[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: Gloucestershire, west of the Severn estuary

OS map reference:  SO 617 027                                            

Celtic name:  Nemedon or  Nemedonbala

Source:  Ravenna Cosmography (50) - Metambala


This is a univallate promontory fort bounded by steep slopes to the west, south and east.

The development of this name is somewhat complicated, so in the interests of brevity the reader is simply referred to the entry for Metambala in the Alphabetical List. The hillfort will at one time have been called Nemedon, this being a compound in the hill-letters n and m, where the med element means ‘hill summit’. Later settlers added the old-style bal element, which means ‘high hill’. It is possible that the entire name Nemedonbala referred to the hillfort, but also possible – since Nemedonbala just means, in modern English, ‘high hill called Nemedon’ or ‘high hill of Nemedon’ – that Nemedonbala was a new settlement replacing the hillfort and built at the foot of the hill. Since, however, the Romans occupied the site after taking control of it, it is likely that the entire name Nemedonbala had been applied to the hillfort by the Celts. These Celts, i.e. the ones who added the bala element, were the Silures, who used the hill-letter l(see 'Ptolemy's Celtic tribes in Britain').