[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 Wroxeter, Shropshire
OS map reference: SJ 629 083
Celtic name: probably Biriconion
Source: Ravenna Cosmography (79) – Vtriconion
Ptolemy – Viroconium
Antonine Itinerary (Iter II) – Urioconio
(Iter XII) – Viriconio
This hillfort stands around the summit of a high, steep hill, there being steep slopes to all sides of the fort.
Biric is a transitional name-element meaning ‘high hill steep’. It will have been coined at some point during the second half of the second century BC. Given the local topography the name is entirely appropriate for the hillfort.
After the conquest the Romans transferred the name, and presumably the surviving inhabitants, to Wroxeter. All forms of the name known from the ancient sources show the common change b → v (given as u in the Iter II form). The t in the Ravenna form is presumably just a spelling error which crept in at some stage of copying. All of the forms of the name which have come down to us, including the earlier ones from Ravenna and Ptolemy, presumably refer to the fortress/town at Wroxeter rather than to the hillfort itself.
[This page was last modified on 11 November 2019]