NGRef: NS 6513 7395
OSMap: LR64
Type: Antonine Wall Fort, Antonine Wall Fort, Fort
Roads
Antonine Wall: E (1.75) to Avchendavy (Strathclyde)
Antonine Wall: W (1) to Glasgow Bridge (Strathclyde)

The Colony

The Antonine fort at Kirkintilloch was built on a hill overlooking from the south-west the confluence of a minor brook with the River Kelvin. The fort now lies just south of the A803 roundabout, west of the town centre, beneath the modern streets of Kirkintilloch. It has undergone only minor exploration during the years 1953-79 and minor excavations in 1988/9. The area covered by the fort is possibly around 3½ acres (1.4 ha).

The only pieces of dateable pottery are sherds of Form 33 decorated ware stamped by the Antonine potter Malliacus. There have been seven coins recovered from the Kirkintilloch site; single issues of the emperors Galba, Titus, Domitian, Antoninus Pius, Commodus, Constantine I and Justinian I.

Legio Vicesimae Valeria Victrix - The Twentieth Legion, Valiant and Victorious

LEG XX V V FEC • M P III P IIICCCIV

"The Twentieth Legion, Valiant and Victorious, have made • three miles, three-thousand three-hundred and four feet [of the rampart wall]."

(RIB 2184; sculpted slab)

There are two inscriptions on stone from the Kirkintilloch area in the R.I.B., but none from the fort itself. Both inscriptions record work done on the Antonine wall, but were produced by two different legions. The first was a buff-gritstone ansate tablet found in 1740 near Inchbelly Bridge, 1 mile north-east of the fort, dedicated by the Sixth Legion, who were normally stationed at York (RIB 2185 infra), and a sculpted slab found in 1789 in the Antonine Wall ditch on Eastermains Farm, 1 mile east of the fort, was dedicated by the Twentieth from Chester (RIB 2184 supra). Both stones now reside in the Hunterian Museum, Glasgow.

Legio Sextae Victrix Pia Fidelis - The Sixth Legion, Loyal and Faithful

IMP CAESARI T AELIO HADRIANO ANTONINO AVG PIO P P VEXILLA LEG VI VIC P F PER M P ...

"For Imperator Caesar Titus Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus Augustus Pius, Pater Patriae, a vexillation of the Sixth Victorious Legion, Pia Fidelis, for [...]¹ thousand paces."

(RIB 2185; buff-gritstone ansate tablet; dated 139-161AD)

  1. The mileage figure had apparently been left blank.
See: The Roman Wall in Scotland by Sir George MacDonald (Oxford, 2nd Ed. 1934) pp.289-296 ;
The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965);
The Roman Occupations of Scotland by B.R. Hartley in Britannia iii (1972) pp.1-55;
Chronology of the Ancient World by E.J. Bickerman (Thames & Hudson, London, 1980);
Chronicle of the Roman Emperors by Chris Scarre (Thames & Hudson, London, 1995);
A Survey of the Coin Finds from the Antonine Wall by Richard Abdy in Britannia xxxiii (2002) pp.189-217;
All English translations, including any inherent mistakes, are my own.

Roman Name

The attribution of this name to this place is ranked: possible

Ravenna Cosmography: Colanica; Ptolemy: Colanica

The Ravenna Cosmography lists COLANICA as one of the places in a line at Forth-Clyde "neck". The first is VELUNIA (Carriden), the next is like Mumrills. The sixth and seventh are MEDIO (Balmuildy) & NEMETON (Old Kilpatrick). This left COLANICA amongst three other forts that had to be assigned to locations. This has been done by selecting the largest with signs of early occupation making Kirkintilloch COLANICA. For more see the article on: Nemthur.

Welsh Gaelic Old English Other
NA colann (a corpse) calan (to be cold) Latin: COLONIA (Colony, settlement)
Greek: κολωνη (hill)

CairPentaloch

In a note added to one of the Manuscripts of Nennius it says the wall goes “132 miles from Cenail to the Cluth and Cair Pentaloch”. It is generally agreed that Cluth is the River Clyde and Cenail is Kinneil near the east of the Antonine wall, so the wall the note refers to seems to be the Antonine wall. But there is clearly something wrong with the text as the length of this wall is nothing like 132 miles and Cair Pentaloch (assumed to be Kirkintilloch) is nowhere near the end of the wall. Unfortunately this is the only mention of this "Cair Pentaloch" so this is all we have. There are mistakes in the text, but whether that include the location or the name is hard to know.

The usual approach is to assume a copy error for the length and assume the location is wrong. This allows an argument that because "P" in Scottish place names are often changed to "K" by Gaelic speakers, it is stated that Cair Pentaloch must have been changed to CairKentaloch. This is as close to Kirkintilloch as Dobiadon is to Dumbarton so it should not be rejected on linguistic grounds alone.

Another possibility is that the wall being referred to is Offa's dike and that the author has confused the two walls perhaps thinking Pentaloch was penterry? which is at the southern end of that wall at Tintern.

But another possibility is that Cair Pentaloch is the site at the end of the wall which today is known as Old Kilpatrick. But Patrick and Pentaloch only have two letters in common (P & T) and we now know the early name was NEMETON, which means the names would still conflict.

Thus we cannot easily dismiss the apparent conflict between the Ravenna Cosmography's COLANICA and the later CairPentaloch. So, possibility is that the name does refer to Kirkintilloch, being a site perhaps near the end of a Partially demolished wall (which is no longer visible for much of its western half from Kirkintilloch to the Clyde. This would mean that Kirkintilloch had two names. Then if we suggest COLANICA is a miscopying of Latin COLONIA and there is indeed a variant spelling in one version of the Ravenna Cosmography giving "CALANIA" which seems to support this. A Roman COLONIA (from which we get "colony") was originally a Roman outpost established in conquered territory and filled with ex soldiers to help secure it. This could mean it is not so much a place name as a description of the function of the place and that Cairpentaloch was the native name of this COLONIA

One avenue which sometimes throws light on the subject is to look for similarities with Roman period names and modern ones with a long history. So, it is interesting to note that Kirkintilloch used to be part of the Parish of Lenzie (a name later rescued by the Railway company for the Kirkintilloch station). The z in Lenzie is a mistake for an original letter yogh (y). "co-" is a common prefix in several languages including Gaelic and Latin with a general meaning "together". Thus it is possible (just) that Lenzie was originally known as "co-Lania" or "co-Lenya". However, there is perhaps a better fit with another local name which has three of the same consonants. As "V" often muted in names, there appears to be a closer fit between COLANIA and the name of the River Kelvin (matches on: K-L-IN) which runs through the valley runs at the foot of the hill on which stands Kirkintilloch. Both Lenzie and Kelvin are ancient names so it is possible they derive from an original "Colania". However, whilst vowels are more apt to change than consonants, the change here from O to e/i is larger than usual. So, whilst interesting, they may just be chance likenesses.

This leaves us with two potentially conflicting ancient names, some uncertainty in the size of the fort, and no local names that are securely derived from COLANICA. There is clearly some uncertainty about this location. But the fact is that neither Cairpentaloch nor Cairkentaloch nor any name very like Kirkintilloch, is listed in the Ravenna Cosmography along the Antonine wall nor the Ptolemy map in this area. As such there is no evidence of a Roman period name based on Kirkintilloch. And as it shows Roman period occupation and is a key settlement site, it ought to be on these lists. The obvious solution is that it does appear on these lists but under a different name such as: COLANICA.

Irrespective of whether Cair Pentaloch was an early name for Kirkintilloch, there is no evidence that the Romans used this name. Instead COLANIA or COLANICA were known and appear near this place, so the later appearance of the Kirkintilloch, whilst unexplained, does not rule out these earlier Roman names.

Page Citation: Mike Haseler,Kevan White (2018) "Roman Britain: KIRKINTILLOCH"