Leslie Valentine Grinsell (1907 – 1995)

Surveyor of barrows in Surrey

Grinsell, 1907-1995, started out as an amateur archaeologist in his spare time while working as a bank clerk.  He was an active field archaeologist, recording monuments and finds, in a time where the glamour of excavation was still dominant.

Historic Environment Records (HER) owe much to his recording and descriptions of Prehistoric features, as his barrow survey began before agriculture seriously damaged Britains relic landscapes.  Without his work, these now lost monuments could not be studied and our knowledge of Prehistory would be greatly reduced.

His early career concentrated on fieldwork, recording Prehistoric flint implements and Bronze Age barrows.  By 1941 he had surveyed over 6000 barrows across the south-east, including those in Surrey, and published The Bronze Age Round Barrows of Wessex.  His earlier book, The Ancient Burial Mounds of England was widely acclaimed and outlined barrow numbers, distributions and forms.

During the Second World War he became a Pilot Officer in the RAF and was posted to Egypt, where he spent his spare time recording the pyramids.  After the war he became a Devises archaeologist and was the Treasurer of the Prehistoric Society between 1947-1970.

Grinsell became the Keeper of Archaeology at Bristols City Museum after Devizes and remained there until his retirement in 1972.  Here he developed an active department, organised the South-West regional CBA group and contributed to the citys musical life, as he was a talented pianist.  He was awarded an OBE in 1972 and was bestowed an honorary degree from Bristol University.

By the 1970s he had listed the barrows of Dorset, Devon, Somerset and Gloucestershire.  During his career he examined and recorded around 10,000 barrows a remarkable achievement.

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