William Francis Grimes (1905 – 1988)

Excavated the Mixnam’s pit Neolithic site.

Professor Grimes, (1905-1988), was a British archaeologist and Prehistorian who devoted his career to the archaeology of London. He was the first archaeologist to be employed full-time on rescue archaeology.

He was born in South Wales and read classics at the University of Wales before going on to a master’s degree on the Legionary Fortress at Holt in Denbighshire. He joined the National Museum of Wales as Assistant Keeper of Archaeology in 1926, until 1938 when he left to join the Ordnance Survey Archaeology Section. This continued to be his official post until 1945, but at the outbreak of the Second World War he was seconded to the Ministry of Defence to record and excavate archaeological sites threatened with destruction because of wartime defence requirements.

In 1956 he became director of the Institute of Archaeology in the University of London. During this time he carried out dozens of excavations in the city in his capacity as director of both the Museum of London and the Institute. Grimes’ most famous discovery was the London Mithraeum in 1954, a Roman temple to the god Mithras, uncovered during rebuilding work on a central London bomb site off Walbrook. Although the site was built over, Grimes succeeded in salvaging many of its finds and features including marble statuary attesting to the wealth of its congregation. As a result of public pressure a replica temple was rebuilt elsewhere.

In Surrey, Grimes excavated a Neolithic occupation site at Mixnam’s pit, Penton Hook, Thorpe in 1944-5. Neolithic pottery and a polished axe were found as well as Iron Age/Romano-British material (see HER 2395 and 2396). The bulk of the finds are with the Institute of Archaeology, some of the pottery is in store at Guildford Museum and Weybridge Museum has some of the Neolithic flint flakes.

His many publications include Excavations on Defence Sites 193945 in 1960 and The Excavation of Roman and Medieval London in 1968.

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