[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



Castle Ring


Location: just north of Cannock Wood, Staffordshire

OS map reference:  SK 044 128

Celtic name:  possibly Bendocrucio

Source: Antonine Itinerary (Iter II) – Pennocrucio


This multivallate hillfort stands at the top of a hill, said to be the highest in Cannock Chase, there being steep slopes on all sides of the fort except to the east/southeast, where the slope is gentler.

The Celtic name may have been Bendocrucio, comprising the old-style element Bend meaning ‘high hill summit’, the old-style cr meaning ‘steep hill’ and an ucio ending. The name appears entirely appropriate for the site. The initial B will have changed to P, a fairly common change in Romano-British names, and nd will have changed to nn (cf. Ravenna’s Gabaglanda changing to the Amboglanna of the Notitia Diginitatum).

The Romans appear to have transferred the name of the hillfort, and presumably the surviving inhabitants, to a new town built at the point where Watling Street crossed the river Penk, some 15 kilometres distant.

But note that we cannot be certain that the Castle Ring hillfort was called Bendocrucio. This is because the Celtic name may have been Benvocrucio, comprising old-style Benv meaning ‘high hill slope’, old-style cr meaning ‘steep hill’ and the ucio ending, the name then applying to the actual site of the Romano-British town. But this is less likely because the slopes around Romano-British Pennocrucio, and even at the site of the Roman fort a little to the northeast, do not appear particularly steep on the OS maps, so the cr element meaning ‘steep hill’ may not be entirely appropriate. It does therefore seem more likely that the Celtic name was Bendocrucio and that this was indeed the name of the Castle Ring hillfort, this being apparently the Celtic hillfort nearest to Romano-British Pennocrucio.