[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
Little Doward Camp
Location: northeast of Monmouth
OS map reference: SO 539 160
Celtic name: Velesedio or Velestio
Source: Antonine Itinerary (IterXIII) - Blestio
A hillfort at the top of a high hill with very steep sides. The fort comprises two enclosures, the NW enclosure extending from the summit, at about 220 metres, down the slope to about the 190 metre contour. The SE enclosure starts at that point and continues on down the slope to about the 165 metre contour.
The name Velesedio comprises the inversion-type generic element vel, meaning ‘side of hill, slope’ qualified by the old-style element sed, meaning ‘hill summit’. The element sed will have been applied to the NW enclosure by people who used the hill-letter s. Much later the hill-fort was taken over by people who used the hill-letter l. They built the SE enclosure and applied the name-element vel. These people, who built the SE enclosure, were the Silures, who used the hill-letter l1 (see ‘Ptolemy’s Celtic tribes in Britain’).
The name was transferred by the Romans to a fort/settlement which they built some 5 kilometres away at Monmouth, though with the common changes v → b and d → t, the name then being Belesetio, this then being shortened to Blestio. But note that if that area was settled by s-people at some time during the second half of the second century BC, or even a little later, the Celtic name might have been Velestio, where st is an inversion-type element meaning ‘hill high’. One sees the same st element further north in Argistillum. This name was apparently applied by the Romans to their fort at Stretton Grandison, but it will earlier have been the name of a Celtic hillfort/settlement somewhere in the vicinity.
[This page was last modified on 13 November 2019]