‘Martin Biddle’s excavations in Winchester between 1961 and 1971 represent a landmark in British archaeology in the 20th century.’
– Professor John Collis in Great Excavations, edited by John Schofield 2010.
In 1961, the first year of excavations, the primary objective was the uncovering of material relating to New Minster, an important monastery, founded in 901 by King Edward the Elder, son of King Alfred, and recorded as lying to the north of Old Minster. This came about as a result of the major building project of the Wessex Hotel, which was adjacent to the Cathedral precincts. The 1961 excavation in the Car Park led to the establishment of the Winchester Excavations Committee in 1962. The committee was formed to undertake excavations, both in advance of building projects, and on sites not so threatened, aimed at studying the development of Winchester as a town from its earliest origins to the establishment of the modern city.
Four major and twenty smaller excavations took place throughout the city of Winchester between 1961 and 1972. They included the excavation of the Old and New Minsters, the palace of the medieval bishops at Wolvesey, the north bailey of the royal castle at Castle Yard and twelve Anglo-Saxon and medieval houses along the west side of Lower Brook Street (‘Tanner Street’ in 990).