The Celtic names of hillforts


Haffield Camp


Location:   near Donnington, Herefordshire

OS map reference:   SO 723 339

Celtic name:   Macatonion or Demacatonion

Source:   Ravenna Cosmography  (61) - Macatonion


This hillfort is built on the level summit of a steep, high hill.

The Celtic name may have been simply Macatonion, where Macat is an inversion-type element meaning ‘hill steep, high’, but since the fort is on the summit of the hill the Celtic name may have been Demacatonion, where  Demacat is an inversion-type element meaning ‘summit of hill steep, high’.

The name was transferred by the Romans to a new town built at Dymock in Gloucestershire, some four kilometres to the southwest, though if the town was preceded by a Roman fort then of course the name will have been transferred to the fort. Note that Ravenna does on occasion omit the initial consonant of place-names (see  Alphabetical List, Changes in names over time/Comments on alphabetical list of Romano-British place-names, paragraph 8  for examples), so the name transferred to Dymock may well have been Demacatonion, the initial Demac element yielding the modern town name.