NGRef: NS 4600 7315
OSMap: LR64
Type: Antonine Wall Fort, Fort
Antonine Wall: E (2.25) to Dvntocher (Strathclyde)

The Antonine fort at Old Kilpatric measures 442 ft. from north to south by 408 ft. east-west (c.135 x 124 m) within the ramparts, giving an occupation area of just under 4¼ acres (c.1.7 ha). The western and eastern gateways are placed centrally in their sides, but the gates in the north and south sides are displaced noticeably to the west. The fort is protected by three ditches, including the ditch of the rampart wall to the west, by two ditches on the south towards the banks of the Clyde, while the eastern and northern sides were each protected by four ditches. It appears very likely that the fort here was constructed before the rampart wall.

A bath-house and annexe was discovered outside the south defences of the fort in 1790 during cutting of the Forth-Clyde canal, and the fort itself was excavated in 1923/4. It has ramparts of turf, laid in the same manner as the Antonine Wall itself. Like the fort at Bar Hill the encampment here is separated from the rampart wall and was an earlier construction.

It is possible that the Roman military presence at Old Kilpatrick was first established during the campaigns of governor Gnaeus Julius Agricola sometime around 81AD, in order to act as a staging-point for sea-based operations on the west coast, many years before work on the Wall began.

The Dateable Pottery Evidence

Excavations at Old Kilpatrick have uncovered pottery sherds bearing the stamps of seven Antonine potters; Cucalus Form 27, Felicio Form 37, Gongius Form 33, Illiomarus Form 38, Illixo Forms 18/31 & 31 (2), Primulus Form 33 and Ritogenus Forms 31 & 27 (2).

The Numismatic Evidence

A total of nineteen coins have been recovered from the area of Old Kilpatrick, ranging from a sestertius of Galba found in a cellar beneath the treasury in the principia to a denarius of Lucilla, the wife of Marcus Aurelius, dated 161-9AD. Others issues include 5 Hadrianic and 4 Trajanic coins, 2 each of Vespasian and Antoninus Pius, and single examples of Domitian and Marcus Aurelius. Another 2 coins cannot be identified with certainty.

The Epigraphic Evidence

There are four inscribed stones recorded in the R.I.B. for Old Kilpatrick, one of which was re-used as the threshold of a house at Fendyke to the west of the fort and rediscovered in 1757, the stone unfortunately now lost (RIB 2207; no text recorded). The other three were discovered in the 17th century and are now stored in the Hunterian Museum, Glasgow; all may be dated to the period 139-161AD and are shown above. In addition, another stone unearthed in the late 1960's and reported in the Britannia Journal is expanded and translated below (Brit. 1970.20).

Panelled tablet discovered during ploughing ¾ mile east of the fort - 1695


"For Imperator Caesar Titus Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus Augustus [Pius], Father of the Fatherland, a vexillation of the Sixth Victorious Legion, Loyal and Faithful, worked on four-thousand one-hundred and forty-one feet of the entrenchments."

(RIB 2205)

Top-right part of ansate tablet showing cupid in ansation found in Old Kilpatrick parish - 1695


"For Imperator Caesar Titus Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus Augustus Pius, Pater Patriae, a vexillation of the Twentieth Legion, Valiant and Victorious, have made four-thousand four-hundred and eleven feet."

(RIB 2206; text restored)

Relief from temple of Victory probably marking western terminus of the Wall at Ferrydyke - 1684


"For Imperator Caesar Titus Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus Augustus Pius, Father of his Country • a vexillation of the Twentieth Legion Valeria Victrix made this • for four-thousand four-hundred and eleven feet."

(RIB 2208)

Cohors Primae Baetasiorum - The First Cohort of Baetasii


"For Jupiter Best and Greatest, the First Cohort of Baetasii, Citizens of Rome, under the command of the prefect Publicius Maternus, and Aulus Julius Candidus, centurion of the First Italian Legion."

(Britannia 1970.20)

See: The Roman Wall in Scotland by Sir George MacDonald (Oxford, 2nd Ed. 1934) pp.332-341;
The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965);
Britannia i (1970), p.310, no.20;
The Roman Occupations of Scotland by B.R. Hartley in Britannia iii (1972) pp.1-55;
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: very likely

Ravenna Cosmography: nemeton

The Ravenna Cosmography lists MEDIONEMETON as the sixth of seven forts along the Forth-Clyde "neck" with SUBDOBIADON being the seventh. Independently we are told there are seven forts on the Antonine wall which would mean SUBDOBIADON was Old Kilpatrick. Old Kilpatrick is also likely Nemthur, the birthplace of Saint Patrick. But SUBDOBIADON is neither a good linguistic fit to Old Kilpatrick nor Nemthur. However, if assume a copy error combined two place names on the Ravenna Cosmography to give MEDIO-NEMETON, the seventh fort is then NEMETON which is a good match to Nemthur or Old Kilpatrick. The next on the list is SUBDOBIADON which is a good fit to Dumbarton and the previous is MEDIO which fits the previous big fort with evidence for late occupation at Bal-muildy. Even individually these are good, but a run of three good matches is very unlikely by pure chance. This indicates these are very likely the correct locations. For more see article on: Nemthur.

Welsh Gaelic Old English Other
Welsh, Cornish: nef,
Old Welsh nem (heaven)
Gaelic: nèamh,
Old Irish nem (heaven)
niman (to receive) Latin nemus (grove)


NEMETON is a word that has been frequently discussed and is commonly said to mean a religious grove, however this is far from certain. In reality the basis for this attribution is several mentions in inscriptions of a deity: "Nemetona" and a possible etymology of NEMETON from "heaven". The etymology is based on Early Gaelic naomh, Irish nóem, naomh (holy) and also Gaelic nèamh, Old Irish nem (Heaven). But there are other possible derivations of Nemeton in other languages, so the Gaelic etymology is insecure. In contrast, we know we have inscriptions for the goddess Nemetona. Although rare in Britain, being only found in a single inscription in Bath, evidence of Nemetona is found along the Rhine in Germany. This suggests she was sacred to the German peoples and therefore it is conceivable her cult was brought to Britain. Do we have a suitable candidate in Old Kilpatrick? Yes! The First Cohort of Baetasians, an auxiliary infantry regiment recruited from the Baetasii tribe of Lower Germany inhabited the lands between the Rhine and the Meuse, were present at Old Kilpatrick

It is therefore possible that the original Nemeton, was a site dedicated to the Germanic goddess Nemetona by the Baetasii around 120AD, that this name was then used for the fort at Old Kipatrick. However all the likely etymologies could be interpreted as relating to a religious site. The only one that needs explaining is Old English niman (to receive) which could refer to a place where Gods received offering.

Thus whatever way we look at it, it is very likely that NEMETON did refer to a religious site, that by the time of Saint Patrick was known as "Nemthur" and that this name is possibly** retained as "-notter" in the valley which became known as Dalnotter. Indeed, the wooded Dalnotter valley, although filled with industrial archaeology, is now very much a grove. So perhaps there is some credibility in the idea that "Nemeton" did mean grove! And, whilst there is no reason to connect the cult of the Goddes Nemetona with Patrick, religious sites tend to attract other religions as well as their own. Patrick's father was a deacon, his grandfather a priest and as Patrick a very capable priest. He clearly came from a very religious family that was likely driven to Strathclyde by the various Roman persecutions of Christians. It may be that these early Christians were attracted to Nemeton because it was already a religious centre.


Unfortunately, Dalnotter was a relatively unimportant location and so does not appear in the earliest large-scale maps and when it does appear there are a variety of forms including Dunotter. Dunotter suggests "Dun-otter" or "fort otter" but this is odd as "otter" is an Old English word and there is no obvious nearby place for a fort except perhaps a reference to the Roman Fort in which case we would expect "Dun-nemthur" or "Dun-Nemtur". The other etymology is dal-notter. Dal could be Irish meaning meadow, or Norse meaning valley. But whatever the original form, it is clear that there are similar problems with a local word beginning D followed by a back vowel (o,u,a) in the name Dumbarton. Compare:

Dum-barton = Dun-barton = Sub-Do-biadon
Dal-notter = Du-notter ?= Nemthur
(hyphens added to highlight latter groups)

It seems, that at least in this area, D followed by a back vowel results in a "mangled" following consonant or for some other reason M<->N<->L. Presumably there is something in the linguistic history of the area that has caused this. We do not know what this was, but it seems possible that Dumbarton and Dalnotter were words which contain the same prefix which were both mangled with time. This would occur if there were one original word that fell out of use so that the sound became gibberish. But even if we can explain the change, and there is ample time to allow the name to change, the differences are too significant to say that there is definitely a match and there are several other "Dalnotters" in Scotland which means it can form in other places. So whilst we cannot rule out a link between Nemthur and -Notter, a chance likeness is also possible. Thus this connection must remain a possible link unless a systematic trawl of available records happens to uncover an early reference to the place name which shows that as we move back in time the name became closer in form to Nemthur.

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