City of Winchester Trust
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Winchester Excavations & Winchester Studies - TrustNews September 07

Since 2002, the Winchester Excavations Committee has driven through a project, which The Times in its Millennium edition of 3 January 2000 described as one of the ten most important British archaeological excavations worldwide of the 20th Century.

And over the last decade the Committee’s Research Unit has been preparing the vast amount of data for publication by Oxford University Press in the volumes Winchester Studies. With eight volumes published to universal acclaim, one in production, two more close to completion, and others to follow, the work is in a much admired intellectual, but desperate financial, situation.

We set out to study the origins and development of the city over 2000 years, from the Iron Age, through Roman, Anglo - Saxon, and Medieval periods, to Victorian times. This was the beginning of urban archaeology in Europe, the first time archaeology had been used to look at a major city throughout its life and across its social range.

Brought into play has been the whole range of evidence, from archaeology and architectural history, written sources, and the environmental sciences - an innovatory approach which is only now being matched elsewhere. Work in the field was carried out over eleven summer seasons by 2000 student volunteers from twenty-five countries. Volunteers have also contributed throughout the writing up, and today no-one is paid except for drawing, word-processing, and copy-editing. The influence of the project has been wide: for example, the archaeology of the towns of France as a modern research discipline was created by a French student trained at Winchester.

Initial support came from the Gulbenkian Foundation, and subsequently from many other great trusts and foundations, from the British Academy, and the learned societies. Over the years central government and the local authorities have been our principal supporters but changes in funding regimes and pressure on local government finances make this no longer possible.

The situation is now at breaking point. We were a pioneer operation. No-one knew how long is would take to publish so large a project; we are and old project, striving for completion; and I am no longer eligible, because retired from university and college, to apply for all the larger grants which might be available. Last year the Leverhulme Trust awarded me an Emeritus Fellowship to complete work on our largest volume, The Angle-Saxon Minsters of Winchester, but none of their funds can be used for overheads, especially for the rent of our office in Oxford.

Our absolute priority is to keep that office over the next five years, without which work will simply stop. The rent, charges, and utilities are currently £12640 pa and rates (with charity rebate) are £1080, a total of just under £14,000. In practice, to continue without the constant financial crisis of the last few years, we need to find £20,000 a year.

Martin Biddle