[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


The Castle


Location:  just west of Knowle in northwest Devon

OS map reference:   SS 489 383                                                 

Celtic name:  possibly Abravnaris

Source:  Ravenna Cosmography (20) – Apaunaris


This hillfort stands around the 90 metre contour and is bounded by fairly steep slopes to the west, south and east. To the north the land continues rising towards the summit of the high ground, above the 130 metre contour. The hillfort is thus actually on the side, the slope of the high ground.

The writer’s reasons for associating the name Apaunaris with Braunton in northwest Devon are given in Chapter 10 (Roman place-names in southwest England) of the Home menu. But the name will have been that of the nearby The Castle hillfort and was simply transferred by the Romans to an as yet undiscovered post in the Braunton area. Given that the hillfort stands on a spur jutting out from the side of high ground it is probable that the p was originally a b signifying ‘high’ and the u originally a v signifying ‘slope’. But the hill-letter is missing from the first element of the name. On the assumption that the modern name Braunton is derived from the old name then the missing hill-letter may have been r, giving a Celtic name somewhat of the form Abravnaris. It is not clear whether the n is intrusive, is the hill-letter n or was simply part of the ending of the name before the aris ending was added. The brav element is an old-style element meaning ‘high hill slope’ and is seen also in Bravnogenium, apparently the Celtic form of Ptolemy’s Brannogenium at Leintwardine.



[This page was last modified on 20 January 2021]