W F Grimes: The Lost Centuries of London


Peter Grimes was the Director of the London Museum from 1945 to 1956.

Professor William Francis Grimes CBE (known as Peter) (1905-1988) was a Welsh archaeologist. He devoted his career to the archaeology of London and the prehistory of Wales.


He was heavily involved in the excavation of Blitz Sites in post-war London.


The Excavation of Roman and Mediaeval London – W.F. Grimes – 1968

This is an immensely fascinating work which will be of great value to the understanding of London’s past.

The immediate background to the excavations was the bombing of London during the Second World War, which led to the destruction of more than fifty of the three hundred and fifty or so acres that make up the walled city.

It was seen that there must be some interval before new buildings could be erected in these areas ; for the first time therefore a magnificent opportunity was provided for archaeological excavation in controlled conditions, free from the limitations of time and builders’ needs which had prevailed formerly.

Having in 1946 sponsored a short trial season, the Royal Society of Antiquaries of London took the initiative in establishing the Roman and Mediaeval London Excavation Council to organise a more extended programme of excavation.

The Council, which is a body widely representative of archaeological and other interests in and beyond London, began its operations in July 1947 and the work went on without ceasing, winter and summer, from then until 1962.

The present volume is a report on the this series of excavations, and deals in detail with major investigations like the Cripplegate Fort, the Temple of Mithras and some of the famous mediaeval churches including St Bride’s, Fleet Street.


W. F. Grimes has from 1946 been Honorary Director of Excavations for the Roman and Mediaeval London Excavation Council.

He was Director of the London Museum from 1945 to 1956, and is now Director of the Institute of Archaeology and Professor of Archaeology in the University of London.

Professor Grimes is a member of the Ancient Monuments Boards and the Royal Commissions of both England and Wales, and Chairman of the Welsh Commission.


The refreshing honesty of Peter Grimes probably explains why British libraries have been dumping copies of The Excavation of Roman and Mediaeval London at an alarming rate – only for them to appear on Amazon at fire sale prices.

His honesty obliged him to write “something must be said on the problem of the ‘lost’ centuries” [following the Roman withdrawal] when “according to a widely accepted view” the City of London was abandoned.

One of the outstanding negative results of the Excavation Council’s work over more than sixteen years has been the absence of structural, or indeed any other, evidence for the occupation of London in the early part of the Saxon period.

A feature of a number of sections has been the way in which finds other than Roman survivals have also been lacking.

The first clearly defined chronological evidence, such as it is, in this region is consistently of later Saxon date.

But again this evidence is not associated with structural remains and is made up almost entirely of scattered sherds of painted ware of the type named after the kilns at Pingsdorf (near Cologne in the Rhineland), though it was not necessarily all produced there.

This ware ranges in date from the mid-ninth to the late twelfth century.

The Excavation of Roman and Mediaeval London – W.F. Grimes – 1968

This honesty also highlighted how the archaeological evidence contradicts the written records.

The puzzling feature about this gap in the archaeological evidence is the contradiction that it embodies with the situation in London in the late sixth and early seventh centuries as implied by the records.

The ordination of Mellitus as bishop of London in 604 and the building of the church of St. Paul by King Ethelbert must be taken to mark the renewal on some scale of the occupations of London by about A.D. 600.

This would seem to be true even if this first attempt to establish Christianity in post-Roman London must be accepted as having failed.

Yet the archaeological evidence seems to be consistent in showing no sign of life until more that 150 years later.

The Excavation of Roman and Mediaeval London – W.F. Grimes – 1968

The observation that the archaeological evidence contradicts the written records comes as no surprise considering the British had to wait for about 700 years before they were told about the arrival of the Anglo Saxons by the kindly clerics.

The story of the Anglo Saxons who [according to the mainstream narrative] unobtrusively slipped into Britain from Old Saxony [during the first half of 1st millennium] is a strange tale of the unexpected.

The mainstream asserts the British [who mysteriously lost the ability to write for hundreds of years] finally managed to document the arrival of the Saxons 281 years after the event.

The manuscript evidence suggests the British actually had to wait for about 700 years before the kindly clerics finally managed to break the news about the arrival of Saxons.

See: https://malagabay.wordpress.com/2016/06/16/7404/

Researching the Corbie MS [Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris] of Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum [claimed to have been “written before AD 900”] it appears that “the father of palaeography” was [coincidentally] a monk at Corbie Abbey who curiously thought that forgeries “should not be dismissed for that reason.”

See: https://malagabay.wordpress.com/2015/07/03/so-where-does-this-leave-bede/

So why was Beowolf ignored for the best part of a thousand years?

Possibly because this “unnoticed” manuscript only became amenable to academic interpretation after it was “badly damaged” by fire in 1731.

A more comprehensive rationale is that Beowulf was simply viewed as Protestant Propaganda that was clumsily cobbled together during the English Reformation.

The “first methodical statement” in this Protestant Propaganda campaign was the Apologia ecclesiae Anglicanae written by John Jewel and published in 1562.

See: https://malagabay.wordpress.com/2015/07/07/birthing-beowulf/

Perhaps it’s time to dig a little deeper into Anglo-Saxon London…

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9 Responses to W F Grimes: The Lost Centuries of London

  1. Pingback: Anglo-Saxon: Unequivocal Evidence | MalagaBay

  2. Pingback: The Pit Huts of London | MalagaBay

  3. Tozsu says:

    This is similar to Heribert Illig’s work , (see wikipedia for phantom time hypothesis) I am not an expert but wondering if they are talking about the same time period missing.

  4. Martin Sieff says:

    But here we find claimed major evidence of a thriving Anglo-Saxon London right in the middle of the “missing ” centuries.

    Anglo-Saxon London has been found, we are told and the discoveries indicate a large and thriving site.


    And here a thriving London in the time of Alfred the Great 0- and no hint that he served under any “High” Roman Emperor at least a century before the “Heinsohn Horizon.”

    Note also the reference to the “great burning” and “slaying of the people.” Just the Vikings or a cosmic component as well?

    • malagabay says:

      no hint that he served under any “High” Roman Emperor at least a century before the “Heinsohn Horizon.”

      There is a hint with Egbert…

      The heyday of Lundenwic was in the eighth century; the ninth century witnessed a return to settlement within the Roman walls.

      Already in 829-30 coins produced during Egbert’s (802-39) brief conquest of the kingdom of Mercia advertised that they had been produced in LVNDONIA CIVIT[as], which is suggestive of production within the walled Roman city.

      London and Its Mint C.880-1066: A Preliminary Survey – Rory Naismith
      The British Numismatic Journal and Proceedings of the British Numismatic Society – 2013


      From my perspective unravelling the many peculiarities of the Anglo Saxon Saga is still a work in progress.

    • Gunnar Heinsohn says:

      Dear Martin!

      It’s nice to see someone so pleased with himself. But on Lundenwic I have written on pp. 365 ff. in WIE VIELE JAHRE WÄHRTE DAS ERSTE JAHRTAUSEND?

      At that location (or anywhere else in London, England etc.) there is n o cake of 1st- 10th century strata (or just 5th-10th c. strata) on top of each other. Still, I very much respect that you try. Cordially Gunnar

    • Gunnar Heinsohn says:

      Dear Martin!

      I should add that I have strata even for Alfred the Great himself. I do n o t deny Anglo-Saxon strata. Nobody, I think, has shown more of them than me. Cordially, Gunnar


  5. johnm33 says:

    Gunnar, as best i recall Arthur is buried under a mound at the north end of the senghenydd valley [valley of the senate] with a view of the ocean, so a little north and east of pontypridd. As far as his time, [and i have him @520-590] it’s always struck me as a little curious that the normans made so much of him. Camelot was more likely caer mellow a castle sited just north of cardiff where there were sulphur springs, although i suspect his palace and city were located north of lantwit major where broken but once fine marble is to be found in the ditches of farmers. Their search for the grail was more of a training exercise in geography and navigation, for future officers, they had to find all the star markers, stones, mounds etc. that laid out the zodiac on the ground, thus demonstrating both their star knowledge and their intimate familiarity with the terrain, finishing at regulus a mound on a hill just south and west of ynysybwll. Unfortunately a great resource was destroyed by the Victorians in the 1830s until that time the Welsh named thier lineage going back until they reached a famous historical ancestor, this instead of a surname, at that time they, and the cornish were forced to adopt, as a surname the name of their father, hence … all the jones’s thomas’s etc. I find it difficult to shrink history by more than 2-300 years but since so much else seems like bs i try to keep an open mind, it’s so hard to give up what you think you know.

    • Gunnar Heinsohn says:

      Dear Johnm33!

      I am not shrinking history. I am enriching it. I try to make it readable for the first time by recombining sources that are now hacked into pieces, and distributed over 700 years that are nowhere substantiated by archaeology. Venta Belgarum, e.g., has marvelous Roman architecture in the 2nd century for which nobody claims ownership. Some 700 years later we have Alfred the Great of Venta Belgarum with no property whatsoever to show there. Yet, on coins he is shown in Roman clamys and diadem. Modern historians ridicule him as a fashion freak for re-cultivating attire some 700 years out of date. I, however, assign him the Roman architecture matching his Roman garb. He was quite normal if I may say so.

      Many people share the romantic idea that the non-Celtic inhabitants of the British Isles during Roman times must have been Italians. In actual fact most were Saxons, Frisians etc. that, at least in the cities, had adopted Roman culture. See more here:

      Cordially, Gunnar Heinsohn

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