[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


Welshbury Camp


Location:  northeast of Cinderford, Gloucestershire

OS map reference:  SO 678 156

Celtic name: Alvinundo, or Balvinundo, or Calvinundo

Source:  Ravenna Cosmography  (51) -  Albinumno


This hillfort comprises two enclosures believed to be of different date, the later one being built on the summit of a hill. The southeast corner of the earlier enclosure is at the same height, but by far the greater part of this enclosure is on the slope, on the hillside.

The old-style name Alvinundo is entirely appropriate for this hillfort – it comprises a generic term undo, meaning ‘hill summit’, qualified by the element  Alv, meaning ‘hill slope’. Presumably the name of the earlier enclosure had been Alvin or Alvinon. Note that the name of the hillfort may have been Balvinundo or Calvinundo, where initial B would mean ‘high’ and initial ‘steep’. There are other Ravenna names which appear to have dropped or lost the initial consonant of the Celtic name, e.g.  Arduaravenatone, Itucodon, Onno. But taking the name to have been Alvinundo the development to Ravenna’s Albinumno is straightforward - the v changed to b (a common change in place-names), undo changed to unno (cf: Ravenna’s Gabaglanda changing to the Amboglanna of the Notitia Dignitatum), and then medieval m/n confusion caused unno to become umno.

It is not clear whether the name in Ravenna refers to the hillfort itself or to a Roman post built in the vicinity and to which the name of the hillfort was simply transferred. The best place to look for such a post would be along the several Roman roads in that area, perhaps more particularly at points close to road junctions.