[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
Location: east of Ilfracombe, Devon
OS map reference: SS 532 478
Celtic name: most probably Alobergium
Source: Ravenna Cosmography (22) - Alovergium
This is a promontory fort about 150 metres above sea level with cliffs to the north and west and a steep slope on the eastern side. The neck of sloping ground to the south is crossed by two ramparts.
Ravenna’s form shows the common change of b → v. The Celtic name will have been Alobergium, this being a compound of the hill-letter l1 used in an old-style manner and the transitional element berg meaning ‘high hill steep’.
It is not clear whether the name as it appears in Ravenna refers to the hillfort itself, to a Roman post which may have been established inside the hillfort once the occupants had been evicted, or to a Roman fort which was built in the vicinity and to which the name of the hillfort was simply transferred. The third possibility seems the most likely, Ravenna’s Alovergium being probably a fort guarding a harbour at Ilfracombe.