AttestedBranoduno (twice) in the Notitia dignitatum

Where:  Brancaster fort, Norfolk, at TF782440.

Name origin:  PIE *bhren- ‘to bulge, to stick out’ plus dunum ‘fort’ perfectly describes the geographical situation of this fort.  This simple explanation took a long time to emerge because nonsense about Celtic bran ‘crow, raven’ is so widely quoted, requiring a big discussion of the possible meanings of ancient brano-.

Notes: A 2013 Time Team TV programme generated excellent geophysical maps, which show exactly where a big Saxon Shore fort sat (on an area now called Rack Hill), 100m or so inland from the present sea wall.  An earlier fort sat right against that line, but the extent of fringing marshes etc in Roman time is unknown.  Somewhere near here would make sense as a terminus for a Roman-era ferry across the Wash, called *Trajectus, represented now by the surviving name Tric in Skegness at the other end.  It could also have been a landmark for ships coming across the North Sea and heading for the rivers Glen, Nene, Ouse, etc inside the Wash.  Previous discussion about brand (a fiery beacon for ships?) or burn (a small stream in that landscape?!) or brown (vegetation colour?) no longer seems attractive.  Bran- (or Bram- or Bren-) is a common element in later place names, with a sense of ‘outer’.  Good examples of its occurrence in East Anglia are the Bran and Brent ditches.

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Last edited 22 July 2020     To main Menu