[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 bv. 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.