Freedom of the City award for Professor Martin Biddle

Press Release: 02/03/2010

Winchester City Council has voted to offer Professor Martin Biddle the Freedom of the City at the Annual Council meeting and Mayor Making ceremony on 19th May 2010.

This award is only granted to individuals of distinction who have given eminent service to the City. It is the highest honour that a local authority can bestow and is rarely awarded – the last person to receive it was Barbara Carpenter Turner in 1987.

Professor Biddle is being honoured for his contribution to unearthing the history of the City through his archaeological works since the 1960’s. His series of publications The Winchester Studies arose from these investigations and are held in high regard by the archaeological and local communities alike. He also enjoys an international reputation for the techniques and thoroughness he has brought to the world of archaeological research.

In proposing Professor Biddle for the Freeman award Cllr Therese Evans said, "Professor Biddle‘s work at Winchester has been nominated as one of the top 10 most important archeological studies in the world. Before the 1960s very little was known of Winchester’s archaeology and early history. The Iron Age origins of the settlement had only been guessed at, only a few streets and houses of the Roman town had been uncovered, and nothing was known of the process by which Winchester, one of the principal cities of early medieval northern Europe, had developed. Martin Biddle brought in a new and pioneering approach to archaeology and investigated the whole history of the city which put Winchester on the archeological map, and it is only fitting that the city should now recognise his contributions.

"Probably his best known achievement was the excavation of the Old Minster on the Cathedral Green where he and his wife Birthe Kjolbye-Biddle achieved the first near completion of an Anglo-Saxon cathedral and changed perceptions of Winchester’s archeology. His work showed the importance of this site in the history of the city and of the kingdom of Wessex. He also showed how the ruined Roman town was developed into a royal and ecclesiastical centre in the 7th to 9th centuries, and became the central place in a network of defended ‘burhs’ which provided protection from the Danish attacks which had overrun much of the country.

"The Winchester Studies are recognised as the only comprehensive research of a British city from roman times to the nineteenth century. His contribution to Winchester is one of which local people can feel justly proud, and other cities envious. I am delighted that Professor Biddle is to receive this honour."

Professor Biddle’s wife Birthe, sadly passed away in January this year, but they both helped to raise the standards of archeology in Britain.