘The Celtic names of hillforts’, where an explanation of those terms is given].


The Celtic names of hillforts



Bigbury Camp


Location: immediately west of Canterbury, Kent

OS map reference:  TR 118 575                                           

Celtic name: Averno

Source:  Ravenna Cosmography (72) – Duroaverno

             Ptolemy – Darvernum

             Antonine Itinerary (Iter II) - Duroverno

                                      (Iter III) - Durarveno

                                       (Iter IV) - Durarvenno


This hillfort is just west of modern Canterbury in Kent. It is not built at the top of a hill but around the eastern end of a spur descending gently eastwards towards Canterbury from higher ground southwest of the hillfort.

The ver element means ‘side of hill’, ‘slope’, so the name Averno is entirely appropriate for the hillfort. Note, too, that the river-letter corresponding to the hill-letter r is s and this s is present in Stour, the name of the river flowing past the foot of the hill on which the hillfort stands.

It would appear that the Catuvellauni  moved the inhabitants of Bigbury Camp into a new settlement on the low ground next to the river Stour and that the Romans later razed that new settlement to the ground and built Duroaverno on the same site, Duroaverno meaning 'Roman new town at (the Celtic setlement called) Averno'. For a more detailed discussion of the development from Averno to Duroaverno see Chapter 23, 2.7.1, 2.9.2 and 6.3.



[This paqe was last modified on 13 November 2019]